If you’re like me, you’re a night owl. You get some of your best work done when the sun goes down, and your motivation is at its highest when the clock chimes midnight. But real life isn’t always very accommodating of your personal preferences which is why, whether because of working hours or wonderful children, you find yourself getting up at a time that doesn’t feel natural to you. What’s a night owl to do when an early start is required?
In a perfect world, your natural circadian rhythm would sync with the hours you’re supposed to be awake, not with the hours you want to be awake. There’s a certain level to which you can train yourself to go to bed earlier so you can feel a bit more refreshed, but if you’re naturally inclined towards the night hours, you’ll never not feel groggy at the crack-of-dawn chorus.
Sure, there are plenty of benefits to being an early riser, but not all of us thrive in those conditions. And, given that there are also benefits to being a night owl, how do you preserve as many of those as you can when you may have to call it a day before you’re really ready to go to bed? Here are 6 tips to help you do just that:
1. Prep the night before
As a night owl, you’ll prefer as late a start as possible. To do that, you need a slick, streamlined morning routine so you can spend those extra few minutes in bed. Lay out all your clothes the night before, have your bag packed and ready to go, have a healthy breakfast prepared (or at least know what it is so you can avoid wasting precious morning minutes wondering what to eat)… Whatever you can get done the night before to shorten the time between getting out of bed and heading out the door, do it.
2. Reduce your commute
It won’t always be possible, but look for ways to shorten your travel time. Could you move closer to your workplace, transfer to an office that’s closer to your home, or use a faster mode of transport? If you normally walk, you could try cycling instead. Or if you know your neighbour Bob drives in your general direction, offer to split the cost of petrol if you can carpool with him.
3. Start on autopilot
Because your energy levels will naturally be lower in the morning, you won’t exactly hit the ground running. Instead, start the day with the routine things that don’t require much brainpower on your part. Things you could do “in your sleep”, as it were (because, basically, that’s how you’ll feel for the first few hours).
4. Tackle the biggest tasks in the afternoon
As soon as you’ve brightened up a bit, it’s time to tackle the tasks that require the most thought and highest energy levels. Getting them out of the way “early” on will work wonders in 2 ways: the rest of the day will be a doddle when you’ve already completed your hardest task, and you’ll feel a lot less cheated at having to hit the hay earlier than you’d like because you know you’ve already been productive. So don’t wait until the wee hours to do your best work; do it as soon as you feel your energy levels starting to rise.
5. Sneak a nap
Ideally, your body would quickly get the message that you have to be up early so it should be shutting down at a reasonable hour. If, however, you find you’re only falling asleep shortly before the cock crows, then schedule a power nap into your day, either during your lunch hour or immediately after work.
6. Switch your hours
It may be worth asking if you can have a later start time, even if it’s only an hour later and just for one or two days of the week, or if you can work flexi-time or from home. A lot of employers are more understanding of people’s personal circumstances and family situations these days, so it’s no harm having the conversation. If it’s a no-go, at least you tried, and you can use all the other tips above to make it a bit more bearable.
If children are the reason you’re up earlier, that’s obviously a little trickier, but maybe your partner could agree to get up with them each morning if you put them to bed each night.
There are always ways to hack the system, even if it’s your own, so use the above tips to satisfy your night owl tendencies without sacrificing a decent amount of shut-eye. With some careful planning, you can have the best of both worlds — rising early while still reaping the benefits of midnight motivation.
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