fitness · Guest Post · habits

10 a.m. only comes once a day

10 a.m. is my window of greatness. All things are possible at 10 a.m in my world. I’m not an early riser, nor am I a great sleeper, so no matter what time I get up I never really hit my groove until around 10 in the morning.

Image description: A small portable alarm clock showing the time as 10:13. Image titled “Clock” by Simon Shek.

Even though I have a semi-flexible work schedule, I still like to have some structure to my days. And with a lot of meetings and a fair amount of appointments each week, I have to keep a good eye on my calendar to avoid missing something or scheduling over another commitment.

It turns out though, unfortunately for me, that 10 a.m. only rolls around one time each day. Why does that matter? I can usually only do one task during that “greatness” window. If I’m home and don’t have any meetings I will often opt to get some movement in during that time. I typically have my best/peak movement sessions when I can complete them in the 10 o’clock window. And I’ve noticed that if it doesn’t happen during that time the odds of getting movement in later in the day diminish as the clock ticks toward evening.

It turns out that movement isn’t my only 10 a.m. activity though. I live in an area where traffic can be very heavy during the morning and evening commute, and afternoon traffic worsens with the school/bus transit schedule. So when I need to schedule an appointment I often find myself asking for the 10 o’clock hour. It is early enough that doctors and other service providers aren’t behind and running late, and places like the post office aren’t overly crowded.

Appointments and movement time aside, I also find that 10 a.m. is my ideal time to write. Yes, I am writing this at 10 a.m., and since I started writing have received a text reminding me of a 10 a.m. appointment later in the week. As a professor, research and writing are a part of my job responsibilities. While I find that I research and outline best at other times of day, writing comes easiest during my personal golden hour.

This preference for doing all the things in the 10 o’clock hour is something that I’ve noticed since the pandemic shifted my schedule in the spring of 2020. Prior to that I had a less flexible work schedule and typically only tried to hold that morning window for tasks related to writing, or other work obligations. As my schedule shifted and settled into the current configuration I started to wonder why there were days I felt like giving up before I even got started. It took some time to sort out that my brain was saying I couldn’t write because I spent the magic hour biking or at an appointment. Or it was saying that I should plan to skip the bike ride because the afternoon would be too busy and I had already squandered my movement time by spending it writing.

Several years ago when I was really struggling with meeting my writing goals I started looking into schedule blocking, and learned that many people have this time in their schedule that they feel all things are possible. I’ve seen it referred to as tiger time, magic hour, golden hour, drive time, and a few other names. The gist is always similar in these descriptions – it is the time in which you feel most productive and focused. For some people it is a specific time of day (10 a.m. for me) while for others it is a range, such as 10 a.m. to noon or 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The duration of the window will also very from person to person, or even from day to day. There are days when my window of deep focus only lasts 45 minutes, while other days I get into a flow and realize it is well past lunchtime and my stomach is growling.

Since learning about time blocking and schedule management I’ve started following some habit change experts, particularly ones who work from a base of self-compassion and not from a “hustle” or “grind” framework. One thing I’ve learned is that having awareness about my own scheduling preferences is more than half the battle. Once I realized that I was scheduling all of these things over top of each other in my mind, I was able to figure out how to best prioritize them to ensure there was something left for all my commitments, even if they couldn’t get done at 10 a.m. I’m much better at telling myself that a bike ride is possible at 3 p.m., and it is okay if it isn’t peak performance because the events of the day have used up more energy than if I had ridden at 10 a.m.

Do you have a “golden hour” or “magic window” where you feel most productive? What types of activities do you hope to complete during that time, and how do you adjust when it isn’t possible? I’d love to hear more strategies and tips for those really hard or busy days.

Image description: An older style green bike with a spedometer attached to the handlebars. Image titled “Spedometer” by Alexandra Guerson.

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

4 thoughts on “10 a.m. only comes once a day

  1. Maybe you could have personal Daylight Saving Time. At 11 you could set your clock back an hour to get a second 10 o’clock hour and later you could set it forward again to skip a bad hour.

    1. To implement this I could take a ride in my spouse’s car, where the clock is an hour off for half the year. 😉 Seriously though, it is a good suggestion, and one I probably do without thinking about it more than I realize.

  2. I just turned on the bit in Office 365 that magically blocks my calendar for ‘Focus’ time and I’m really excited by having a free hour nearly every day of the week. One of my golden hours is before 8:30 am, and another one is between 4-6 pm, but only *sometimes*. The good luck is picking which day that might be.

    1. That is an exciting piece of technology! I don’t use my work-provided calendar for much (I know, different worlds) so my weekly emails from Outlook report out “you had 30 hours free to do deep focus work this week” which just makes me laugh and laugh. Good luck picking the right days!

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