I read a very interesting article today "Why Programmers Work at Night" by Swizec Teller on Business Insider. Even though I'm not a computer programmer I could relate to the article. I think there are several similarities on why genealogist have their best moments while working in the middle of the night.
Teller says: "At the gist of all this is avoiding distractions. But you could just lock the door, what's so special about the night? I think if boils down to three things: the maker's schedule, the sleepy brain and bright computer screens."
"Working on large abstract systems involves fitting the whole thing into your mind - somebody once likened this to constructing a house out of expensive crystal glass and as soon as someone distracts you, it all comes barreling down and shatters into a thousand pieces."
"This is why programmers are so annoyed when you distract them."
Totally agree with this logic. I hate to be interrupted when I am delving into my latest genealogical puzzle. In fact I can't work on my family history while I am working my shift at the Family History Center. I would be totally annoyed if someone interrupted me during my path of discovery. That doesn't make for a good Family History Consultant if your annoyed with the patrons. Working in the middle of night has the great benefit of no interruptions, since the rest of the world and it's demands are fast asleep. We genealogists have complex things to figure out as we delicately weave our assumptions and hunches together to unlock the truth.
The Sleepy Brain
"Why then do we perform our most mentally complex work when the brain wants to sleep and we do simpler tasks when our brain is at its sharpest and brightest?
"Because being tired makes us better coders" - In our case that's better genealogist!
"Being tired can make us focus better simply because when your brain is tired it has to focus! There isn't enough left-over brainpower to afford losing concentration"
"When your brain isn't working at full capacity it looks for something to do. Being tired makes me dumb enough that the task at hand is enough."
Finally I get it, yes my mind is to tired to get distracted on other things, so it makes me focus better on what is right in front of me.
Bright computer screens
"Keep staring at a bright source of light in the evening and your sleep cycle gets delayed. You forget to be tired until 3 am."
"To conclude, programmers work at night because it doesn't impose a time limit on when you have to stop working, which gives you a more relaxed approach, your brain doesn't keep looking for distractions and a bright screen keeps you awake"
Yes, genealogist are very much like our programmer cohorts working fast in the middle of the night. I really enjoyed learning more about why it's my best time of the day (or night) to work. The mystery is solved now for me and it's only 10:00 pm. Time to get cracking on my next genealogy quest. The night is young and there is so much to find!