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Early Riser or Night Owl: Why It Doesn’t Really Matter

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Early Riser or Night Owl: Why It Doesn’t Really Matter

    I bet you’ve heard this quote before:

    “The early bird gets the worm…” – William Camden

    Perhaps you’ve heard it in reference to your own sleeping habits. There are numerous articles on the web where writers tell you that one of the best ways to become more productive is to get up early. By doing so, you get a jumpstart on the rest of the world and reap the benefits of a quiet work environment — among other things.

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    Yet for the amount of articles that all about getting up early, there are many people who struggle to do just that. I’m one of them. I’ve tried time and time again to get up early, to “reset my internal clock” to make that happen…and I can’t seem to make it stick. While failure isn’t the worst thing in the world when it comes to this (and other efforts, for that matter), after trying to become an early riser more times than I can remember, this quote came to mind:

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

    Now I wasn’t doing the exact same thing each time I made an effort to change my sleeping and waking habits, but I realized that the act of trying to change my habits was the problem. That’s where the insanity was coming into play. I was frustrated that I simply couldn’t do what I thought I should be able to do — and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.

    And then it came to me: I’m not meant to be an early riser. I am a night owl and I needed to embrace that rather than fight it.

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    Further to that, I examined how somebody who’s a night owl could essentially “hack their day” in the same way as an early riser does. Perhaps not surprisingly, the same benefits that apply to early risers can belong to night owls too.

    Quiet Time

    If you’re up past the bedtimes of those in your home, then you’re going to get the same sense of quiet that the early riser gets. Plus, if you woke up later in the morning, you won’t be as tired when you get down to whatever you plan to do with that quiet time because you’ve been awake for far longer than the early bird will be. As someone who does a lot of writing, I have found that I’m at my best in a creative sense later in the day, once all of my essential actions and errands have been taken care of. I call it my “Finally Time” — I finally have the clarity of thought, quiet I need and time I want to get my great work done.

    Getting Ahead

    While many are up at the crack of dawn and getting an early start to their day, I’m sleeping. And I’m no further behind because of it.

    You see, I’ve already done the things that I needed to get a jump on the previous night. I’m no less productive than the early riser because I did what they do in the morning hours during the late hours the day beforehand; I am being proactive in my own way.

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    The notion that early risers are more productive than night owls is a myth. They just do “more productive” differently. How they allocate their time is the key.

    Stop Struggling and Love the Late Hours

    I started off by offering a very famous quote…but there’s more to it than what I initially delivered. My favourite addition to that quote is:

    “The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.” – Jeremy Paxman

    To some that may mean that you should proceed with caution rather than be first into the fray, but I tend to look at it differently.

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    There is no advantage to being an early riser over being a night owl when it comes to increasing your productivity. It’s all in how you handle what comes at you – day and night – and making sure that you handle in it in a way that suits you and your lifestyle. If you find that you like getting up early, go for it. If you don’t, then don’t change that.

    Listen to your mind and body and drive yourself to do more when it works for you. Don’t drive yourself insane trying to do anything that doesn’t.

    (Photo credit: Time to Wake Up via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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