Productive Morning: Is It Possible Outside the World of Larks?
Productive Morning: Is It Possible Outside the World of Larks?
How the night owl can--with practice, discipline, and a few helpful tips--catch the same worm as the early bird.
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It’s a common belief that all successful people are morning larks. Well, that’s not just a belief: many CEOs claim they wake up early and don’t hit the snooze button. Does that mean that “night owls” have no chance to achievements above the average? In fact, chances are equal. However, if you actually wake up by the middle of the workday, you miss out a good half of your daily working hours.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? The good news is that there are tools and practices to start a productive morning. Most likely, they won’t turn a typical owl into a lark, but they’ll definitely benefit your productivity and help achieve more.
Is It Possible to Become a Morning Person?
So, why do we have to wake up early if the body resists every attempt to do that? Does an early start of the day mean that we have to readjust our internal clock? Is it bad for health? Well, let’s start with some sleep theory.
Our productive and unproductive hours are defined by circadian rhythms, or a circadian clock. This is a pattern of myriads of processes in our body that schedule the timing of activity peaks and dips. These processes are “built-in," but they are adjusted by external cues, like light or temperature. Different people have different timing patterns, or chronotypes, that’s why some of us are “larks” and some are “owls”.
Of course, personal chronotypes affect productivity and performance at the workplace, and cannot be ignored. Morning people tend to experience the effects of low energy at night, and are more likely to behave unethically in late hours, even if they are not unethical themselves. Evening people, in turn, are easily irritable and unproductive in the mornings but behave ethically and feel alert late.
So, mindlessly making everybody adjust their rhythms to any schedule is definitely a bad way. Instead, experts recommend that managers consider individual circadian rhythms when setting deadlines and expectations. As for employees themselves, it is recommended to stick to a comfortable and consistent schedule to keep his or her circadian clock functioning as it should.
It is hardly possible to readjust the biological clock, but it doesn’t mean that your destiny is suffering from sleepiness in the morning and trying to get some sleep every night with no luck. There are many ways to make more use of morning time than fighting off drowsiness.
Keep Your Internal Clock on Track
Famous experiments in caves showed that the biological clock of most people tends to drift forward when there are no time cues. Volunteers that participated in the experiment lived in caves without knowledge of time, and their circadian rhythms ended up exceeding 24 hours: sleep and activity cycles of the participants mostly ranged from 25 to 30 hours. A Harvard research based on hormone rhythms and body temperature fluctuations proves the same: the natural internal clock is closer to 25 hours than to 24. But let’s be honest: that’s hardly acceptable even if you have a floating work schedule. Here’s what any of us can do to tune the internal clock to the 24-hour day, regardless of the chronotype.
- Build up a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time, and wake up at the same time. Extra sleep on weekends is often tempting, but it can destroy all your efforts. Wake up at your right time, but keep it regular.
- Let your body know it’s already time to start the day. Raise the blinds, or turn on artificial light, or – ideally – go for a walk. It will set your circadian rhythm to the wake-up phase.
- Exercise! It helps normalize blood pressure and get a good night’s sleep. As surprising and counterintuitive as it may sound, the best time for exercise is 7 AM: it reduces blood pressure and helps keep it within certain range, preventing excessive tension in the cardiovascular system.
- Create a morning routine. It will turn on your body and send right signals to it. Your personal routine can include literally anything: coffee, shower, inspirational reading, meditation, cuddles with your cat (although cats are the creatures that usually sabotage any routine), or anything else.
- Stay hydrated and eat healthy. Don’t forget about drinking more water, and never skip your breakfast!It seems to sound like a cliché, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as it gives you energy for all daily activities.
- Reduce time you spend with electronic devices before falling asleep. Too much bright light in evening hours, especially artificial blue light eradiated by the screens of laptops and smartphones, misguides your brain and it keeps thinking it’s still daytime and not time to sleep yet. Instead, listen to relaxing music, soak in the tub, or read a book.
Stay Alert Throughout the Day
After a productive morning, you definitely need to stay productive throughout the rest of the day. There’s some advice on how to help your body and mind stick to the healthy schedule.
- Eat the frog. This expression proceeds from Mark Twain’s observation that if the first thing you do in the morning is eating a frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing is already done. So, tackle the most difficult task first, and it will be easier to get other tasks done without anticipating the most unpleasant and inevitable to-do.
- Get outside during the day. Daylight, being the most important time cue, will keep your body’s internal clock on track. Besides, physical activity, even if it’s just going to a café for a lunch, helps you switch off from work for a short time, and get back to it more focused.
- Prepare for the new day the night before. Think of what you want to get done tomorrow, and prepare a to-do list if there are many tasks for the upcoming day. It saves time and helps get organized.
- Develop a healthy approach to napping throughout the day. Napping is great as a fatigue countermeasure, but it shouldn’t turn into an untimely sleep. Usually, short naps (20-30 min) are recommended to reclaim alertness and focus. However, there are opinions that the urge to nap should be avoided at all, as it destroys the body’s natural stimulus to sleep.
- Consider general recommendations on preferred activities in different times on the day. They are based on processes and rhythms that take place in our bodies, and thus they support us in our efforts of improving alertness and productivity in the morning.
Make Use of Your Gadgets
While it is destructive for your body’s clock to use electronic devices right before falling asleep, you can still use them for the benefit of your biological clock. There are apps that help build up a healthy sleep schedule, reclaim focus, and develop morning productivity.
- Sleep Cycle alarm clock. The app tracks your sleep phases and wakes you in the lightest one, which is the natural way to wake up actually rested. As it uses sound analysis to track sleep phases, there’s no need to put your device in bed.
- Morning Routine. This habit tracker allows you to create and track healthy habits – and develop them in real life. Track how you spend your time and analyze what can be improved to make you healthier and happier.
- Flipboard. An app that collects all interesting information – your “passions” – in one place. A perfect way to start a productive morning with reviewing everything you like in one smart magazine, without having to search through many sources.
- Buddhify. An app for meditation that helps busy people reclaim serenity and mindfulness in the morning or throughout the day. It offers 80+ audio tracks for different activities, collects the data on how you are doing, and shows statistics of your progress.
- 10% Happier. Another meditation app, but this one is intended to teach you meditation. It offers instructional videos, practical advice on free access to a meditation coach. It also integrates with Apple Health App and helps track your progress.
- Calm (iOS, Android). The app is designed to bring clarity and happiness into a busy life. It provides guided meditation sessions, breathing programs, and relaxing music. It helps focus on your body, and feel happier and more relaxed.
- The Rock Clock. A motivational alarm clock from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Enter your goal for the next day, set the morning alarm, and receive a new message from The Rock every day when waking up. No snooze– The Rock is not a fan of that button!
While many people tend to hate mornings, there are many ways to make this time of the day more active and healthy. Even if you’re a night owl, it doesn’t mean that you have to survive mornings instead of enjoying them. Stick to a consistent schedule, don’t overwork, eat healthy, and start every new day with a happy and productive morning.
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