Developers have been known to have the disposition to adopt a nocturnal work schedule. Accordingly, most developers prefer to work either at night or in the early hours of the morning. So what is it about working at night or early morning that draws most developers to adopt this approach?

Most developers prefer to work at night or early mornings because these periods provide optimal conditions for the enhanced productivity and creativity needed to handle complex, mentally-demanding tasks. These timings also feature minimal interruptions, disruptions, or external noise.

In this article, I will discuss some of the reasons why most programmers prefer to work at night and how a nocturnal schedule affects their productivity, creativity, and mental acuity. Read on for more.

9 Reasons Why Developers Prefer a Nocturnal Schedule

Most developers will agree that they have their most productive sessions while working at night or before dawn. Accordingly, most developers begin working on their software and applications late at night or early morning.

Naturally, this raises numerous questions, especially regarding their preference for nighttime and early morning over the traditional working hours. While you would be forgiven for thinking that this is simply due to the unique demands of their job, the reasons are simpler than you might imagine.

Let us explore some of these reasons below.

1. Open Source Contributions, Side Gigs, and Freelance Work

One of the reasons why developers prefer to work at night is they are constantly involved in projects that fall out of their regular day jobs. For instance, many open source contributors will need to work during the night or early mornings to create time outside their normal work hours.

Needless to say, balancing between several jobs can be frustrating, especially if both require significant investments in terms of time and effort. According to an article by Cornell University, most software engineers will tend to work during office hours, with a small minority working during the night or on the weekend.

Many of these developers will thus usually create some extra time by working during the night or in the early hours of the morning before their daily job begins.

Additionally, many developers work as freelancers. This means that they get to create their own schedules to optimize their productivity. Naturally, these freelancers will prefer to be early birds or night owls, because these periods allow them to get in their flow and be the most productive due to fewer distractions.

2. Minimize Distractions

Developers typically have to work on large, complex projects. These can take significant time to understand, especially when working with abstract systems. Consequently, many developers will plan their schedules to leverage their productivity and mental clarity.

Therefore, working at night provides an optimal period for getting in the right headspace and being more productive, particularly because they experience fewer distractions. Additionally, this also limits the likelihood of interruptions from their co-workers or meetings.

Remember, developers – just like other employees -, need to avoid responding to phone calls constantly, emails, texts from family and friends, social notifications, and attending meetings (some of which can be long). All these can be counterproductive, especially because developers rely on creating flow.

Working in the evening is also rarely a choice because they may be constantly distracted by their spouses, kids, or pets.

By working at night, developers can enjoy several hours of uninterrupted work, which is useful when trying to wrap their heads around complex and abstract systems. Naturally, this enhances their level of productivity.

3. It’s Quieter at Night

It is indisputable that early mornings or late nights are generally quieter than regular working hours. As previously stated, a developer needs to minimize the number of interruptions to stay in the flow. This can be challenging with all the beeping, ringing, and chatter which characterize most offices.

Add in noise from the streets or traffic, which can be unbearable when your head is spinning trying to design or understand complex assignments.

Nighttime and early mornings simply provide developers the much-needed relaxation to get in their groove. Take out the noise, and the developers tend to be more productive when tackling mentally challenging tasks.

Silence also creates optimal conditions for relaxation and stress relief, which can go a long way in improving your creative process. Developers also tend to worry less about time pressure when working at night.

4. Global Collaborations

Successful development projects require a great deal of collaboration between developers along the development lifecycle. This is especially so because developers work in teams, and open, real-time communication with team members is critical.

These teams also need to share information and ideas effectively. As the gurus at Arc explain, this is especially crucial for remote development teams, who need to effectively share ideas and work together on a project.

The thing about development teams – particularly remote teams -, is that they tend to feature developers located from all around the globe. This means that these individuals will be working in different time zones in many instances.

Developers may need to adjust their work schedules for effective collaboration across global teams. This, in some instances, will have them working at night or during the early mornings.

