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Bring On the Night

If your best work happens in the wee hours, you're not alone.

Around 3 o'clock, you might find Mike Faith sending e-mails or considering a supplier. But Faith, founder and CEO of 55-employee San Francisco headset company Headsets.com, is doing these tasks at 3 a.m., not 3 p.m. The middle of the night "is the most productive work time for me," says Faith, 42. "If someone is around, I've got all his or her focus, and if no one is around, I've got all my focus."

For night owls like Faith, 8-to-5 is now a prelude to the 9 p.m. to midnight (or later) shift when they finally have some quiet time to think, work and plan. "Distractions during the day make it impossible to work on larger projects or [tasks] that require more complex thinking," says Jonathan Kramer, Ph.D., founder of San Diego-based Business Psychology Consulting. At night, he says, entrepreneurs "can do a more effective and efficient job."

Faith--who works into the wee hours at least once a week--often gets quick e-mail replies from other CEOs, and he feels a sense of camaraderie. "There's a special kind of 'Yup, we're working on this when no one else is around' [feeling]," he says.

Susan Battley, founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting in Stony Brook, New York, hears about people gutting their late-night work the next day, however. "It proved to be tangential, faulty or irrelevant," says Battley, who suggests entrepreneurs delay sending important e-mails and reports until they can read them with fresh eyes.

Ultimately, you have to know your workstyle to make late-night sessions productive, Kramer says.

Faith's night fever shows no signs of breaking. "People [at work] know to watch out," he says, "because by the time they start, I'm three or four hours' worth of coffee ahead of them."

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the April 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bring On the Night.

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