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Productivity for morning people, night owls and the in betweeners.

Productivity for morning people, night owls and the in betweeners.

Are you a morning person or a night person? Should we all be waking up at 5am everyday like the “success gurus” are advising us to do? Some might argue absolutely while others question the idea. Let’s break it down to the root of why you should be waking up early. Let’s get beyond the adage “the early bird gets the worm” by talking about why you should first find the time where you can focus without interruptions. This is the reason it’s been pushed to wake up in the early hours. There is a slew of health benefits to this as well, but that’s another type of article. I want to discuss finding your rhythm based on your internal clock.

There’s an estimated 30% of the population that isn’t either a morning person nor evening person but operates within a middle grey space. With different biological clocks operating on a single social calendar between the hours of 9 to 5, it can be tricky for many to adapt to just one way of doing things. 

I’ve worked with all 3 personality types in my career with myself being part of the 30% that finds the “flow” between both morning and evening personality types. Some of the executives I have worked with get bogged down with a mountainous todo list while others simply have trouble focusing due to distractions. 

I have put together a quick and easy to follow outline that will help your working style if you are a morning person or a night person along with my own personal power production schedule to fill in that grey space.

First things first, no matter where you fall out of the 3 types, take your entire list and narrow it down to 3 top tasks for the day you want to accomplish. This isn’t anything new but instead of working on your standard calendar or CRM, write it on a post-it note so you can physically cross it off. The need to physically press down with a pen and cross your item off the list vs. simply clicking the mouse creates a stronger bond with your level of satisfaction for completing the task.

If you are a morning person:

Pick tasks you can finish in 6 hours or less. Morning people tend to run out of energy sooner in the day as research has shown. As the late afternoon starts to creep up you’re probably ready to call it a day. You may even debate drinking that other cup of coffee because you don’t want to stay up late.

Split your day into two segments:

  1. Schedule your meetings in the afternoon, this way your optimal operating hours are best used for tasks that require the most logical brainpower. This might even apply to mind numbing work where you’re just required to focus.
  2. Block out 4 hours with no interruptions. Why only 4 hours? It’s best practice to account for interruptions that you didn’t account for. No matter how much you plan for no interruptions, it doesn’t mean it will always go smoothly.

Despite having an 8 hour workday, you realistically only accomplish 4-5 hours worth of work within this time frame.

If you are a night person:

Ignore all of the platitudes about waking up early is what successful people do. Successful people accomplish things through action. They focus their efforts and crush it. They utilize the early hours to get this done. Your hurdle as a night owl is operating efficiently in a time table that isn’t most conducive for you. First, understand that night people tend to go into a higher productive state after being awake for 10 hours. This is why for some reason you seem to have more energy after you’ve left work.

  1. Split your day into three segments.
    • Part 1
      • Schedule meetings in the morning or develop a “quick start” ritual to speed up your wake up stage which tends to take a bit longer than early risers. This includes physical fitness in the form of cardio. I would suggest seeing a professional for what is best for you. Note, I am referring to just getting the oxygen flowing through your body, not training for a triathlon.
      • The optimal time for night owls to wake up is roughly 10am. Why 10am? This allows you to get your cicada rhythm in order. Early daylight is essential for self regulation. If your schedule allows it, develop a schedule and routine that allows you to at least get 6-8 hours in. Your body requires actual sunlight and not artificial light from your cell phone first thing in the morning.
    • Part 2
      • Block out 2 solid hours for work in the afternoon. Break your work into 30 to 45 minute sessions and try switching to another project if you’re running into a blocker. This helps alleviate mental fatigue.
      • Block out 2-4 more hours of solid work time when other people go to sleep and set your phone to night mode. You mean detach from technology and social media!? Yes. This is the “magic hour” for creative people. The biggest hurdle creative people have are distractions.
  2. Our society was in some ways designed to make things more efficient but in actuality, it’s made it more difficult than ever to concentrate.

Did you get your list and schedule mapped out? GREAT! Now…

…I want you to push your to do list you just wrote down to the side for a moment and make a list of 3 extremely easy and small tasks you can take care of within the next 30 minutes. This is where you build up your task dominating inertia early. Here are a few examples:

  1. Create top 3 task list for the day. (imagine that, you only have two left now!)
  2. Make one phone call or send the highest priority email out first thing
  3. Write down 1 positive emotion you want to feel at the end of the day

Do you fall within the 30% that operates at what seems like odd hours or all hours of the day? Well, I for one can confidently say I know I do. I will give you a look at how I make the most of my days to get the most productivity out of the full 24 hours. 

  • My operating hours start around 9-10am. I reserve the first hour for myself to set the tone for my day. I do this by reading something positive or listening to a small clip of my current favorite speaker and I’ll often spend 5-15 minutes meditating. 
  • I have my phone set to night mode to automatically turn off at 11 am. This allows me to power through my first of three ’email windows’. I keep my interruptions to a minimum by allowing for three 15 minute email windows where I answer as many emails as I can within those time frames. If I have a pressing matter, I will revise for the needs of the day and project. 
  • From 10am to 1pm I power through with no music unless it’s binaural sounds. I reserve all logical, business oriented tasks for the morning.
  • I keep a very small window for lunch so that I do not waste any time. If I need it, I will take a mental break by diving into transcendental meditation. I love the TM method because it’s one where it can be practiced no matter where you are.
  • Here’s where I switch up my day from a normal working agenda. I will use the afternoon hours from 2pm to 5:30pm to take care of any personal matters. I might slip in an occasional client call if necessary as I make it a priority to be attainable most times.
  • Once 6pm rolls around, I am ready for any creative work that is on my agenda. Much like the night person persona, I break up my evening into 2 hour time slots allowing for breaks in between. 
  • When 10pm approaches, I find myself at a new optimal time to be productive. This the the “success hour” that morning people utilize from 5am onward before other people show up to the office. My employees would often question why they were getting emails from me at 2am. It would allow them to get information and direction from me when they first walked into the office.
  • I will wrap my day between the hours of 2-3am. This allows me to get 6-8 hours of rest so I can wake up and crush it again.

Now my method is not normal by any means. This allows me to find my “flow” for the best productive day I could have

What this allows me is:

  1. Dedicated focus time slots with no interruptions
  2. Peak operating hours for both logical and creative tasks
  3. Variety to stay agile and quick

If this breakdown helped you, please share it with others you think might benefit from it. I thank you for taking the time to read this article. Stay tuned as more value based content comes your way. 

Justin Bordeaux

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