5. A Matter of Habit

As the old adage goes, old habits die hard. You will typically carry on the patterns you developed when starting out to the later stages of your career. As explained by the coding gurus at Better Programming, most programmers prefer to work at night because they learned to program or code at night.

This goes back to my first point about side gigs. Most programmers tend to have day jobs when they begin learning how to code. Therefore, the night hours or early mornings provide the only free time they can use to learn to code.

Working at night or morning also means you can spare ample time to rest from the tires of the day during the evening hours. Therefore, you are able to get back on the grind late at night or early morning.

By learning to program at night, most programmers create a habit that is difficult to break later on.

Most developers also learn from the early days at the start of their coding journey that late nights and early morning hours are the best when they need to concentrate. This is due to the lack of constant disruptions from general life and noise of disturbances from activities around you.

Additionally, during the early days, developers tend to wait until late at night or early morning to execute tasks such as debugging, testing, or code deployment. This is because servers are typically more powerful at this time and handle much fewer demands than during the day.

While server technology has improved, most developers carry on these habits, continuing to work at night.

6. Flexible, Creative Thinking

Interestingly, most developers are more creative at night. This is because the part of the brain that affects concentration – the prefrontal cortex-, tires towards the end of the day. The result is that developers can engage in more creative and flexible thinking working later at night than during the day.

Let me explain.

Your body experiences a drop in body temperature and a rise in melatonin towards the end of the day. This is according to Brant Hasler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

With an increase in the sleep drive, your brain is less inclined towards divergent thinking. As a result, you can make new associations between various concepts better and more easily, which equates to more flexible thinking.

Therefore, late nights or early mornings provide the peak moods that optimize inventive thoughts and stimulate creative thinking. Simply put, your brain becomes so tired that it can only focus on an individual task, resulting in more creative and flexible thinking.

The implications of this are that those who work at night or in the early morning hours generally tend to be more creative and more intelligent than those who work during regular working hours.

7. Minimal Human Interaction

Many developers are not big on human interaction. At no other point is the possibility of human interaction as low as during late nights or early mornings.

This all comes down to the fact that to be a successful developer, you need to divert a significant amount of time to your craft. You will also need to spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer screen to perfect your craft. Avoiding distractions, therefore, is of utmost importance.

By working late nights or early mornings, developers avoid interacting with other people, getting the distraction-free settings they need to hone their skills or achieve their deliverables. On the flip side, they also get to avoid interacting with other people during the day, because the latter will be sleeping.

8. Screen Luminance

Yes, you read that right. Computer screens appear much brighter during the night or in the early morning hours. According to the sleep experts at Sleep Foundation, blue light from computer screens enhances performance and alertness. It also regulates sleep and wake cycles.

According to this source, using devices that disrupt your natural circadian rhythms can disrupt the melatonin production process, causing you to be alert. And one of the main sources of this blue light is computer screens.

Because developers tend to work on their computers for long hours, the blue light from these screens can delay sleep, causing them to extend their work into the late hours.

9. The Maker’s Schedule

Developers follow what is referred to as the maker’s schedule. In this schedule, developers prefer to break up their day into long time blocks to focus on a specific task. This schedule is also anchored on extended periods of uninterrupted time dedicated to solving complex or cognitively-demanding assignments.

Considering the counterproductive impact that meetings, emails, and other distractions have on developers, they are naturally more inclined to select working periods or settings that minimize these distractions. Consequently, most of them opt to work late into the night or in the wee hours of the morning.

Conclusion

In closing, there are numerous reasons why developers prefer to work late at night or early morning. However, a common theme is that they can stay alert and in the zone by working during these hours due to the lack of distractions or disruptions. This allows developers to focus on their tasks and be more productive.

However, it is critical to understand that this is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. There is no shortage of developers who follow traditional working hours. For those that have a nocturnal persuasion, the reasons provided in this article aptly explain this phenomenon.

Did you like this article?

Share your thoughts by replying on Twitter of Become A Better Programmer or to personal my Twitter account.

Author