But what if I’m not a morning person?

6084204377_bbabeeeb24_mI’m having a lot of conversations and sending emails back and forth with people this week about their time logs. There is a lot of fascinating stuff going on out there: night skiing, family hikes, trips to the circus, weekend getaways to San Francisco, a white-knuckle drive home in a storm, adults making time to practice their musical instruments (love that) and so forth.

A lot of the time loggers came to me after reading What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and consequently, there are a lot of attempts at morning routines. Some people have far more elaborate ones than anything I could hope to do.

Others, however, are struggling. Several entries in the 168 hours spreadsheet are taken up by hitting the snooze button. People apologize to me that they’re going to bed at 1 a.m. and getting to work at 10. One woman was valiantly getting into bed at 10:30 in the hopes of getting up at 6:30, and then tossing and turning for hours and getting up around 8:30 instead. What did I think?

Here’s what I think: some people are not morning people. And that’s OK.

There are several reasons getting up early works better for most people. We tend to have more willpower first thing in the morning. Few emergencies come up at 6 a.m. to distract you from whatever you’ve decided to prioritize. But one key reason is a bit of a circular one. Many workplaces expect you to be in by 8 or 9, just as many high schools start at 7:45 or so, and elementary school buses can come pretty early too. The reason to get up is that you have to get up. Many people can’t come to work at 10 without their bosses being furious, and possibly risking their jobs. If you have kids you have to get them on the bus or the truancy officer is going to come looking for you. Of course, if we all agreed to get up later and start life later, we could all do that. But institutions seem to start on the early side. So we do too.

But what if your life doesn’t look like that? What if you don’t have kids? What if you have a flexible workplace, or work at one of those freewheeling tech companies where everyone is 24 and still on a college schedule? Among some of the people who complained of being late to work every morning, it certainly seemed like several had kept their jobs for…a while. Meaning that on some level, their workplaces were OK with it. If you come in at 10 and work until 7, you are still putting in an 8-9 hour day (depending on breaks). And if your body clearly doesn’t want to go to bed at 10:30 (and tossing and turning for hours can certainly indicate that) then why push it?

Better to embrace your night owl nature, and use the hours of 10-midnight to attack personal priorities. It’s generally not a great time for exercise (although something like yoga might be OK). But it’s a good time for reading, writing, painting, crafting, or other creative work if you’re a night owl type who can focus then.

Again, many night owls have to become morning people because of life circumstances. If you’re a night owl whose kid wakes up every morning at 6:30, you’re going to have to adjust. If you’re a night owl whose job requires you to be there at 8 a.m., and you otherwise like your job, you’re going to have to figure something out. But if you’re making progress at work, fitting in exercise, don’t have immediate family obligations, and are making time for personal priorities, then go to bed and wake up whenever works for you.

In other news:

A mini-round-up! Lifehacker runs the Laura Shin piece from LearnVest on Are You Really as Busy as You Think You Are?

All the Money in the World plays a cameo role in Jennifer Lynch’s bar story (she was reading it when the man came over to talk to her)

Leanne Sowul writes a lovely little tribute to my books. My favorite bit: “I’ve said it dozens of times before: read her books. They really will change the way you think about your life and what you can do with time, the one resource we all have the same amount of.” Thank you Leanne!

Remember how, yesterday, we were talking about why date night doesn’t happen? Little Spindle writes about how date night did happen.

At CEO.com, I ask How often should you be in the office?

Over at CBS MoneyWatch, I discuss What effective people measure — and you can too. I ask Why is ‘secretary’ still the top job for women? And I challenge people, “Don’t waste your long weekend.

What’s on the agenda for your President’s Day weekend? (and is it Presidents’ or President’s? One president, or multiple ones?)

Photo courtesy flickr user WarmSleepy



11 Responses to But what if I’m not a morning person?


  1. Leanne says:

    Thank you for the shout-out, Laura! I am honored!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you for being so supportive!

  2. Cloud says:

    I am a sort of night owl whose life circumstances forced me to be more of a morning person. It was hard to make the switch, but a screaming baby is hard to ignore! I could probably slip back to being more of a night owl now, but I don’t really want to. I like that the time I take for me (I get up at 6 and either go for a run, do yoga, or write most weekdays) is first thing in the day, before the random stuff that happens has had a chance to wear me down. It feels like higher quality time than the other possible pocket of “me time”- which is after the kids are in bed.

  3. Pamela says:

    Thanks for this…I tried getting up earlier last summer so I could exercise before work, instead of right after. I really liked the energy boost and the knowledge that before 8 am I was able to knock one big to-do off my day’s list. However, I wasn’t going to bed early enough to make it sustainable long term. It’s pretty hard to get up at 5:30 when you’re going to bed at midnight!! Also, I had just had a death in the family so I was pretty raw emotionally. Lack of sleep plus raw emotions were not a good combination!

