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

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.

    Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero 4 Simple Steps to Brain Dump for a Smarter Brain Why Is Productivity Important? 10 Reasons to Become More Productive How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

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    Last Updated on November 15, 2019

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

    However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

    Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

    Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

    Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

    What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

    To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

    The Biology

    Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

    Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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    The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

    A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

    Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

    So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

    Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

    Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

    Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

    Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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    The Psychology

    Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

    Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

    Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

    Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

    What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

    Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

    Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

    1. Identify Your Habits

    As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

    2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

    Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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    It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

    3. Apply Logic

    You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

    Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

    4. Choose an Alternative

    As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

    Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

    5. Remove Triggers

    Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

    Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

    6. Visualize Change

    Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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    For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

    7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

    Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

    Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

    Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

    More About Changing Habits

    Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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