Do you have to get up early to be productive? That's what many experts will tell you. And I’m sure you’ve heard the following before:
“Get a jump on your day by waking up at 5 am!”
“Get up before the rest of your family so you can have time to yourself!”
“Get into work before everyone else and get productive before the interruptions start!”
But, does the early bird really catch the worm? I'm here to tell you: not always.
As I'm sure you know, there are night people (owls) and there are morning people (larks). And for the most part, our personal chronology is built into our bodies. It’s your personal, natural circadian rhythm. And it’s different for everyone. And when we try to do things that go against our body's nature, our brain's nature, it's going to be harder for us.
A huge piece of the productivity pie is in removing obstacles for ourselves. We want to make things easy, and convenient, so they take less time, less effort and so that we reduce stress. Productivity is often about getting out of our own way.
If you are a true morning person, a person who wakes up early without an alarm, who never hits snooze, who jumps out of bed rearing to go, ready, excited to start your day, then by all means, keep doing what you are doing. Wake up early and get a jump on the day. I bet that's working well for you. The world is designed for early risers. Lucky you. (I say, with no resentment at all!)
But that's not everyone. In fact, studies show that the percentage of early risers is somewhere between 27% and 55% (a wide range, I know). And that's not me. Waking up has always been the hardest part of my day. Always. And, I'm here to say, if you are a night owl, embrace it. You're going to be more productive, less stressed and happier in general if you do.
There've been times, of course, that I've been able to push against my nature for short stints. There was the 6 months in high school that I left the house at 5am to go to the gym, shower and get to school on time. There was the bagel shop job when I was 19 with the 6 am start, and the job shortly after college with the 7 am start. And then, of course, the early years of parenthood, because kids don't give a damn about your body clock.
I was able to do it…for a little while. But my nature always interfered. And I didn't get enough sleep. As a night owl, just because I was getting up early, didn't mean I was able to get to sleep earlier.
So, what to do? Embrace it and shape your world around it. Don't try to change it; work with it, work around it, make it work for you
Here are some tips for surviving, and thriving, as an owl in a lark’s world:
Manage Your Energy Levels
We all have points in the day when our minds are clearest, more focused. If you are a night owl, that's not going to be the early morning. Learn when those times are for you. (i.e., When do you lag? When do you yawn?) As much as is possible, try to structure your day and work so that you are able to match your tasks to your energy levels.
And if you are lagging, figure out what you need to do to get back in the focus zone. Take a walk, take a nap, have a healthy snack. And if you can't, then work on your more brainless, rote, tasks when your energy levels are low.
Find a Job with the Right Hours
Try to find a job with flexible hours (obviously this is a privileged place to be in, I know) or freelance so you can work on your own time.
If that’s not possible, try to find a job with night time hours (bartender, chef, etc.).
Lobby Your Boss for Flexibility
Let your boss know what schedule works best for you, and that she'll get better work out of you if she lets you manage your hours accordingly.
If you aren't good with people in the morning, try to avoid early morning meetings.
If you’re the most creative between 10pm and midnight, ask your boss to let you do your thinking work then.
Minimize Your Morning Routine
The above tips are all well and good if you can swing it. But sometimes, we’re in the situation we’re in, and there’s not a lot we can do to change it.
So if you have to get up early to be at work at a certain time, then do whatever you can to minimize your morning routine.
Shower at night.
Pack your lunch at night.
Make bulk pack-and-go breakfasts (breakfast burritos, muffins, homemade granola bars, overnight oatmeal).
Pick your outfit at night.
Minimize, or forgo, your make-up routine.
(My morning routine takes 5-7 minutes (after the snoozing!). Get up, get dressed, brush teeth, put on earrings, out the door.)
Don't Feel Shame
Don't worry that you can't do what all those self-help books say and get up early with intention. Refuse to feel that your inability to be chipper in the morning is a personal failing. Heck, you may even want to gloat, as there are plenty of studies out there saying that night owls may in fact might be smarter than the rest!