On Being More Productive in the Morning. Even if You Are an Owl

habits, productivity

Hi there! Today I want to share my experience of a productivity shift from the late evening/night to the morning. First, let me tell you a story on how my day was structured before for countless years.

Mornings That Start with a Lunch

A year ago and before I was pulling out late nights almost every single day. Making an open-source contribution, working on the astounding side project idea, writing a blog post, watching a conference talk or a fun video. As an owl type, I have a lot of bright ideas at that time of day. Also, my productivity is at its top. Or at least it feels that way.

That usually meant, that I would go to work next day somewhere between 10 AM and 12 PM. Mostly, that was okay because a lot of other developers around me did the same thing.

So, imagine having your work day (for your employer, client or yourself) start this way:

  1. Come to the work
  2. Drink coffee and eat breakfast, because, obviously you didn’t have time to do that at home
  3. Chit chat with your colleagues (offline or online), go through the email inbox
  4. Do some work for half an hour
  5. It is a lunch time
  6. Food coma for 1 hour
  7. Be not-so-productive (because you’re tired and an owl type) for what you have left in a day (2-4 hours)
  8. Maybe pull out overtime because there are things to deliver and you are the most productive in the evening/night

You can see, that my work day wasn’t as productive as it should. One may say that I’m just shifting focus to my activities and invest less productivity into the work for my employer/client/etc. And I have another story to tell here.

A Lot of Rework

I have been noticing for some time that all the work that I do in the late evenings and the night for myself needs to be re-worked all the time. To put it simply, quality of my most “productive” work was not as good as I would expect it to be.

Additionally, since I was working in a pair-programming environment and everybody started their work day at a different time, it was hard to pair-program all the time - there was a lot of time I had to solo. When I have joined Pivotal I was amazed by the fact that they pair-program nearly 100% of the time. I was enjoying that right from the first day. Pairing 100% of the time also means that the whole team has to start the work day and end it at the same time. We are starting early in the morning, and ending our work day at 5 PM every day.

Also, at Pivotal we finish all of our daily meetings in 10 minutes right at the beginning of the day. We’re off to work right after. That builds a crazy momentum of making things done and makes us productive.

Productive Mornings with Momentum

That kind of momentum results in a lot of done work. The amount of work being done before lunch ultimately exceeds the amount of work I remember doing after lunch and, especially, in the evening.

Even though I feel more productive in the late evening, and in the night, practical results show that most productive work is done in the morning if I maintain that kind of momentum.

Maybe it is only about work, what about personal things that I need to do? - One might ask. I have another story for you. A couple of months ago I started developing a “mini habit”: wake up every day at 6 AM. That gives me about 50 minutes of free time before I need to go to the office. Add to that 35-45 minutes commute on the subway. Now and then, when I am talking to my pair during our break (we are using the pomodoro productivity technique), I realize that at 9:05 AM I have done all the personal things that I have to do today. These things include morning exercise, household chores, contributing to open-source, writing a blog post, reading a book, sending a letter, etc. By the way, most of these things are also mini habits.

Another thing that I am experiencing right now is that the quality of the work is much higher than before - I have to do much less reworking. I still get the most remarkable ideas in the evening and before going to sleep, so what do I do about them? Note them down, and go through them next morning or later.


I am amazed so far, how waking up in the morning every day, earlier than you normally have to, allows to build up a significant momentum, complete all the personal tasks that need to be done and transfer that increased momentum to my work. It works very well for me, and I recommend trying it, even if you are an owl type.

Thank you for reading, my dear reader. If you liked it, please share this article on social networks and follow me on Twitter: @tdd_fellow.

If you have any questions or feedback for me, don’t hesitate to reach me out on Twitter: @tdd_fellow.