Jackhammers and Your Circadian Rhythm

Shala Burroughs
Nov 12, 2014 · 3 min read

What Happens When You Start Working Independently

Today I worked from home and it was the worst decision I made all week. That’s crazy, right? I remember the days when I would sit around with colleagues and we would salivate for this opportunity that I have right now. The ultimate freedom to get work and laundry done at the same time — maybe with the game on in the background — no commute — amazing! I even co-founded a freelance marketplace dedicated to allowing people to work remotely, so what gives with the attitude, right? Shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? But here’s the dirty little secret of freelancing and working remotely — you still have to have structure; you just get the opportunity to create it yourself, and that’s easier said than done.

The freelance economy is about to skyrocket — and with that will come millions of people who will have the opportunity to actually figure out their circadian rhythm, their optimal working style. I had operated on someone else’s timeline (9–5) for so long that I actually had never had a chance to figure out when I work best. It just never occurred to me. It has been difficult to learn on my own, but I get asked so regularly about how I have made the shift that I thought I would share a few tips. Note this is a work in progress and that I learn more every day.

1. Figure out when you work best: I am an early bird. By 9pm my brain is fried, and no good can come from the conversations or decisions I make after that point. But waking up at 5:30am or 6am, working out, and getting started? No problem. This could be, and likely is, totally different for you. I am betting if you listen to your inner pace closely, you’ll notice immediately when you are hitting your stride.

2. Figure out where you work best: I know that I need two things from an office — a quiet place where I can make calls, and somewhere with ambient noise. To such an extent that when co-working with our CTO, he complained about the multi-story crane outside our window and the accompanying construction noise. He turned to me and asked if I too was annoyed, but I had no idea what he was talking about. Strangely enough, I found it soothing to have something going on, even if it came in the form of jackhammering a sidewalk.

3. Figure out how you work best: Remember Boxer from Animal Farm and how he worked himself to death? We share some similar characteristics. I need people around me to actually make me take breaks or I will work myself into the ground. My co-workers are pretty tuned in to this, and it’s nice to have friends working nearby who will also keep me on the straight and narrow.

4. Make it actionable: This is the hardest part, but I have taken a few steps that have helped and would love to hear from others about what has worked for them. Here’s one example: I made a recent rule to not sleep with any tech in the bedroom with the exception of a small, old alarm clock (that isn’t connected to the internet), and I have started turning off my phone completely every night. This may seem drastic, but it has done wonders for me and I have slept soundly since. Here’s hoping my alarm clock never poops out!

In 1926, Henry Ford and his lovely car company popularized the 8 hour work day, geared towards optimizing for laborers. What amazes me is that, despite innovating practically everything around us, we have only just started thinking about how to re-frame the work day. The first place to start doing that, as I have found out, is in your own mind. It is not easy, but if you stick to the actionable items that support your circadian rhythm you’ll end up AOK!

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store