Productivity and Time Management for Night Owls

Time Management for Night Owls

I’ve been reading a productivity book this week that is all about productivity for night owls.

Do you know if you’re an early bird or a night owl? I have known that I’m a night owl for a long, long time. Little Doddsy is too. I’ve always been grateful that she doesn’t wake up at 6am or some other unearthly hour. Having said that waiting for her to go to sleep in the evenings has always been a challenge, not to mention getting her up when she needs to be somewhere early (even getting her up for school is a challenge at times!). I can’t have it both ways I suppose!

A few months ago I kept reading that it’s much better for your body to go to bed around 10/11pm. I was also reading a lot about morning routines. In order to fit in a morning routine I decided I needed to get up earlier around 6am, which in turn meant I needed to go to sleep earlier, around 10pm.

Ellie doesn’t go to sleep until 9.30 (at the earliest!) so that leaves me with little time to do anything other than go to bed myself if I stick to the 10pm deadline. And, if you’re a night owl, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m raring to do some work or reading or other stuff at 10pm, not sleep!

I spent a few months creating a morning routine of reading and getting ready for the day, which completely slipped during the holidays when I didn’t get up early enough to do it. And I’ve been struggling to get back to it since the end of the school holidays.

The trouble is my life doesn’t really lend itself to being a night owl at the moment. When Ellie was off on the school bus at 7.30am Simon, my husband, sorted her out and I worked late and stayed in bed in the morning. Now I need to be up to get Ellie off to school at 8.30 or to get into London for meetings so to do any sort of quiet morning routine I need to be up by 6.30 at the latest – and it just isn’t happening!

Productivity for Night Owls

And so I was mightily relieved to read Mike Vardy’s ‘The Night Owl Action Plan‘ ebook. It reminded me that I am a night owl and that actually that’s ok. And that, with that knowledge, my morning routine can be quite different to ‘how I think it should be’ from most of the stuff I’m reading online.

So I thought I’d write a blog post for those people who are also night owls to add to the online conversation about maybe not having to get up early to fit in a routine before the business world starts. And this week I’m going to rethink what I do and when to ‘work’ to suit me again.

The Effect of Trying to be Productive at the Wrong Time

I’m sure you’ve been there; you have to get something done but you just don’t have the energy – and hence the interest – for it. And what happens? It takes two or three times as long to do it than it would have done if you were working on it at the best time of day for you.

There is a lot of research that talks about decision fatigue; that we only have a certain amount of energy during the day to make decisions and that once it’s gone it’s gone.

I can’t help thinking that if you combine decision fatigue with trying to work at a time that isn’t optimal for your body, then you are doomed to fail! Having said that, working late in the day might not avoid decision fatigue either if all your energy for that has been used up earlier in the day!

It’s about finding the best time for you and planning your tasks and focus around that in advance. Sometimes that won’t work with other things that are going on in your schedule but if you can stick to that as much as possible then you get more of a chance that you will be working at your best most often.

If you’re wondering where you fit in the lark-owl argument, have a look at this article asking if you’re “a Lark, an Owl or a Hummingbird?“. The table towards the bottom makes interesting reading.

Little Doddsy rarely eats breakfast, which has always worried me when the schools are always going on about having a good breakfast to aid concentration at school, but she just doesn’t feel hungry when she first gets up.

The jet lag point was also interesting to me as I always say that “I don’t subscribe to the jetlag myth”! I once went to Australia for six days and didn’t get jetlag in either direction. And when I repeated that feat in San Diego a few years later I realised it wasn’t just a one off. Maybe the night owl thing was helping!

And then, this article, saying that ‘Night Owls and Early Risers Have Different Brain Structures‘ suggests that just being a night owl makes me more likely to have a kind of ‘social jet lag’ because I’m at constant odds with the schedule of life that surrounds me, in particular work and school schedules, potentially ending up sleep deprived with all that entails.

That certainly rings true with how things are going at home at the moment!

Getting a ‘Second Wind’ for Work

I was also a bit confused that late mornings are pretty good for me workwise. I used to think that ought to mean I’m a lark but then I couldn’t understand why I’d get a ‘second wind’ just as everyone else was finishing up for the evening.

It’s interesting to think about our standard industrial revolution ‘8 hour working days’ and how they don’t work for many people. I did no end of unpaid overtime when I was in corporate because of the above ‘second wind’ at going home time. Now I often potter around the house doing domestic chores and organising things first thing in the morning before getting down to some serious work later in the morning and again later in the day as that suits me better. And I’m lucky to have the chance to work a flexible schedule most days now. Now I’ve read some of the research I can see why that works better for me.

This post has taken a few days to write so I’ve got a few days’ ‘evidence’ of how adapting to being a night owl is helping my productivity. I don’t think I’ve changed my home working days massively though as I’ve probably intuitively done some of what I’m thinking now makes sense and that I should do intentionally. I just called it procrastinating before!

So, take some time to think about when your body and brain works best and craft your routines around that as much as you can. Mike Vardy gives some great suggestions of what to do here – How to Hack the Day as a Night Owl Let me know how you get on in the comments below!

About the Author

I work with business owners and leaders to improve their wellbeing, in these days of overwhelm, whether that be physical, mental or digital, using my POWER to Live More 5 Fundamentals of Simplify, Systemise, Share, Self Care and Sustain. I also work with business leaders to help them to improve their organisational employee engagement and wellbeing. I believe they are interlinked in a lovely virtuous circle.

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