The early bird gets the worm, they say. To which I say: Let him have it. The only early thing I want is a very, very strong cup of joe.
Getting up early is for the birds. Given the choice, I’d prefer to bury my head under the covers against the searing sunlight and sleep in until 10:30. For me, the most productive part of the day starts after lunch?and if a late start means I’m up until two in the morning, so be it. After all, I can’t argue with that wonderful 11:30 pm creativity boost, the one I get after the civilized world has gone to bed.
According to pretty much every adage out there, this is a bad practice. I’ll never be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Yet despite all the wisdom and wealth That’s supposed to be accumulating with these forced early risings, I still find I do my best work in the afternoons and by the light of the midnight oil. Also, I’m always tired.
I’m not alone. According to the Sleep Foundation CITE, my sleep needs follow a schedule typical for teenagers?and early risings are actually detrimental to young people’s productivity, focus, and emotional and physical well-being. The Sleep Foundation, which advocates for sleep pattern awareness, cites studies showing marked improvement in all of these areas when high school start times were bumped an hour and a half later than normal.
Although the teen connection makes me feel foolishly young, as an adult I can’t quite work it. I know my productivity would improve were I to get up two hours after the rest of the world has arrived at work or school, but unfortunately the exigencies of life get in the way. My daughter believes that the early bird is the one who doesn’t miss anything (but also that staying up late is the answer to life, so she defies the norms a bit). Her school is also a fan of early risings, and going back to bed after the coffee-infused carpool line is pretty much a losing battle.
What to do?
It’s time to take my schedule into my own hands. It’s time to stop being a slave to work patterns dictated by other people’s needs. I may not be able to lie in until mid-morning, but I can ease myself into my day, saving my more difficult tasks for my more productive afternoon hours. I can tweak things so that I’m doing easy stuff in the morning, when I’m only half-awake, and wait until I’m alert and creative to do serious writing, reading, and editing. I can try to bump my late-night productivity back a few hours, so I’m working from eight until ten and then resting for a few hours to slow my adrenaline down to a more relaxed pace. I can even designate one or two nights a week to be my ultra-late bedtimes, and write on into the night if I feel inspired to do so (catching up on sleep over the days in between).
The beginning of the school year is a unique chance to reclaim your time, to create a schedule that works for you. If early risings are your thing, don’t save your harder tasks for the inevitable afternoon slump. But if, like me, you aren’t fully awake until after lunch, don’t even start that important paper until one in the afternoon.
Scheduling is vital to a good and productive year, but a schedule that works against you is almost worse than none at all. When You’re creating your back-to-school routine, take some time to think about your personal sleeping and waking patterns, and go from there. There may be 24 hours in a day, but some are definitely better than others!