    So, I went back to getting up at my regular time. Even at my later time, I’m still able to have a decent breakfast and a cup of tea and do a bit of reading before going off to work. It helps that I literally have a 5 min communte (and no, I don’t work from home!).

    Since we tend to be up late anyway, I am working on making my evening time more productive. I exercise right after work (before I’ve had a chance to wind down from the day) so that gets done fairly early. I do have to spend some time prepping dinner and doing dishes, but if I plan fairly simple meals and stay on top of the dishes it doesn’t take more than 15-20 mins to get that done. I try to spend the rest of the evening working on something meaningful to me or reading actual books (as opposed to falling down the internet rabbit-hole). My current reading “project” is to read a biography of every US President, in chronological order. I’m on John Adams, so clearly I have a long way to go, but it’s been fascinating so far.

    Anyway, all that to say, for me it’s not been about getting up at a certain time, it’s more about using my time well and doing what works for my family.

    • Nick says:

      I love the idea of your reading project – what a fantastic idea!

  4. Sarah says:

    For me, I am most likely to lose hours of time in unproductive Internet surfing if I stay up late. True, I do get a boost of energy in the evening but being too busy at night makes it even harder to fall asleep. I have been working on a habit of getting up 30-90 minutes before my kids. I don’t always like it (and I don’t always succeed) but when I do, you’d better believe I do something productive. I’m not going to crawl out of bed at 5:30 am and then waste that time reading Facebook (ok, maybe just for 5 minutes). So that’s my reason for getting up early. I guess you could say I’m a morning person, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for me.

    • Laura says:

      @Sarah- that is true, that if you haul yourself out of bed that early, you don’t feel like wasting it! I’m not really a morning person, but current life circumstances have me that way. And now it doesn’t seem like I can even sleep in anymore. Almost impossible to sleep past 8, even in a non-kid situation…

  5. Mario Gomez says:

    Laura,

    Since this is the most recent posting on your blog, I will reply to this post, although it has very little to do with being a night owl, but everything about being a writer. I’m taking the time to write this reply (because I have currently have a lot of time, due to bad decisions, but more on that later) because I believe I’ve come to a crossroads in my life. I came across your blog and bought two of your books (168 hours and successful morning people) and have read it passionately and applied several of the literature to my life, such as logging an entire week and creating a 100 Dreams List. I have already suggested your book to my counselor, friends, family and others. I know that my passion is sports and although I have limited experience as a broadcaster and sports writer, I now know that this is what I really want to doing, creating a sports broadcast and writing sports stories on blogs or my own blog, but here are my questions to you: How do I get my name out there as a writer to appear on yahoo sports, or get hired to write stories for other sports websites as a freelance writer? How do I get my podcasts going and noticed, especially with limited experience? I am asking this because for the last 7 years I have been a high school English teacher and high school football coach, and while I have loved so many of the daily moments of teaching and coaching, maybe I need a new beginning, just maybe (thinking out loud!). I love writing, I’m passionate about sports, I love to talk and interact with people (broadcasting) and I love the idea of sports and how they bring people together. So much of my 100 dreams list surrounds many of these ideas. I sincerely hope you reach out with advice and I thank you for writing such practical books, especially in a time of need. Best wishes.

    • Laura says:

      @Mario- I’m going to be writing a post on platform building later this week, which has some thoughts on a similar topic of getting one’s name out there. But basically, if you want to be writing about sports, start your own website and start writing about sports. If it’s good, people will start reading it, and eventually people who pay sports writers will start wanting your content, too. Increasingly, the world of content is less about applying for jobs and more just doing. Not the easiest thing to start, of course.

  6. Katie says:

    Hi Laura,
    This is my first time at your site. I bought 168 Hours recently and I’m up to chapter 2.
    I certainly fit into the category of being a night owl forced to be a morning person. I have to get up at 6.15am to get to my job on time – ouch!! I’ve tried exercising before morning, but my body … just … won’t … move. I can barely even make it out of the bedroom without banging into the wall, I’m that unco-ordinated in the mornings!
    One thing I love about your book so far (and this blog post) is that it recognises that people have very different lifestyles, and emphasises an individual approach. I experimented for a while and realised it’s best for me to exercise at lunch time. Before work, I can’t and after work I’m too tired, so that works for me.
    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your book and hope to make some positive changes.
    xx Katie.

    • Laura says:

      @Katie-
      Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, for some folks, getting up early doesn’t work. Also, while I like the idea of exercising early, right now in my life it’s easier to do in mid-afternoon. Seems you’ve figured out something similar. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book, and I hope it is helpful – Laura