I’ve found that being a morning person really helps me live a more productive life. There are a number of reasons for this just due to the timing of life in North American society. It is this same timing that can lead to night owls being less productive. There are work-arounds, however, if you want the same benefits that active morning people enjoy.
Morning Person Benefit #1: Peace & Quiet for Morning Rituals
When you get up early, before everyone else is up, you give yourself the opportunity to start your day with a morning ritual that allows you to centre yourself, relax and gently prepare your mind and body for your day. I do this by starting with 20 min. of meditation, 20 min. of yoga then lying on my foam roller and performing some gentle body release exercises for 5 min. I then write in my journal, which finishes with a review of the tasks I want to accomplish that day.
Night Owl Work-Around: The trouble with being a night owl is that many people associate night time with leisure activities, whether it’s meeting friends at the pub, watching TV, reading books, playing video games, etc. So when people aren’t able to fall asleep earlier, they’ll tend to plan such activities or default to them. The funny thing is, after everyone else has gone to bed, night time can also offer the same peace and quiet of early mornings, you just have to take advantage of it. The ritual I described above can easily be performed the night before, you just have to reprogram the way you use your night-time hours. Since night owls are often also insomniacs to some degree, rituals like meditation, gentle yoga and foam roller exercises, and journalling can be great ways to relax your body and mind and prepare it for sleep.
Morning Person Benefit #2: Having a Leisurely Proper Breakfast
There is a general consensus that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you skip breakfast, your body runs on fumes until you’re so hungry that you eat whatever unhealthy thing you can find, often a fatty or sugary convenience food. If you eat a proper breakfast, on the other hand, you avoid this unhealthy cycle and give yourself the energy you need to be focused and productive. If you get up early enough in the morning, you can give yourself enough time to make a healthy, balanced breakfast to set yourself up for the rest of your day. You also don’t necessarily have to scarf it down fast if you give yourself enough time. You can enjoy your morning coffee or tea, appreciate the taste of your food, maybe even enjoy reading a few pages of your favourite book.
Night Owl Work-Around: Night owls need a proper breakfast too, the trouble is finding the time when you’re groggy and not altogether awake. Try using a coffee maker that has a timer so you can set it the night before. You can also make things easier on yourself by having the things you need ready to make a healthy breakfast that you can eat relatively quickly the night before, or have healthy breakfast options that are easy to make quickly. Here are 3 quick & easy breakfast ideas.
Morning Person Benefit #3: Convenient Time for Prioritizing Exercise
There is nothing quite like starting the day by getting your body moving, whether you do yoga, run, hitting a heavy bag, spin classes, etc. It wakes the body up and energizes you for your day. I find it’s often easier to ensure you work it into your schedule if you plan it first thing. As your day progresses, it can be easy to prioritize other things that come up that can seem more important. Ultimately, your health and fitness IS important to maintain, but it can be easy to lose sight of that as things come up.
Night Owl Work-Around: Unfortunately, it’s not a great idea to plan your work-outs at night after everyone else is asleep if you have to get up in the morning to go to work. The later at night you exercise, the harder it can be to fall asleep when you have to. This can be a great idea if you have to work nights anyway, but not so great if you have more standard 9-5 work schedule. My suggestion is to plan your workouts, if you can do so with a buddy even better to keep you accountable, and don’t sacrifice them. You can use your late night time to catch up on work or chores instead to ensure you have the time to devote to exercise earlier in the evening, like at a gym or location close to where you work so you can avoid the rush hour traffic.
Morning Person Benefit #4: More Productive Work Hours
If you work from home or have flex time at your office, starting work earlier can be great for productivity. No one is awake or around to ask you questions, request help, or otherwise enlist you in some sort of task that may distract you from your main work. This distraction-free time is especially good for people who do creative work. The other benefit is that if you work at an office, you can skip the morning rush and spend less time commuting with less traffic, or you can have a more relaxing time commuting if you take transit.
Night Owl Work-Around: If you have flex time, use it! Show up as late as possible and leave later. Then you can use the time after other people have gone home to work with less distractions. If you work from home, try putting in a couple of hours after the rest of your family has gone to bed. This can sometimes be a sore spot for spouses who like the company as they fall asleep. I really don’t mind, but my husband (a confirmed night owl) will sometimes lie in bed with me for a few minutes as I nod off then he’ll head up to his office to work. As for commuting, if you can do flex time, you’ll get similar benefits if you stay at work until after rush hour. If you don’t have flex time, you can always ask. Some bosses are willing to entertain the idea if they think it’ll benefit the company. Explain how it’ll improve your productivity. You never know; you may just get what you ask for.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? How do you use your patterns to live healthier and be more productive? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.