You’ve likely seen all of the videos, posts, tweets, and so on about waking up at 5am. I’ve seen all sorts of claims from “life changing” to “made me rich” and everything in between. Really! “All the successful people do it!”
Since I would like to count myself in the “successful” category of people, I figured I should give this a try.
This was not just a quick one-week trial of continuous snooze buttons. I really did work at this for a stretch of over six months.
There were all sorts of tips and tricks for this life hack. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier every three days until you make it to 5 am. Make sure you go to bed earlier each night as well. Set a very relaxing routine that helps you fall asleep earlier. Start the morning with activity so you wake up faster. Start the morning with tea and quiet reading. Make sure you keep the same routine on the weekend.
If there was a hack for this hack, I tried it!
The only thing I managed to get from this success hack was a huge dose of guilt. No matter what I tried, morning is just not for me.
After yet another morning of falling asleep on my yoga mat, I finally had enough. I was tired of trying to do what I was “supposed” to do. I spent more time feeling guilty than actually being productive. Even when I did manage to stay awake, I was definitely NOT productive.
Morning has never been my prime time.
Even as a young child, I was more likely to stay up late and sleep in. Of course, I stayed the same in high school, even though I had to be at school by 7:25 am (and that was in the era of big hair.) College was a dream for me as I never even started studying until after 10am.
My most productive times of the day are late morning and after 6pm. Always have been.
So why was I putting so much energy into fighting what my natural tendency is?
Rather than force myself to wake up early, have a fuzzy brain, and miss my most productive hours, I decided to work my schedule around my natural productive times.
For the most part, I plan my work to fit around my schedule, rather than some magical success hack.
My morning usually starts the same time as my children. We all get up at the same time and I spend the next 2 hours on getting them to school, working out, eating breakfast, and getting ready.
Meetings are best for me from about 9-11am as I am more focused, but not yet enough for real productive work. I do quickly check my email and voicemail just in case there are urgent issues, but do not answer anything that is not urgent.
One of my productive times is from about 11am-1pm. During this time, I bust through some major projects, and tick things off my task list.
Early afternoon is a down time for my brain, so this is a good time to eat lunch, go for a walk, and take care of minor messages. This will take me through to 2:30pm when my children get home from school.
The after school rush happens to be one of my natural down times. Even if I wasn’t with my children, I am still not very productive at that time of the day. Between being active together and running to after school activities, we are a flurry of busy bees. During this time, I keep small work projects in my bag that do not require intense focus. If I find that I have a few spare minutes while I wait for one to come out of dance, or another to start softball, then I can write a blog post, proof a paper, schedule social media, track finances, and other small tasks.
After dinner and bed time routines, I hit another really productive time of the day. Many people who enjoy waking at 5am, do it because their time is uninterrupted. Since my productive time is in the evening, I have had to handle it differently than just putting the kids to bed super early.
Once we get through the bed time routine and all my children are settled in bed (typically 7:30-8pm), I start my evening work. My children are old enough that we have had discussions about my work times. In order for me to be with them after school and get them to their activities, I need to work in the evening. This means that once they are safely tucked in bed and settled, the “mommy” shift ends and the “work” shift begins.
This does not mean that I ignore my children completely. Just like the mommy who gets up at 5am to get work done, if my child has a nightmare, work can wait.
My children know that they can lay in bed and read books or just think quietly as long as they like. They can only leave their bed to go to the bathroom. My task at this time is to work and their task is to be in bed quietly so I can work. If all goes according to plan, I can get another 3-4 hours of work in after they are asleep.
Will this work for all of you? No – and I don’t expect it to. Just as 5am did not work for me, late night work may not work for you.
My point? Work with your own natural body schedule. Instead of fighting to make your brain and body fit what you “should” do, listen to what your body actually does and work with that. Us night owls can be successful, too!