What’s a Night Owl to Do?

Sunrise Yawn. I’m sleepy. It’s early and there’s still crust in my eyes.

And at this very moment, countless entrepreneurs, executives, and enterprising go-getters are getting up and starting their days. They say it boosts their productivity, raises their energy, and accomplish all the little things that could otherwise nag them throughout the day. This means eating a good breakfast, exercising, checking emails, solving critical problems, and even spending time with family.

Jim Critin’s article, “Tapping the Power of Your Morning Routine” offers this memorable piece of advice (emphasis mine):

Steve Murphy, CEO of publishing company Rodale, says, “A line in a William Blake poem inspired me to think differently about my day: ‘Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night.’

Good stuff.

So, being the night owl that I am, what the hell am I going to do? I’m quite the opposite: I experience my peak energy levels later in the day, often get into The Zone late at night, and can’t think straight in the mornings.

Or, at least, that’s how I am right now. I hear that once you have kids, you’ll have to wake up early anyways. And I’ll admit – I did wake up early once and got a lot of work done.

Kyle Pott of Lifehack.org offers these tips on waking up early:

Relocate your alarm clock
I used to do this in college when I absolutely had to get up early, and it worked. Made for some wacky hijinks too, especially when I’d crawl over furniture and tumble onto the floor, all in an effort to shut the cursed alarm.
Scrap the snooze
Rats. I love snoozing. That feeling of gently falling back asleep again is awesome. I think my record is a two-hour snoozing session.
Change up your buzzer
Did this in college too. I switched to an old-fashioned alarm clock with a loud bell. My roommates hated me, but it sure got me up.
Make a puzzle
This tip means hiding your alarm in a tricky place that requires some effort to get to, like in a combination-locked box. Sounds really evil, so it probably works really well.
Get into a routine
Sounds like a great idea, though it hasn’t been easy to get my hectic schedule into a routine. I’m an over-achiever with lots of little projects going on at any given time; fitting those into a routine is tough. Not impossible though, just tough.
Have a reason
True, I’ll definitely wake up earlier if I’m on vacation or something. But I once overslept during a huge street carnival that I planned in college; I was so tired that every alarm technique in the book wasn’t able to get me up. So I can’t say that simply having a reason will work consistently for me.

Here’s an extra tip: Sometimes, if I really need to wake up early, I’ll drink some water before going to sleep. The next morning, the urge to pee will get me right up. (If you have a weak bladder, this tip might not work for you – though arguably, getting up to change your sheets would definitely wake you up.)

I also like this tip from GoimBee in the comments section:

I trained a monkey to taze me with 500,000 Volts when the alarm clock rings. That’s pretty much the most efficient technique I found so far. Now I can’t sleep knowing that the monkey is hiding under my bed…

The night owl in me says, “Mike, you’re crazy, why are you even pondering waking up early?” I’ve always been a night owl, why change now?

Let’s break down the pros and cons of being a night owl vs. being an early riser:

Being a Night Owl

Pros Cons
  • There’s peace and quiet late at night
  • You can go to sleep knowing you’ve finished your day’s work
  • You may be able to finish your high-priority items before tomorrow
  • For many people, it’s easy to sleep late
  • For some people, they are more creative at night
  • It’s impossible to ever finish a day’s work in one day
  • If you need a colleague, you’ll have to wait until the next day to talk to him/her
  • Your body’s metabolism slows down at night

Being an Early Riser

Pros Cons
  • There’s peace and quiet early in the morning
  • You can send email replies to all the urgent issues first
  • Exercising early gets your metabolism in gear, aiding in health & weight loss
  • You can get high-priority items done first
  • If you need a colleague, you only have to wait a few hours for him/her
  • For some people, they are more creative in the morning
  • For many people, it’s not easy to wake up early

Hmmm. I can only think of one con for being an Early Riser. If you can think of more pros and cons for these lists, please let me know.

And now, another part of me is saying, “Maybe waking up early IS a good idea.” At the very least, gaining health benefits is a really good reason.

So I guess I ought to scrap the snooze, hide my alarm, and drink before I sleep! And if those don’t work, anyone have a monkey and a tazer?

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

4 thoughts on “What’s a Night Owl to Do?”

  1. big con for early risers – NO SOCIAL LIFE! As a result of going to bed at 10 p.m every night, they are the ones that are less likely to be up for anything during weeknights, and often times even weekends. that’s a big one for me, as a fellow night owl…

  2. I have struggled with being a night owl my entire life. Despite my best intentions, I can’t seem to overcome this habit. I truly think it is the way that God made me. Luckily, I work from home, so it doesn’t impair me too much.

  3. I think I’m built the same way, Hal Rood. It’s 1am right now and I’m still wide awake. And I’ve noticed that I get most of my best thinking & work done at night too – while during the mornings, I’m sluggish & tired.

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