Opinions & Lessons

Why You Are More Creative At Night/Morning & How To Replicate It In The Afternoon

In 2013, when I was working at a Startup I noticed that I usually got more writing done in the mornings, from 8.00am when I’m seated at my desk to 12.00pm/1.00pm when it’s lunch time.
After lunch, it was pretty hard to get me to do anything creative. I found it tough to write, create content and just generally be mentally creative. So I thought, ‘it must be the lunch’. Maybe the heaviness of food was making me lethargic, therefore, creatively unproductive. So I started eating lunch a bit late after everyone had eaten and gone back to their desk – basically 1 to 2 hours later than the normal lunch hour.
It seemed like something that would work except that I realized that it wasn’t really working. I was usually too hungry to work effectively.
Then it dawned on me – your productivity is optimal before lunch. After lunch, it’s downhill.
The problem with this was that I always had a lot of work to do. I was constantly churning out content and developing communication plans, creative ideas/ collaborating with teammates in Marketing Department to get stuff done and build the brand. So, I couldn’t afford to just go downhill after lunch.

In 1998, Psychologist Richard D. Roberts of the University of Sydney and Patrick C. Kyllonen of the Air Force Research Lab, measured the chronotype (the master biological clock ticking away inside of their brain~controlling how you process things as an individual) of 420 test participants then gave them two intelligence tests – general math and reading comprehension, and working memory and processing speed.
The results, though not overwhelming, did come down slightly on the side of evening types. Night owls seemed to outperform Morning People on most of the intelligence measures—with significant differences on working memory and processing speed.

A 2014 Buffer post posits that creative writing might be easier to come by just after waking as this is the time of day when the prefrontal cortex is most active – “A scientific study of brain circuits confirmed that this creative activity is highest during and immediately after sleep, while the analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on.” – stating that Will Power is easier to exert in the mornings than when you have to face the daily tasks of your work and life. This is because creativity peaks in the morning as the creative connections in our brains are most active.

So, in 2013, when I couldn’t figure out my Pre-lunch/Post-lunch conundrum and was getting agitated about my supposed inability to deal with the craziness of not being able to be creative after lunch, I stumbled upon a new revelation – I could write at night! I don’t mean that I realized I had the latent ability to be productive at night. No. I was given a task to do that was an emergency, and I realized that I had the serenity to figure out and be creative in my writing. This was how my sojourn into hacking away at my own creativity and productivity began. I would write in the morning – serious writing, high-end type of writing in the morning and then write, witty, creative and badass unserious stuff at night!

But what about that middle point? You ask. The afternoons.

A 2012 Scientific American article in an attempt to break down the difference between Night Owls & Morning People, made a profound statement that I have seen to be true for me and can also work for you if you think about it. The statement is that “Your best Creative Time is not when you think”.
There is a time for thinking and there is a time for distillation. A lot of times we want to do our creative work while we are also deeply thinking and working things out mentally. Your thinking window and your creative output window are usually not the same.

This thinking – creative output division is what I have discovered over time that works for me. And it has helped me stay productive/creative every day throughout the day. In the mornings I write serious stuff, things that require connecting thoughts and points etc. In the afternoon I realized that I could brainstorm ideas better, especially after eating. So, the afternoon has become my collaboration window – during this time I discuss, analyze, write down ideas and execution paths, come up with communication plans. Basically, the ‘spreadsheet’ part of my brain comes alive in the afternoon.
Then at night, I do lightweight, witty writing and I think it’s kinda easy to do this kind of writing at night because I look back on the day or week, reflect and then in a fun way, pour out. Almost as if I’m having a conversation with my computer.

To recap:
Mornings – Serious creative stuff, distilling what’s in your brain onto a canvas.
Afternoons – Ideate, analyze, collaborate. This is most likely your thinking and co-thinking period if you are like me.
Nights – Do some lightweight, fun, humorous creative work. Or read.

Featured Image Credit: Nicola Fioravanti

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