When people think about working a ton of hours, they tend to assume the benefit is that you get a higher raw number of productive hours. I think one of the bigger benefits is that you get to work when other people are not. It’s not just the quantity of hours, it’s also when they occur.

An hour of work in the middle of normal working hours is less valuable than an hour of work outside hours where everyone else is also working.

This is why I love working on minor holidays (which I consider to be any holiday other than Christmas). There’s something magical that happens to my thinking and productivity when the world is silent. Few emails or Slack messages coming in. No latent feeling of the need to be available. No sense that my work is more just me floating downstream with everyone else. It’s clearly, quietly, just me and my focus. And it’s glorious.

Most of the time, I don’t like to work tons of hours. I’d rather have some of those hours with my family. But I still want the benefit of working when others aren’t. The best way is often to just get up a few hours before most work starts for most people. And to work a few early hours on weekends and holidays. Right now I’m on the west coast, which makes this almost impossible. Even if I get up a five AM, half the working world is already at it, and so is my inbox and peace of mind. Out here, I feel like I have to start early not to get ahead, but to prevent getting behind.

But counter-scheduling works here too. At six PM, most of the rest of the world is watching Netflix and winding down. The late afternoon and evening hours out here are so much quieter. Pushing my work further on the other end brings big benefits. I prefer morning solo work, but I can adapt.

I try to set up my week so that at least one third of my productive time happens counter to the work time of others. I probably get two thirds of my work done in that time; if not in quantity then in quality.