Find and Protect the Productive Zone

When are you most productive?Everyone has a productive zone, i.e., a time in which they prefer to work. They may not recognize it as such, but they have one. It’s that time of the day where ideas start to come together. It’s when the ideas are flowing faster than the person can write them.

The usual custom is to divide the productive zones into early birds and night owls. It’s a generic division, but it does point to a truth: most people either work better in the morning or in the evening. Some work better in the afternoon, but they seem to be in such short supply that they have not been given a category.

The generic divisions can be defined even further. Some early birds work before the sun even has begun to rise. Others in the category find their specific zone between the times of 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. The same phenomenon occurs with night owls; some work earlier in the evening, and others work later.

Once people have determined their preferred working hours, they should do their best to protect those hours. If they know they can accomplish the work of an eight-hour day in four hours if they tackle it during their peak productive time, they should address the work during that time. They should not spread the work throughout the day if they have the option of completing it earlier. Spreading the work only results in additional distractions and the potential for not finishing it; after all, if the work has to be spread across several hours, why not waste time online? If, however, the work is done in that productive zone, distractions are all but eliminated. The work takes precedence when a person is in it.

The trick is finding and protecting that productive zone. Not everyone knows when they work best. To find it, people have to examine their work lives. They need to note – yes, in a notebook or some other note-taking device – when they tend to complete projects. They need to write down the times when they prefer to work. They then need to decide how they will protect those times. Maybe they stop answering email during those hours. They disable their internet access. They rearrange meetings, or, if they work from home and are distracted there, they leave the house and work elsewhere.

When are you most productive? How do you protect that time?

Photo: Ben Andreas Harding (CC BY NC SA 2.0)


  1. I totally agree. When you know what works, you have to own it and protect it with a vigilance rarely seen.
    I am most productive early in the morning, or late afternoon for some reason.  I am productive alone and not with team members!  LOL!

    • geoffliving I once wrote a post about being mercenary with one’s time. 🙂
      You and I have freakishly similar work styles. I like working with other people, but I don’t necessarily want to be in the same room at the same time. It’s why I’m not a huge fan of shared work spaces. I’m also most productive in the early morning, although I have a weird thing with poetry. I prefer to write poetry in the early or late afternoon.

  2. I love this post. I think it’s critical for professionals who self direct work to embrace this. Unfortunately too many organizations create structures that do not allow for the respect of these productive zones and that’s a whole other challenge.
    I work best early in the morning (before 9) or very late at night, between 11pm and 4 am) of course these times do not in any way coincide with office life.
    I think another key factor is knowing that if your productivity, creativity etc work best on off hours, then there are ways to balance time in order to maximize this – however it’s dependent on the structure of the organization for which you work.
    For solopreneurs this “productive time” observation can be really helpful to allow a new work structure. Too many people who work from home or on their own think they should be working from 9-5 – I think a lot of it is out of fear of not getting the work done, it then creates an issue where they are actually exhausting themselves working at half steam.
    I think it’s also about saying, it’s okay to go for a two hour walk in the middle of the day, that’s not slacking if the pay off if better health and stronger work upon return. Measure success by production not by time clocked in- that’s my take. I loved this article 🙂 thank you!

    • Milaspage Thank you for the lovely comment! You and I seem to share a similar perspective on productivity.
      I know that when I’m full-time self-employed (I have a day job at the moment.), I do the important work during my productive times. I think I learned the lesson when I was homeschooled. I could do all my work in the early hours of the day and spend the rest of it reading or playing. I like to work hard so that I can play hard. 🙂


  1. […] Some people write best in the morning, probably because they are morning people. They awaken and are ready to write. Their brains aren’t sluggish or filled with thoughts or worries from the day. Everything is fresh, like grass covered with dew. That time is precious to them. They try to safeguard it. […]