Decoding why developers are more productive at night

I’ve been a project manager in some capacity for the majority of my career and have spent a handful of years working with developers. I’m big on productivity and have always found that I get my best work done in the morning hours so I never truly understood why developers claim to do their best work in the middle of the night. Is it really true? Or do they just like to sleep in 😉

I spent some time researching this topic and came across some of the obvious answers…no disturbances (like annoying PMs,) or meetings, it’s quieter, it’s darker, and no interactions with others. However, I did come across a few other reasons related to how your brain works that I found pretty interesting.

Your brain can focus on a single task better when you are tired. This idea didn’t make much sense to me….don’t we all need 8 hours of sleep a night to feel refreshed and conquer our day? Of course, it’s very important for your health and lifestyle to sleep, but I guess for some a tired brain is beneficial. From what I’ve read, an exhausted brain doesn’t have time to think about multiple-tasks. It can only focus on one thing (like coding) and getting that task done before you fall asleep. As a PM I get pulled in different directions all day long and for me being alert and able to multi-task is key but for some (like developers,) staying uber focused on one task is vital to success.

Your creativity can peak when you’re tired.  It’s been scientifically proven that problem-solving comes most naturally when you’re groggy and you allow your brain to wander. Researchers found that people are more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems when they were tired. For some, this meant in the morning, for others it was the afternoon, evening or middle of the night. It just depends on the person. So I decided to ask some of the developers at Tyrannosaurus Tech and see when they get their best work done.

Jason Bishop, one of the co-founders of Tyrannosaurus Tech said 1:30 am is his favorite time to code. Why?

“No interruptions from people, environment. Also I think the darkness helps me concentrate and not be as susceptible to distraction. My mind is sharper at night. Easier to enter that ‘flow state.’ For me, personally, and I know not everyone else is the same way, but being free from interruptions means I am like IDK…4 times more productive? It’s an insane increase in productivity.”

Joshua Hunt, Backend Developer, actually says he prefers 6am – 11am. Why?

“I find morning to be the most peaceful and clear part of the day, which lets me write code in a state of mindfulness, focused entirely on just the code. Throughout the rest of the day, I’m also working on a variety of issues separate from coding, which makes it difficult to get back into that sort of zen state that I can achieve in the morning.”

Well, I don’t think I’ll be switching to working nights but I did find it interesting to learn why it works for others. Guess I’ll be a little more understanding when developers ask me to move our status meeting to a little bit later in the day!

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