As we said on Tuesday, we all have a natural rhythm and the problem many of us who work have is getting our work lives to “play nice” with that rhythm. A 9 to 5 work schedule is not an easy thing to manage when you’re a night person and have difficulty getting up in the morning. People who work “graveyard” shifts—say, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.—have an even more difficult time.
With a home business, however, it can be easier to tailor a work schedule so that it is more compatible with one’s biological tendency. Depending on what it is we do and the extent to which we need to be available to colleagues or clients, we may not be able to completely conform to our biological rhythm. If you’re a night person and happen to be a sales rep, no one is going to be too happy about you making sales calls at two in the morning, unless your client is in China. Likewise, if you need to connect with clients, you need to be available when they are at work.
Some people have the luxury—if that’s what you want to call it—of not having to interact with colleagues in real time at all. We once worked with a data analyst who tended to work overnight, and files would be e-mailed at three or four in the morning. He was never available during the day, but he didn’t need to be. He got his work done efficiently and, in fact, it worked out more conveniently for his coworkers who were not waiting around during the day for files to be e-mailed.
Sometimes, though, we can split the difference. Writers, designers, and others who need to concentrate intently on specific projects find it easier to get those tasks done in the early morning or late night hours because there are fewer interruptions and distractions. The phone doesn’t ring, there are fewer instant messagers or texters up and around (unless we work with other morning or night people), and visitors are unlikely to show up at our door. With the bulk of work being done either early in the morning or late at night, we can do low-level tasks and be available to make or receive calls during the nine-to-five period.
(Things get more complicated when you work with people on different coasts or continents. Living on Eastern time means you only have a few hours in the morning to interact with colleagues in Europe, and a few hours in the afternoon to work with those on the West Coast. If you work with both, you may never get out of the home office!)
When you first start out working from home, you will need to experiment to see what your natural rhythm is. Some of us have been able to find our internal clock while still working in an outside office, if we were lucky enough to have flexible schedules and could often go into work at more biologically convenient hours.
You probably already know, or at least have a sense, of what your own rhythm is, but a good way to discover it is to spend a couple of days waking, working, and sleeping unaided. Go to bed when you’re sleepy, wake up when you wake up without setting the alarm clock, and work when you feel naturally disposed to it. Two or three days spent in this way will likely uncover your own natural rhythm.
One fly in this particular ointment is that your natural rhythm may collide with others in your household, and you may have reasons other than work to operate on a more conventional schedule. The kids may need to get off to school, the spouse may have to go to work at a certain time, and the cat, dog, fruit bat, etc., may function as furry alarm clocks. So although you may not be entirely able to set your own schedule, a little experimenting should allow you to strike a comfortable balance for you to get the contiguous blocks of time that you need.