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I used to be a late night writer. I had a couch in my office and I would take short naps sometimes. Then we had a child. Now the only sustainable time is when he's at daycare. I adjusted out of necessity. I enjoy it less, but I was surprised how quickly I adjusted when alternative became impossible..


I used to be a late-night writer (10-4 for me!), but I noticed it tended to impede my productivity, bottling it up into a few nights of long writing spurts. It's also hard to sustain when you live with a partner or have to teach the next day (as Marcus said), and impossible when you have a child.

Over a period of a couple of years, I shifted to writing a little bit every day--during my commute, while the baby naps, etc. That's what I do now. I don't have access to large chunks of time for writing any more, still less large chunks at night. But I don't need them. Instead, I set myself a clearly defined and achievable research goal for the day (e.g. write 300 words of §4, fix the formatting, etc.), and I accomplish it as early in the day as I can. That way, I don't have to stress about finding time all day, and if I get some extra time later I can return to it and do more.

The consistency pays off over cumulatively. In the last nine months, I've written one book (twice as long as my dissertation) and two new articles, significantly revised three more articles, and long abstracts for two more accepted contributions. In the next few months, I plan to revise more papers, write a book review, and write one or two new articles, despite teaching this summer. I couldn't have done all that working as I used to.

Newly Dr.

I think there might be a middle ground between what you suggest, 9-3, and giving it up that might be sustainable (I'm doing it right now, taking a 5 minute break before getting back to it): work in the evening, but not for 6 hours.

I also find that I get my best work done in the evening, but I'm just working for a couple of hours from 8-10 or 9-11. If you don't have trouble going to sleep relatively quickly after that, then you can still get up at a time that makes it possible to co-ordinate with everyone else in your life.

I also think this also might be a bit more plausible from a straight up volume perspective. I don't think any professional philosopher is writing solidly for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. They might be working that much (although I doubt even that for many people who seem to be very productive), but it won't all be writing. Or even a mixture of writing and research tasks. Most people that I've asked about it seem to be aiming to write at best 2 hours a day, with the bulk of their time taken up by other tasks. And just a couple of hours late in the evening is definitely possible.


I might recommend a conceptual switch. I was also a late night writer for most of graduate school--frequently starting my writing around 5 or 6 PM and going anywhere from 12 to 2. Like other people, I found that unsustainable as life changed.

But you don't have to think about this as "late-night" writing, though it is that. You could think of it as "end-of-day" writing. You do your writing "at the end of your day" instead of "at the beginning." For instance, right now, maybe twice a week, when I get home from my office, I do another 4 hours of writing. But I go to bed at a reasonable 1030. I am certainly not working late into the night like I used. But I am working at the end of my day.

Thinking about the writing as having a relative position in one's work day might give more flexibility than thinking of it as tied to specific hours on a clock.


Yes, late night writing (and research in general) can be sustainable.

Most of my dissertation was written between midnight and 6AM. My first three publications were drafted during those hours.

These days, I usually work from 2-3 PM until 10-11PM. Sometimes, I go back and kick some stuff out from midnight to 2AM (especially if I've taken a break during the day for socializing or exercise during the daylight).

I also have a sleep thing. My natural bedtime is 6-7AM, and my natural wake up time is ~2PM. To get up earlier, I need multiple alarm clocks. With a lot of work, I can push my bedtime back to 2-4AM and use the alarm clocks to get out before noon. Anything earlier is not sustainable, as repeated attempts throughout my 20s and 30s demonstrated.

For obvious reasons, teaching in the morning is difficult. However, I can take a nap and then resume work in the evening.

The moral is that you have to work when your mind is working the best. For many people, this will be earlier in the day or even in the afternoon. Personally, I am much more efficient if I work when my mind does, and that happens to be later in the day.


I’ve always been a big night owl. I also sleep better for some reason during the day. I tend to go to bed when the sun comes up and wake up in the afternoon. Most of my work occurs during the night. This schedule has some serious problems because society loves doing everything in the morning, which I’ve never understood. Even when I used to force myself to get up at 7am, I was never cognitively present until the afternoon. On the days where I have to do something in the morning I schedule it as early as possible. I will just not go to bed until later and sleep from noon to 6 or something. I’ve tried many times to force myself to be on a normal human schedule and I fail over and over. However soon I am rotating my schedule to get up at noon and go to bed a bit earlier. This is for the wife so we can do things she likes during the day.

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