There’s Nothing Wrong with Being a Night Owl

exc-52dcc791e4b0fc4c92c6d04e

I get tired of the argument that you should be an early riser to make the most of your day. I accomplish a hell of a lot as a night owl, and I know I’m not alone. In fact, as long as you’re mindful and intentional about what you’re doing, you can deliver the goods as an early riser or a night owl. You don’t need to alter your body clock to make early rising a habit. I’d go as far as to suggest that by trying to alter your body clock instead of listening to it, you’re doing yourself more than harm than good.

No matter when you get up in the morning, one of the things you need to do to is build routines that will allow you to make the most of your waking time. Before my wife goes to bed, I’ll make sure that my clothes for the next day are set out for me for the next morning. Usually the clothing I set out are sweats so I can be dressed for exercise, which I’ll tackle first thing. By putting out my workout gear before my wife goes to bed — she is the early riser in our house so she goes to bed before me – I’ve put myself in a position to think less about what to do first thing in the morning1 and can simply get up and go about the rest of my routine.

I don’t work like others do when I start my day, either. I don’t adhere to the “first things first” mentality that Covey preaches because my brain isn’t ready to do the creative heavy lifting at that time. Instead, I like to get the low energy stuff out of the way. By doing that, I gradually build up my energy to where it needs to be for when I know i’m at my best — in the afternoon and evening hours. I’ll spend time after lunch getting some heavier writing done, take another break from dinnertime until 9 pm or so and then get back into some creative work again. In fact, I’m writing this piece at 10:30 pm. I’ve planned to write it all day, and the wellspring of energy and creativity hit around thirty minutes ago and I’ve been writing it ever since. After I’m done writing this piece and preparing it for posting, I’ll map out tomorrow, write my journal entry, and hit the sack. By the time all of that is done, it’ll be nearly 1 am.

I know I have the luxury of getting up later than most people, but I’ve crafted my life that way over time. It wasn’t something that I was always able to do. When I was working at Costco, there were months where I had to be at work at 7 am at the latest. Even then I had routines to start my day on the job, and I got the low energy stuff out of the way first thing. Once I was able to adjust my schedule so that I didn’t need to be there so early, I did. I worked later and enjoyed it immensely. I’d get home from my work shift, have a late dinner, and then work on something creative until the wee hours of the morning. That’s how I work best, and every time I tried to change my body clock to an earlier time period my quality of work would suffer.

One of the keys to being productive is to know yourself. Know what works for you and what doesn’t. Be honest with yourself and be mindful about your habits and body clock tendencies. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a night owl or an early riser as long as you plan things out accordingly and support what works best for you. Failing to do that really puts you in that place of “doing” productive instead of being productive.

And that’s no place to spend your time.

Photo credit: rknds via SXC.HU

1 I actually think one of the reasons so many people check their email first thing in the morning is because they’ve not planned their day in advance and there might be an email message that gives them the direction they are lacking. But that’s a topic for another post.

Comments

  1. Alina Vrabie says

    I couldn’t agree more that by trying to fit a mould and not listening to our bodies, we can do more harm than good. But unfortunately, the reality for most people is that their workplace does not provide the flexibility for them to be truly productive.
    Personally, I work best both early in the morning (I love writing at 5 am), and late at night, but my energy levels often dip between 1-3 pm. I read it’s a natural biological rhythm.

  2. Daniel Gold says

    Mike – Thanks again for being on my GTD Virtual Study Group podcast! What a great recording with Craig Jarrow, Laura Vanderkam, and Hal Elrod. It was a really great program filled with so many incredibly valuable nuggets, like the ones you’ve written about above. "One of the keys to being productive is to know yourself." I completely agree with you. And, I say that at 4:33AM. Yep, up at 4 today. I just have way too much to do accomplish to keep sleeping. More … coffee …!! The episode will be pushed out and available to listen to on 1/23! Cheers, Mike, and thanks again!

  3. Jeremy Roberts says

    Well said Mike. I too am a bit over the "you have to start the day before the day has even started." I don’t do mornings well. I struggle enough to crawl out if bed when the kids bounce awake. I much prefer the lengthy quiet of the night to do my creative work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *