morning light

Every great artist gets asked certain questions, one of them always being, “What time of day do you work?” This bit of curiosity, of course, is usually because the answer (hopefully) will contain some secret time that can make anyone a critically-acclaimed geniuses.

Like the question of “Where do you work?”, asking people what time they focus on art stems from the belief that there is some lifehack to art. That there is a trick to make it easier. And yes, we’ve seen some studies that show being tired makes you more creative — which means early birds should work at night and vice-versa — but for many of us, the creativity isn’t the problem. It’s finding the time in the first place.

If you’re a photographer, you may be constrained by light or certain people’s availability, but even on days when you’re not shooting you should be carving out time with pre or post-production or learning more about the craft. And for the rest of us, we’re mostly just trying to find that hour or so in the day where we can feel like we’ve actually made progress. It’s not having the ideas as much as having a reliable schedule to prevent missing days or even weeks of work.

So what time of day can actually solve that problem? It’s different for everyone, but you need to find a time that fits these three criteria:

Few Distractions

You can’t pick a time of the day where you’ll be expecting emails or phonecalls. You need a time in the day where you can disappear for an hour or two and no one will think you’ve been kidnapped or fallen into a well.

A Hard Start Time

If you’re putting it at somewhere between 6pm and 7pm, then you’ll begin to notice how often you end up starting later than earlier. You need a time, right on the minute, when you are going to begin. Think of it like waiting at a bus stop — you don’t ask the driver to wait a couple minutes because you need to finish writing a text.

You Can Do it Every Day

Nothing is more important than repetition. No matter what other criteria your chosen time of the day fulfills, if you can’t depend on it every day then the rest is worthless. If you need to push it back later into the night or get up earlier, then that is what you’ll have to do (if you know you can stay up later or consistently get up earlier). Finding an open hour every single day is not easy, but trying to make up for lost time is even harder.