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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
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    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.

    4 Simple Steps to Brain Dump for a Smarter Brain What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero 35 Quick and Simple Tips for Better Productivity Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks Why Is Productivity Important? 10 Reasons to Become More Productive

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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