If you want to truly succeed in life, you need to get up early! The earlier, the better! While all those other slackers are getting up at 5:30 am, you’re just finishing your workout!
In which case, you need to stay up late! The later, the better! While all those other wusses are crapping out at 9:00 and 10:00, you’re just getting started, and have another 4 hours to go!
How many productivity articles have you read that extol the virtue of one time of day or another? I’ve read plenty of articles that demand I get up by at least 5:00 so I can get in a good workout (yeah, right), and then race to the office so I can get started at least an hour before everyone else does.
I’ve read a few (much fewer) articles about the virtues of staying up late because everyone else is in bed, and I can get a lot of uninterrupted work done.
And I’ve ever only read one article that says I need to follow my body’s own circadian rhythms and get up and go to sleep whenever I’m most productive. That’s the one that made the most sense.
The problem with these other articles is that they try to impose the author’s way of doing things on everyone else, because they think that it’s only a matter of making a few tiny tweaks in our lives to make everything EFFING AWESOME!
(I hate the over-the-top Tony Robbins-esque enthusiasm of these early morning greeters, but that’s a different post.)
But what authors in both camps forget is that everyone is not wired like everyone else. Not everyone is good at getting up early, and not everyone is suited for staying up late.
I hate getting up at 6:00 am, and when the alarm goes off, my sleep-addled brain tries to do the math that will allow me to sleep 20 more minutes. By the time I’ve figured it out, I’m too awake to change it.
But I know plenty of people who bound out of bed at 5:00, do a victory dance because they beat their alarm again (for the 97th day in a row), and race through their day.
Personally, I hate these people, and feel a smug sense of satisfaction when I tell them that I usually go to bed three hours before they woke up. They stare at me in bewilderment, trying to wrap their heads around how and why anyone would (or could) stay up three hours longer than their usual bedtime.
Do what works for you
I’ve always been a late night guy. Ever since college, I’ve stayed up after everyone else has gone to sleep. Midnight is early for me, and I feel like I’m slacking if I go to bed by 11.
Conversely, there are people who are out of bed before 6 am, even if they’re on vacation. They think they’re wasting the day if they’re not up and rolling by then.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter. As long as you don’t have a job that requires you to be at your desk by 8:00, it doesn’t matter when you work. The only reason we have an 8 – 5 work day is because of our agricultural heritage. We worked from sun up to sun down back when we were all farmers, and the bias toward the “Protestant work ethic” — the one that says you’re wasting the day if you’re in bed past 7:00 — is still with us to this day.
For some people, they love it. Others think the early-morning enthusiasts are insane. With today’s technology and the move toward the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), it’s beginning to matter less and less when you work, and more that you got it done.
The key is to find whatever works for you. Maybe you’re a freelancer who does your best work after dark. If that’s the case, schedule your day so most of your productive time is freed up after dinner. Stay up late, sleep in, and have breakfast at the crack of noon.
Maybe you need to squeeze in a workout, and you love the feeling of beating the sun and all normal people each morning, so you’re up at 4:30 am to go on a 30 mile ride before breakfast.
You’ve reached the age by now to know whether you’re more suited for early or late work. You know what’s better for you, when you get the most work done, and when your body starts/stops functioning at peak efficiency.
So feel free to ignore all those articles that tell you that everyone must conform to one schedule or another. Pick what works for you, and stick with it. And if you’re one of those early morning risers, let me hear from you.
Just not before 8:00 am.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. His third book, The Owned Media Doctrine, will be available this summer.