Working The Reverse 9 to 5

Having weird sleeping hours is working out... very well for me.

reflections Posted:

For the past month I've been working approximately 9pm to 5am.

Yes, you read that right. 9 PM to 5 AM. Graveyard shift. It's working out very well and I thought I would share that weird fact.

I didn't choose this life, it chose me. The combination of the Coronavirus Recession and me leaving my job meant I had to temporarily leave the US and head back to Singapore where I am from.

Singapore is exactly 12 hours ahead of New York Time - 3pm there is 3am here. However my next job is still US based, so I wanted to have some overlap with US hours.

I had adjusted to Singapore time already after my mandatory 14 day quarantine upon returning home. It started in small drips and drabs - staying up late for calls with the US, or doing one of the many conference talks I have done recently. I would sleep at 1am, then 2am, then 3am intermittently. Purely for fun - I was unemployed, might as well keep up appearances (literally!).

Then Daniel Vassallo challenged me to write a book, and suddenly I became a Full Time Author™. I was dumb enough to choose the nontechnical topic of early dev career advice. Writing is hard at best, and I suspect nontechnical topics are way harder than normal technical blogging, b/c it's so unclear what to include and there is no objectively correct advice (except for Learn in Public!). I found myself writing all the way to sunup, which is roughly 6-7am Singapore time.

I discovered that this overlapped nicely with the US workday since it is 6-7pm EST and 3-4pm PDT. And of course it totally overlaps with Europe.

Meanwhile family life (I am staying with my parents) carried on, I had to hang out with them and have meals together and play board games and help them with errands and stuff. Personal time and exercise has also been important for me during this time. So splitting this Asia/US life felt quite overwhelming.

So for now I have settled into this routine:

  • from 1pm - 9pm I would be mostly with my family. (8 hours)
  • from 9pm - 5am I would be mostly working/online. (8 hours)
  • from 5am - 1pm I would sleep. (8 hours)

Fudge +/- 1 or 2 hours here and there for the odd bursts of excitement or days I am feeling off, I have been living like this for a full month now (I am writing this at 10.23pm my time).

Here are benefits I noticed:

  • Default intermittent fasting. Since I only eat with my family I only have an 8 hour window to eat lunch and dinner, and sometimes I just skip lunch.
  • My family doesn't disturb me after 9pm, nothing in Singapore disturbs me after 9pm. With clear IRL boundaries, I am free to focus solely on work.
  • Since I have been awake half the day anyway, I can start the US morning pretty fresh and alert and pretty prepared in terms of what I want to do that day. Often I will come prepared with something I want to publish or write or tweet.
  • I work until I am tired, and I sleep right away since I work from home. While/before sleeping, my mind still processes problems I have been chewing on from the workday.
  • I wake up with a clean slate and have no work on my mind.

I feel like this is the antithesis to the Miracle Morning productivity enthusiasts, most recently Jocko Willink, espouse. Why can't this work? It seems to be working fine for me.

Author's note: I name this the "reverse 9 to 5" because the "inverse 9 to 5" reads to me like working 5pm to 9am, which isn't what I'm going for.


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