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I’m extremely efficient with my writing. It’s true. I am. Friends laugh that I write books in a weekend. I’m not that good, but I’m close. I can knock out amazing amounts of content in short bursts. I don’t exactly know why this is, but I like it. (Don’t worry, I’m terribly slow at other things in life that you can probably do in 1/100th the time.)

That said, it’s critical that I know when I can write well, and when I can’t. Because if I write when I’m not working well, I’ve no hope of efficient writing, and every hope of post-writing frustration.

Case in point: The other day, I went to a coffee shop where I was going to spend a few hours writing. I know for sure that it’s easier for me to write outside of my home office, so that means I try to go to a coffee shop about twice a month to do the writing work I need to get done. Writing at a coffee shop generally works for me, and I can plow through and do a ton of work in a few hours.

But not that day.

That day, I arrived. I sat down on the couch I’m a fan of. I ordered a large soda water with lemon. And I pulled out the computer. And that’s where it went downhill. Somewhere between the checking of email, and then the checking of Twitter, and the checking of email again, and then the reading of a great article on Hemingway (I just read a so-so novel about his wives, hence the interest) I got all lost and tangled up. Pretty soon I was texting my husband: when are we going grocery shopping?

Because I would rather go grocery shopping than write. Obviously.

Productivity gurus say you need to know when you are most effective, and utilize those times to do your work. I agree. I would go further and say that you don’t just need to know when you’re effective, you need to know when you are particularly effective for the specific task at hand.

And so the fact that I wandered into the coffee shop on a holiday at three pm was not, for all the world to see, going to turn out well. I do my best writing in the morning, with a large decaf coffee with almond milk, and a bright sun rising overhead. Or around dinner time, with a cold Sauvignon Blanc. These are the times I can write.

The afternoon is not my writing time.

We all have times of the day, and days of the week, that work best for particular tasks, and it is essential that we work to figure out what those times are, and to make sure that we respect them to their holiest extent.

When my husband picked me up to grocery shopping, I felt icky and annoyed and had done very little work, and most of it was particularly terrible. The wrong time of day, you see. I’d bungled it all up from the start, and needed to remember my own rule.

Only work when I can work well. And only write when I can write well.

Are you a writer? What times of day work best for you?

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