Do You Know the Best Time for Writing? (You May Be Surprised)

Photo of a mom at work at a laptop at home while holding onto a baby, who is staring up toward the ceiling.
What is the best time for writing? (Photo: Jozef Polc)

Would you be able to write more, or better, if you knew your best time for writing?

New research suggests that paying attention to your body’s internal clock—especially its effect on your energy and alertness—can help pinpoint the times of day when you perform optimally at specific tasks.

These tasks include thinking creatively and writing, or even exercising.

We’re Doing It Backward

Most people organize their time around everything except what may be the most important thing: the body’s natural rhythms, a.k.a. circadian rhythms.

Why do we do this? Obviously somebody forgot to tell the rest of the world to mesh up with our personal circadian rhythms.

Too bad, so sad, right? Maybe not.

Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to health problems such as obesity, depression, and diabetes.

According to Steve Kay, a biology professor at the University of Southern California, we get “an edge in daily life” when our body’s master clock can synchronize functioning of all its metabolic, cardiovascular, and behavioral rhythms in response to light and other natural stimuli.

Put Your Thinking Cap On

When it comes to doing cognitive work, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Kay. As our body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness, and concentration gradually improve.

Want to jump-start that process? Wake up and take a warm shower.

The ability to focus and concentrate usually begins to decrease soon after midmorning—which is why you may find yourself more easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m. This was underscored by recent research led by Robert Matchock, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State.

Your alertness also is likely to decline after eating a meal, Dr. Matchock found. His research predicts that sleepiness peaks around 2 p.m.

If you know it, why fight it? Tell Siri to schedule your nap at that time.

Now let’s talk about your creative side.

Photo of a woman at night, with a couple of different desk lights around her, as she works away on a laptop.
Being tired actually makes you more creative. Happy writing! (Photo: Diego Cervo)

Nighttime—Time to Get Creative

Here’s that surprise I mentioned in the title. As counterintuitive as it may seem, research seems to indicate that fatigue boosts creativity.

A study last year in the journal Thinking & Reasoning concluded that problems requiring open-ended thinking are often best tackled in the evening when you are tired.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers asked 428 students to solve a series of problems that required either analytical or creative thinking. They did better on creative problems during non-peak times of day. Mareike Wieth, who led the study, says fatigue may allow the mind to wander more freely in order to explore alternative—or creative—solutions.

What This Means for Writers

We all know there’s more to writing than the creative part. But without that initial act, the rest of it pretty much comes down to pushing words around.

Now that you know your creativity gains ground when your energy is running low, how can you make that work to your advantage? Are there activities in your day you need to rearrange?

There’s More to Come…

In part 2 of this post, I break down some optimal times for those other things you need to fit in your daily schedule—at least on the days when you can’t write from dusk till dawn. Twitter users, I even reveal the best time to send a tweet.

Speaking of Twitter, if you enjoyed this post, click one of those share buttons below—time of day matters not one bit.

» Continue on to part 2

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I'm Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

photo of a collection of style guides and books on advertising, marketing, and education