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I Get Stupid At 4 p.m.

Jonathan Fields tweeted something like he doesn’t think well in the late afternoon. I know the feeling!

Most days, by the time I get to four in the afternoon, I’m shot. Call it a blood sugar drop, getting older or just because I usually start my days at 5 a.m., it doesn’t matter – my thinking goes completely to pot.

Sometimes, if I do a workout, take a nap, or even just get outside, I’ll revive a bit – enough for some evening socializing, but when it comes to writing or trying to negotiate with clients or making any major decision I know I’m better off if I postpone it until the next day.

Of course, I can get stupid at other times too. Often on Fridays, writing even first thing in the morning feels more like slogging through sludge than real creativity. Or if I miss breakfast, I’ll feel the same sort of slump around 11 a.m.

Know Thy Self

I think it’s important for freelancers to know when they are at their best and when they are at their worst. After all, we have the luxury of being able to (mostly) control our time. That means we can take advantage of our body’s natural rhythms. We’re not forced to sit in a cubical at a desk trying to create just because it’s between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.


The differences in our circadian rhythm or body clock is well known. It isn’t hard to figure out your own; just notice when you’re not doing your best and when doing your best is close to easy. Watch over several days and you’ll soon know how your own body clock works.

If you’re like me and you slump in the late afternoon, plan your days around that so you’re not trying to sparkle then. If, on the other hand you’re one of those who functions poorly in the morning and comes to life after noon or even late at night, plan around that.

Let Your Clients Know

I’ve found that, for the most part, my clients are willing to work with my schedule, including avoiding known times when I’m not at my best. I’ve been known to just say, “I get stupid right around 4 in the afternoon.” That statement almost always gets a laugh and often some commiseration as well as the willingness to work with me earlier in the day unless it’s simply impossible.

Take advantage of your up times and take care of yourself during slump times. You will feel better and over time, do a better quality of work.

What’s your best and worst times of day to work?

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Image from http://healyourchurchwebsite.com/2008/05/08/is-church-marketing-dead-nope-just-stuck-on-stupid/

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • I tend to do my best writing in the evening, and by evening, I mean between 10 PM and 2AM. I don’t know why, but it just works best for me. I also tend to want to take a nap around 2PM to 3PM, but seeing how late I stay up, you can imagine why. I just roll with it; nothing else to be done, right?
    Mitch recently posted..What Is InfluenceMy Profile

  • Elizabeth West

    I shut down at around 2pm, and wind back up when I get off work at 5pm. But not always. Some days I’m so tired I have to rest when I get home. It’s partly a thyroid issue and partly getting older. I can usually tell when I’m not going to get a second wind later; the fatigue feels different.

    • Anne

      If I nap at 2 that’s about it for the day usually.

  • 5 am?? There’s one of those in the morning, too?

    Used to was, I could work all day, gradually get tired and call it a day at some logical stopping point. Now, I find that I hit the wall with little or no warning. When I’m done, I’m done, D.U.N., done. This calls for a lot more planning, use of PDA’s, calendars, and so forth. Which is another subject.
    jorgekafkazar recently posted..Watcher in the Night decipheredMy Profile

  • I actually find that I work best at several different times throughout the day.

    If I get up early (say 6.00am), I’ll find I can get a lot more done in those three hours before 10.00am than I can in any four hours after 10.00am.

    But then I pick up again between 6.00pm and 9.00pm and 11.00pm to 1.00am.

    It sounds great in theory, as I have little bubbles of productivity throughout the day – and for the most part, I enjoy it that way.

    But if I’ve had a sleep in or are going out on an evening, it means I have to work more during the times I’m not at my most productive and find more laborious to do so.
    Dan Smith recently posted..What Made You Want To Go FreelanceMy Profile

  • Anne, I may have to write one of these on my own. “I am brain dead early before 10 a.m.. and don’t think of calling until I’ve had my caffeine jump start.”

    I am more of an evening/night person, like Grumpy I don’t do mornings. 🙂 No I am just not at my best first thing in the morning plus that’s when I plan my day, my week. But at the same time, just because I may choose to finish of a project or get that burst of creativity write a blog post late at night.. doesn’t mean clients should call at all hours. There’s a balancing act too.

    Bottom line: manage expectations and let clients know that it’s in everyone’s best interest for more productive work.

    • Anne

      If you and I were doing blue water cruising we’d be an ideal pair… I’d take the early morning watch and you’d take the later one…and no, clients should never be allowed to call at all hours! Never ever! And write your own by all means… would love to see it.

  • Anne:

    I think I may be your clone. 🙂 I start around 5 am and end around 4 pm (sometimes 3 pm). When I was in Corporate America, I used to say, “My brain shuts down at 3 pm.” That way I can blame it on biology instead of stupidity. 😀

    When I am at my most productive time (early morning), I have my phone shut off.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..5 Things to Hate on a WebsiteMy Profile

    • Anne

      nah, just twins… separated….

  • I get stupid around 2pm so I understand! It’s not that I can’t do anything after that. It’s just that hardcore, intense, focused work needs to happen before that. Because after 2pm, I tend to move slower and get less productive. So filing and organizing is a yes, but brainstorming is a no.
    P.S. Jones recently posted..Yes- We Do Need LibrariesMy Profile

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