“6 Secrets to Success Only Early Birds Know“
“10 Morning Habits Successful People Swear By“
“12 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast“
“5 Ways to Become a Morning Person“
“The Secret to Becoming a Morning Person“
These are the titles of real articles published within the last month by Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, The Huffington Post and Fast Company. According to my news feeds, to be successful, you better be a morning person, and if you are, you’re guaranteed success. This seemingly endless stream of news telling us night owls that our internal clocks are dysfunctional irritates me to no end, so watch out: Rant ahead.
First and foremost, I strongly disagree with one-size-fits-all approaches to pretty much everything. Not fitness. Not travel. Not healthy eating. Not career paths and how to reach success. No two people are alike, so why should all of our daily habits and lifestyles be the same in order to reach success, and someone else’s definition of it at that? They should’t. Quite the opposite. In our experience, it’s much healthier and effective to work with your body, not against it, toward whatever success may mean to you. Don’t like kale? Don’t jump on that new kale smoothie trend. Hate spinning? Don’t make that your cardio thing. Not a morning person? Don’t force yourself to be one.
Which brings me to my next point. Of course, millions of people are early birds, and many of them use their early hours to get their most important tasks done, and many of them are successful partly because of this (Allen included.) That’s awesome, and if you’re one of those people, work it. But that doesn’t mean 1. that just because they get up early they are guaranteed success and 2. that everyone else has to be, too.
I spent years trying to become a morning person, starting in middle school when I was responsible for walking myself to the bus stop by 6 AM, then in high school when I had to be in class at before the sun was up, then still in college when I had to be in 8 AM classes or opening the gym at 5:15. No amount of going to bed early, melatonin, Pop Up Video and Starbucks ever made me alert and focused before 10, and my performance at any task–creative, academic, athletic–struggled before lunch. But even on my most exhausted days, my mind would remain awake, running at full speed until 1 in the morning. Even now, I write most of these posts in my head as I stare at the ceiling above my bed long after midnight. As soon as I stopped fighting this and used it to my advantage when I started my own business and therefore set my own daily schedule, I became more productive and reached more goals than in any year past. I may sleep in ’til 9:30 and take my sweet time getting to my desk, but by the time I sit and open my laptop, I am a work machine until 11 at night or later.
Ok, rant over. I’m aware that my one example means nothing in a sparkling sea of sunshiny morning people, but I’m not alone. There are plenty of night owls like myself, including those who would prefer to stay up late and sleep in but whose responsibilities dictate otherwise. As a matter of fact, the second biggest driver behind 34% of the workforce being made up of freelancers today is their desire to set schedules that work better for them than a rigid 9 to 5 (a). And it’s not just the masses–we’re among the likes of Winston Churchill and Franz Kafka (b), many current CEOs/VPs/editors-in-chief, and several other notable successful figures of today and throughout history.
And why are so many driven smarties night owls? Part of it is genetics, which determines our circadian rhythms (d). This also determines other commonalities both positive and negative between morning types and evening types, like the fact that those with higher IQs and more creative people tend to be nocturnally-oriented, “night people ‘have a higher tendency to explore the unknown,'” we need less rest, and we exhibit more “cognitive complexity” than our AM counterparts (c,d,f). On top of that, we may be awake later, but studies show we’re alert after waking up longer than morning people, and–bonus points!–our physical strength peaks at night, compared to morning people’s relatively stable strength throughout the day, because of our “increased motor cortex and spinal cord excitability” around 9 PM (e). Cool, right?!
Now that more studies are proving that being a morning person isn’t the end-all-be-all to success, and our internal clocks are becoming more accepted and sometimes even celebrated, the same publications at the beginning of this post are now also running articles like “7 Reasons to be Proud of Being a Night Owl.” Again, real headline from within the last month. So as millions embrace their inner owls no matter what their Facebook news feeds might encourage otherwise, it’s time you should, too! Being a night owl is fantastic. Trust me, I’m high-fiving you as I write this at 11:48 PM on a Thursday.
If you’re tired of hitting the snooze button on your internal clock, stop fighting it with my five favorite ways to make the most of your nocturnal nature:
1. Work out at night, just not within the few hours before you eventually do go to sleep.
2. Don’t schedule any important tasks or meetings before lunch.
3. If possible, adjust your work hours to your peak performance time of day. Along the same lines, look for clients/customers/teammates, etc. in a time zone where their 9-5 is your primetime.
4. Do try to find your sleep and wake sweet spots and stick to them. Regular sleep, even if it’s 2 am – 10 am, is important.
5. Find other night owls! It can be frustrating to miss out on everything the early birds are chirping about, but there are plenty of us awake, engaged, and ready for brainstorming sessions, catching up, and everything else from which our diurnal counterparts have long since clocked out.
[Interested in other ways to create a balanced life that works for you? Check out #TreatYoSelf: 5 Guilt-Free Ways to Achieve a Healthy Life Balance]