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This Is Why Morning People Are More Likely To Be Successful (Backed By Science)

This Is Why Morning People Are More Likely To Be Successful (Backed By Science)

Night people (those who are most alert at night, and typically stay up long after dark) might be a bit smarter than morning people, according to a report published by Roberts and Kyllonen in a 1999 issue of Personality and Individual Differences. But, morning people (those who are up and about early in the morning, roughly the same time even on weekends) are more likely to be successful.

That might come as a shocker to you, but it is scientifically proven. Here’s why morning people are likely to be more successful than night or evening people, backed by science:

1.   They are more proactive

Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, reported in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that morning people are more proactive than evening types. He described proactivity as the willingness and ability to take action to change a situation to one’s advantage.

Because morning people tend to be more proactive than evening people, they do well in business, Randler said. In an interview on Harvard Business Review Randler noted:

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“When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. They tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities.”

This finding makes sense because, in theory, earlier in the morning is when your mind is most rested, your motivation highest and there is relatively less distractions. The mind is most creative at night, but most productive in the morning. This might explain why morning people tend to rule the world – winning the promotions and high level contracts.

2.   They are less prone to bad habits and drug abuse.

Not that evening types are always ill-mannered and drug dependent. Actually, night owls are smarter and more creative. But, morning “larks” hit the sack early at a respectable evening hour (typically in bed before 11 p.m.). That seems to make them a little less vulnerable than night people to bad habits—namely, drinking, smoking, and even infidelity.

A number of studies support this assertion. One study of 537 individuals comprising of professionals and students with different but regular work schedules found that night types consume more alcohol than morning larks. Another study of 676 adults from a Finnish Twin Cohort found that night people were much more likely to be current or lifelong smokers, much less likely to stop smoking, and at much higher risk for nicotine dependence as per diagnostic criteria compared with morning folks.

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These findings are not entirely surprising considering that the nightlife is more conducive to drinking and infidelity.

3.   They are conscientious, less showy, and thus more agreeable

The tendency to drink and smoke more among night people is associated with a trait that psychologists call “novelty-seeking” or simply NS.

According to PhyscologyToday, NS is “a personality trait associated with exploratory activity where someone seeks new and exciting stimulation and responds strongly from the surge of dopamine and adrenaline released when anyone has a novel experience.”

Numerous studies have linked night people with this “novelty-seeking” characteristic. Randler and a colleague also studied the relationship between morningness–eveningness and temperament in adolescents ages 12 to 18. They found that evening types tend to display an extravagance in approach to reward cues (showoffs.) Morning people are more conscientious and less showy, and thus more agreeable. Agreeableness is a positive trait that can help in the pursuit of success, though not always.

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4.   They procrastinate less

A 1997 study led by delay researcher Joseph Ferrari of DePaul looked at college students and found that trait procrastinators referred to themselves as “night” people. Ferrari discovered there is a link between procrastinating behaviors and a general preference to do activities in the evenings. This finding that evening people tend to be worse procrastinators was based on six days of daily task records.

In 2008, a team of researchers that included Ferrari did a follow up study on procrastination. This time they looked at adults with a mean age of 50. The findings of the earlier study held true. Once again night people were associated more with avoiding tasks that needed to be completed. The 2008 study was reported in the Journal of General Psychology.

Given that putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the “last minute” before a deadline can create problems, the researchers also hinted that this general tendency to delay tasks until nighttime may cost night people career success. That’s particularly true at jobs where strong daytime work ethics are expected or required.

5.   They have better moods and tend to be happier

That’s the argument that was put forth in a 2012 paper by Dr. Lynn Hasher and Renee Biss, psychologists at University of Toronto. The researchers assessed a sample of 297 older adults (59 to 79) and 435 young adults (17 to 38) on their current moods, as well as their preference to mornings or nights. They found that morning people were generally happier and more alert than their peers who sleep in.

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One reason night people might find it harder to stay alert and feel less happy than morning people is because of the disconnect between their nighttime preferences and conventional daytime expectations. Generally, night people are out of sync with the typical day-to-day schedule. They often have to force themselves to wake up early and perform at their peak during the day, which leaves them emotionally drained, and can even cause them sleep loss. Social scientists call this effect “social jetlag.”

For morning people, everything is as it should be. Morning people are happy with the typical day’s schedule.

“Waking up early may indeed make one happy as a lark,” wrote the researchers.

And who’s to say when you’re happy and alert and proactive you can’t perform better?

Featured photo credit: Stephanie Brooks via flickr.com

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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