What is your pumpkin hour?
We all remember the story of Cinderella right? What would happen if she didn’t make it home by the stroke of midnight? Well, she would turn into a pumpkin, of course! Or her carriage would turn into a pumpkin. Or there would be a pumpkin involved somehow, I can’t really remember. For the sake of our argument, let’s just say that she physically would turn into a pumpkin at 12 pm. It’s a funny visual for a beautiful princess to turn into the most orange and rotund of root vegetables (or fruit?).
What was so special about midnight? Why would things change for her then? Yes, it’s just a fairy tale, maybe we shouldn’t over analyze things. But Cinderella was onto something here that can help shape our productivity in the modern world. I have to give a huge shoutout to Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky for touching on this in their bonus tactics from their phenomenal book Make Time. They really got me thinking more about this concept and how we can use it to our advantage.
Night Owl or Morning Lark?
Every one of us has our own pumpkin hour. This is the time when we proverbially turn into something different. It’s a time when our brain changes and ceases to function as we intend it to. You might just say it’s a time when we become tired, but it’s a little more than that.
Some people consider themselves to be morning people, others think they’re night owls. There are lucky people who claim to be both. But most of us have a time of day when we’re more productive for certain tasks. Maybe you’re super creative in the mornings and extra analytical in the afternoon. Your problem-solving muscles could be strongest just after lunch and you could run out of all good ideas just before dinner.
Everyone is different, but there is tremendous value in knowing your body and knowing how to manage the ebbs and flows of your energy levels.
Know Your Personal Pumpkin Hour
The easiest way to start thinking in these terms is to identify your pumpkin hour. What time of night do you shut down and stop being productive? For me, this is usually between 9-10pm. Once that hour hits, I feel my brain slowing down. I’ve already been awake for a long day at that point. My thoughts start to get foggy and all I really want to do are super low-energy tasks.
Maybe I can still muster the energy to do the dishes or laundry but that’s about it. At that hour, my main objective is to wind down, dim lights, minimize noise, and start thinking about bed. I’ll find something to read and turn off all devices in preparation for sleep. This is in stark contrast to my lovely wife.
You see, her pumpkin hour is later than mine. She usually hits it around midnight just like Cinderella. When she asks me questions after 10 pm, she is rarely satisfied with the answers. Her brain is still whirring along at that hour. She has energy, she likes to plan things, she gets tons of work done. I’m a bit envious of her until I remember that I get that same feeling in the morning from 6-8am while she’s still groggy.
How to Use This
I’ve come to terms with my pumpkin hour. I know what times of the day I’m most productive and when I’m not. When I see the clock creeping towards ten, I know it’s time to wind down. The quality of my work quickly gets compromised. I’m typically better off just shutting things down and picking them up again early the next morning.
It may seem trivial, but many people don’t properly observe this. Or they do observe it but they don’t properly act on it. They may know their pumpkin hour is 11 pm but they still keep pushing themselves to work past midnight. Of course, you can pull this off sometimes when there is a deadline looming. But over time, the pumpkin hour will catch up to you.
Here’s what I recommend.
Take notice of your pumpkin hour and start to schedule your productive hours around it. Keeping track of how you feel both before bed and upon waking is a good way to do this.
Learn from Cinderella’s mistakes and use this knowledge to your advantage!