Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why I Do My Best Work At Night

I just finished reading an article about "Becoming an early riser."

PHEW. Why? I know, some people are hard-wired to actually WANT to wake up at the crack of dawn, pour their cup of coffee, and dig into work before the rest of the world has even finished their REM Dream states of sleep.

Not me. I'm a NIGHT OWL. Perhaps it is the jazz musician in me. But, try as I may, I just struggle with getting up early. The truth is: I seem to be hard wired to do my best work at night.

I'll never forget Mary Kay, the famous beauty product company CEO, who gave the first talk at 7:00 a.m. at a Success Seminar (as I struggled to get there 10 minutes late), and said that she attributed half of her success to being an early riser. She called her group of women the "5 O'clock Club" as a way of distinguishing her early-rising as part of her success.

Some people swear by this early morning time as beneficial for the following reasons:

1. Kids aren't awake yet.
2. They feel they can focus early in the morning.
3. Little noise at 5:00 a.m. means it is quieter and easier to think.
4. They feel more productive because they got work done early in the morning.
5. They feel like they've gotten a jump-start on the day, with more work accomplished than many other people accomplish by NOON.

I'm sure an early riser could probably think of a few more. But I'll stop there. Frankly, all of these reasons to get up early make a lot of sense to me.

But they just don't work in my body. I'm not even AWAKE at 5:00 a.m. and don't ever intend to be, unless flying to Hawaii or something.

I've come to learn that I'm simply NOT wired to rise early. I remember waking at 6:00 a.m. during college and rushing out the door, speeding off to try to cram a 40 minute commute into 30 minutes to make it to school, just to make my 7:05 a.m. bell at Cuesta and later, Cal Poly, in order to complete my education. I didn't WANT to be up that early; I simply HAD to be up that early in order to maintain both my workload and class schedule in order to graduate according to my goals.

When left to my own devices (or vices), I have to admit, I'm actually one of these people who would rather sleep later and WORK LATER.


There, I said it, the cat is out of the bag. Speaking of cats, maybe I am one. Have you ever noticed how your cat seems to love sleeping half the day, and then wakes up when you're going to sleep? Sometimes I feel like that. I love working at night.

For the same reasons that the 5:00 club loves to tout their snooty morning hours in my face, I love to reply (albeit with slightly less snarkiness) that I get similar benefits as they do, after 10:00 p.m.:

1. Kids are asleep.
2. I can focus easier late at night.
3. No noise from lawnmowers, weed blowers, neighbors, telephones, and considerably less email during late hours means life is quieter and it is easier to think.
4. I feel more productive because I got so much work done late at night.

But I'll also add:
5. There are more hours between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. than between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. Therefore, I can do considerably MORE FOCUSED WORK than the early riser.
6. A night owl actually feels like they have a bigger jump start on the day than the early riser: it's like working in London while you're in San Francisco. I've already done more work than most people do the NEXT DAY BEFORE I EVER GO TO SLEEP.
7. If this is my natural biorhythm, why should I fight it?
8. I'm happier at night than I am in the morning. I like to write when I'm happiest.

An example is right now. It is 11:36 PM. And, I'm writing an article. I'm flying through this article and it will probably be written in 30 minutes. The same article, written at 10:00 a.m., would easily require double that time. Why? Noise, interruptions, email/phone distractions, and so forth.

Another example was a few weeks ago. I woke up in the middle of the night. It was quiet. I couldn't get back to sleep. I got up and went to the computer, and started playing my bass guitar quietly and writing song ideas down. I then started to write lyrics. Within two hours, I had written 5 song lyrics and recorded three rhythm patterns for songs that I'd been working on for a year. A burst of creative output. Did it happen at 5:00 a.m., first thing in the morning? Yawn. Nope.

So, for those of you MORNING people who love to make us NIGHT OWLS feel somewhat inferior to you, why don't you wake up to the fact that some people are genetically wired differently than you? Can't you accept that? As much as one person is born with darker skin than another, as far as I'm concerned, the hours during which I thrive seem to be largely genetic.

See, the difference between the NIGHT OWL and EARLY RISER is that the night owl is not going to try to CHANGE YOU! That's right. I'm not going to tell people HOW TO BECOME A NIGHT OWL. I'm simply explaining that I AM a NIGHT OWL and hoping you, as an early riser, will start, for once in your life, to accept that this is NORMAL BEHAVIOR in a sleep pattern for a human being. We're all unique, right?

When I was a kid, my Mom used to spank me to try to get me to go to bed earlier. It didn't work. My Dad finally told Mom, "You go in there and spank that kid one more time, I'm leaving." I love my Dad. I love my Mom, too. But I really love my Dad for "getting me" first. Isn't it cool when people "get you" and just accept who you are?

When I got into school, the bus came WAY too early. For some reason, the majority of the world was designed by these early birds. Well, I'm one taking a stand for moving business hours later. 7:00 a.m.? Uh oh. When I see a boss in the office that early, I worry. Because they always think that if THEY can rise early, YOU should rise early. It's work, for me. My nephew, who is currently attending school in Spain, told my sister that he's living in Scott-land. What he meant was that people eat dinner at 10:00 p.m. and stay up all hours, and in the morning they show up when they feel like it. I'm not that bad (yes, I can get to an office at 8:00 a.m. -- even 7:30 a.m. -- when I HAVE to) but I do prefer the later schedule.

Can you relate to me?
Are you a night owl?
Do you do your best work at night?

Don't be shy. Let me know how you feel about your beloved sleep pattern.
Oh, and if I offended a morning person, please, I didn't mean to. It's just my nature to be a night owl! I'm just asking you to accept me the same way I accept you. (Just don't make too much noise while you're up - I'm still sleeping!) ;-)

P.S. - I just finished writing this article at 12:00 a.m. It took me less than 30 minutes to write. Yes, I love the night!

Post by Scott Andrews, Founder of AspireNow. Copyright © 2007-2011 by AspireNow. You may reprint this article if you copy in full with this copyright message and all links attached. All rights reserved. Remember, you read it here first. :-)

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Sandra said...

I love it, Scott. Thanks for being such an inspirator, now I don't feel guilty to come to the office by noon as sometimes I even go to bed after the kids go to school. I'm the mother of the night owl :-)


Anonymous said...

Wow! I am searching for "Why I work best at night" and I found your blog there at the first spot.

Indeed I have to agree to all the benefits you have listed there. It just came natural to me that my efficiency doubles past 12am.

And I have trouble sleeping because my brain keeps running most of the time. Though I ALWAYS feel sleepy in the afternoon...

One of the downside of sleeping late is that phonecalls, grasscutter, neighbours et al will come back to haunt your sweet morning sleep anyhow :)

Seriously Fun Self-help! said...

Sandra, glad you dig it! :) Not sure how I missed your comment but I found it now! Being mother of a night owl almost makes you a night owl, too, huh? ;-)

Haruka, Glad you found it useful. Boy, you're not kidding. When I lived in Menlo Park the damned weed blowers ran every day. I was so happy moving just to get rid of the noise and getting better sleep.

I often get way more done outside hours. If you're not a morning person, well, then be a night owl. It works well if you're a musician, too! ;-)

rexcel said...

very well said! amongst my family, they consider me somewhat "inferior" because i am a night owl...but they never really understood the benefits and becoming a night owl!

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