The Rhythms of Our Days (and How They Will Change)

College did a real number on my daily schedule when it comes to working, sleeping, eating, etc.

I’m a big fan of productivity blogs such as 43Folders and 37signals’ Signal vs. Noise, primarily because I need so much help in this particular department. I’m a multitasker by nature — it’s not uncommon for me to be juggling 4 or 5 tasks at any given moments. Which has its advantages to be sure, but it also means that priorities occasionally get out of whack. And so I need all of the help and advice I can get.

A recent post on Signal vs. Noise caught my attention, as it reinforces some ideas that I’ve had about my own working habits and how they’ve developed over the years. The entry centers around some thoughts from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity, especially this quote:

It is also possible the schedule you are following is not the best for your purposes. The best time for using your creative energies could be early in the morning or late at night. Can you carve out some time for yourself when your energy is most efficient? Can you fit sleep to your purpose, instead of the other way around?

I had to laugh when I read this because personal schedules and daily rhythms are some of the biggest sources of stress in my marriage, and something that Renae and I have to deal with and talk about at least once a month. (You’d think that we’d have learned by now after years of being together, but not really.)

College did a real number on my daily schedule when it comes to working, sleeping, eating, etc. It may take 30 minutes or more to get up to speed on a project, but once I’ve gained momentum, I lose all track of time — three or four hours may pass before I resurface. I’ve been a night owl for a number of years, very comfortable with working until various godforsaken hours. I’m fine with running myself sleepless through the week and crashing big time on Saturday. And I still haven’t become used to eating three solid meals a day, but rather one big meal supplemented with foraging.

My wife lives on the opposite end of the spectrum, however. She enjoys taking little breaks while she’s working, to get up, have a chat, etc. She’s a morning person, most efficient between 6am and noon. She has to be in bed by 10pm at the latest and she has to eat on a regular basis or else she’ll just feel very sick and exhausted (though, granted, much of that is due to the pregnancy).

As such, I wholeheartedly believe with Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas. But pursuing and realizing those ideas has often led to some conflict in our household, and so there’s necessarily been compromise. Since getting married, I’ve slowly come around to Renae’s way of seeing the day — though I still enjoy the occasional Friday night marathon session and sleeping in until 11am or so on the following Saturday.

However, in light of the impending baby, much of this discussion will become largely academic for us — and will likely remain that way for the next 18 years or so. Csikszentmihalyi writes that it’s important to find those parts of the day that are best suited to your rhythms. However, in a few months’ time, it won’t be our rhythms that matter, but rather, the little bean’s. I’m not fearing a loss of productivity — at the very least, I won’t be surprised by it — but the bean’s arrival will force us to become very creative at remaining productive in some capacity. (And yes, I can hear you parents out there snickering at my naiveté, thank you very much.)

Interestingly, 43Folders has just posted ​“Time Management For Parents,” and I’m already taking some notes.