Early Bird vs. Night Owl: What's Really Better for Productivity?

Maximize Your Day: What's the Best Way to Work When You're Overworked? When there aren't enough hours in the day, should you work late or get up early? start-up, entrepreneur, side business, small business, start-up launch, going pro

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Whether you're a busy executive juggling a demanding work schedule or an aspiring entrepreneur with a business to get off the ground, more often than not there just aren't enough hours in the day. Although it would be nice to get everything accomplished between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, when that can't happen we're forced to choose between being up with the sun or burning the midnight oil. No matter your career or business goals, experts say there is a smarter way to work when you're overworked. Check out best strategies for your busy days.

If you're a busy executive ...

"If it's not on your calendar it's not going to get done," says Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner at executive search firm Cornerstone Search Group. "You are always going to get pulled in different directions, but if you block off two or three hours a couple of days a week just for administrative duties or processing your email backlog, then you'll ensure that those things get done."

Busy executives also have to learn to maximize every moment of their work day -- even on their daily commute or on a business trip, Raz says.

"There is no clock on your day. There is no 9-to-5," Raz says. "If you're traveling on a plane, in a car service or on a train and you have a little bit of time to focus, you've got to be working."

Many executives embrace the power of early office hours to accomplish more than they can when surrounded by co-workers, Raz says.

"I like to get into the office early, around 7, about an hour and a half before everyone starts getting in at 8:30. I find that I can get two to three times the amount of work done than I could in a normal hour-and-a-half stretch in the middle of the day," Raz says. "Those morning hours are critical for responding to emails, doing proposals or other things that have to happen with minimal distraction."

If you're unsure when you might have the least distraction in your day, ActionCoach business coach Kevin Weir says to take an "inventory" of when you're the most productive.

"Ask yourself, 'What time of the day does that typically happen?'" Weir says. "Some people are never going to be effective individuals getting up at 5:30 and being in the office by 7:30. If you have the ability, change your work and sleep patterns for 14 to 21 days to the earlier times and measure your effectiveness compared to working the later hours."

If you're focused solely on your own business ...

"If you're passionate about your small-business idea, energy and adrenaline will keep you motivated toward achieving your goals -- no matter the hour," says Jennifer Friedman, chief marketing officer of small-business solutions at CT Corp. and its subsidiary BizFilings.

Entrepreneurs must remember that they're running a marathon, not a sprint, Raz says. While it may be easy to work 24 hours a day for weeks at a time, eventually you will burn out, so you have to pace yourself.

"The sooner you open your doors, the sooner you start generating revenue, but you can't put 100% of yourself into your business for too long before you start losing perspective and missing out on important time with family and friends," Raz says.

Small-business owners will most always spend the early mornings and the late evenings working on their venture, and either of those are usually preferable to the middle of the day, Raz explains.

"The middle of the day is the hardest time, because you're getting unexpected emails, people are dropping by, people are calling, you may have a lunch meeting -- you name it," he says.

Those few hours in the morning are "really precious," he continues. When it's still dark out and there aren't many cars honking or phones ringing, people can often accomplish five or six hours of work in a two- or three-hour time frame.

Many people are drawn to entrepreneurship because of the freedom it offers to create your own life, schedule and income, says Gary Naumann, director of the Spirit of Enterprise Center at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Unfortunately, it doesn't always feel like "freedom" when you're just getting started, and that's simply part of the experience.

"Entrepreneurship gives you freedom -- the freedom to choose which 80 hours a week you want to work -- and that's the key. Opportunities and challenges do not arrive neatly packaged to suit your timeline. They come messy and loud and at the most inopportune times. I say buckle up, deal with it and get used to burning both ends of the candle."

For small-business owners, late nights may be a "little less attractive" for working than early mornings, just because there is no "sleeping in" for most entrepreneurs, Raz says.

"People are human. If your day starts early, by 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., you're really tired," he says. "Sleep is one of the most important things for your body, and five or six hours of sleep is much better than one or two hours of sleep. Many times it's better to go to bed at 11:30 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. than it is to stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep until 8 a.m."

If you're working a full-time job and trying to get your business off the ground ...

"Not all entrepreneurs juggling a full-time job or school have the luxury of working on their small-business idea at 9:00 a.m.," Friedman says. "Trying to get a new small business off the ground after-hours doesn't necessarily mean you're doing yourself a disservice, however. While early birds may get an earlier start to their day, it doesn't mean they accomplish more throughout the day."

It comes down to getting creative, Raz explains.

"For six months or a year, you will be working two jobs," he explains. "You have your paycheck in one hand and your future in the other, and that's the way it's got to work."

Most all entrepreneurs in this position will find themselves working mornings, nights and weekends, but no matter how tough it gets, using your employer's time to work on your side venture is a big no-no, Raz says.

"You are not starting a business on your employers' dime. You've got to remain ethical and do the work you're being paid to do. As soon as your workday ends, your next venture begins."

Knowing when it's time to "put it to bed" may be difficult, but Raz says if your eyes start closing, it's time to call it a night.

"If you have to re-read the same line a few times, that's a sign. You're not a machine. When you start getting exhausted say, 'I'm not trying to be a hero. Let's resume this tomorrow.'"

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