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Biological Prime Time

Not all hours of your day are created equal. For some tasks, if you do them in the afternoon, it will take you perhaps 1 hour, but if you do it late at night, it may take you 2 or 3 hours.

Example: I code a lot, both for personal enjoyment and for work. One of the wonderful things about coding is that you are frequently having to pick up new languages and libraries that are suited best to your needs. Usually, when I code in the morning or the afternoon I can usually learn these new elements quickly. When I try to code late at night, they don’t assimilate into my brain as easily. The effect: coding at night means more time debugging and bashing my head in the keyboard because I can’t work out the bugs.

Sam Carpenter in his book, Work the System (which is available for free on his website) refers to something called Biological Prime Time, or BPT for short. BPT is the time of day where your biological make up dictates that you are most productive. You are probably already familiar with this concept as expressed by “night owl” or “morning person.” Regardless of the terminology, there is a time of day when you get your stuff done best.

The clock time as I am writing this

Equipped with this knowledge, you can start planning out your day to maximize your results and beat procrastination. Procrastination happens when you know you should do something, but decide to put it off. It is most insidious when you put it off by substituting in another project that is also important but more enjoyable. Example: not filing your taxes or writing a paper because you need to work on editing a video for a class you love.

The solution: plan your most daunting tasks to be executed during your BPT. If you do this, then you will have the most energy available to tackle the difficult task at hand. Be ruthless and don’t let anything else (ahem, Facebook, texting, email) to come in between. Go to a library or coffee shop, and isolate yourself from the world for two or three hours until it is done. And when it is done, you can do something you enjoy. You will be tired, and this is the time to do something you find recharging.

No human being can be in BPT all the time. Everyone comes with strengths and weaknesses. And everyone will eventually get tired. But, as Sam Carpenter puts it, just because a car is out of gas does not mean that it needs repair. You simply have to be mindful of how much “go” is in your car, and know when you have the energy to make a big trip, and when you need to refuel.

By the way, in closing, here are some of the things I do during BPT, followed by the things I do when I am drained:

BPT

  • Write papers
  • Read textbooks
  • Fill out forms like tax documents and applications
  • Grade

Refueling time

  • Exercise/go on a walk
  • Eat
  • Check social media
  • Email
  • Clean
  • Chores like folding laundry while listening to audio books
  • Journal
  • Run errands while listening to radio

These are my lists, and they work because of my personality type and interests. I would love to hear your lists and how this would be different for you!

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