Three Productivity Tips Every Night Owl Should Try ASAP
Most productivity tips seem aimed squarely at people who function at their peak in the morning—not for night owls, who do their best work after the rest of the world has gone dark. "The world was built for morning people," says productivity expert Alexis Haselberger. "Work starts early, school starts early. For a night owl, waking up at 7 a.m. feels similar to a morning person waking at 3 a.m., and it's jarring and difficult to wrench oneself out of sleep well before your body is ready. A night owl just has a shifted natural schedule, and is trying their best to fit into the world's schedule." Self-described night owls Haselberger and Grace Marshall, also a productivity expert, share the routines and practices that can help you find balance.
Rework your schedule.
For many night owls, the major challenge in embracing a schedule that works with their natural rhythms is a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job; children—whether early-rising toddlers or racing-to-the-bus school-age kids—are another. There's not much you can do about your kids' schedule, except, says Haselberger, try to swap drop-off and pick-up duties with your partner or another parent, but finding a job that accommodates your night owl tendencies might be more doable. Look for a service job with evening hours (bartender, server); a remote-work position where you can set your own schedule or interact with colleagues in a different time zone; or work toward a freelance or consulting job that lets you do the bulk of your work later in the evening.
Manage other people's expectations.
If you're not ready to switch companies, talk to your boss about shifting your hours, avoiding 8 a.m. meetings, or being allowed to do a few hours of work at home in the evening. "Let your boss know what schedule works best for you, and that she'll get better work out of you if she lets you manage your hours accordingly," suggests Haselberger. If your company will accommodate your request, then set clear hours. "If you're not locked into having to get up early, and you have the freedom to shift your working patterns, then the challenges are more to do with other people's expectations," says Marshall. If you plan to answer emails outside working hours, make sure your coworkers and clients know when they can expect a reply (and, especially if you're the boss, clarify that you aren't expecting an immediate answer to your midnight follow-ups). "Recognizing these assumptions is really important, and sometimes it's fixed by just having that conversation," says Marshall, noting to tell your contacts, "You reply when you're at work, and we will work at this asynchronously.'"
Guard your time.
Once you're able to include a late-night work session in your day, plan ahead to make the most of it. "We have about two to three hours a day when we're at our best," says Marshall. It's important to limit distractions during that time—mute your group chats and turn off your news alerts—and organize your priorities so you know exactly what you're trying to accomplish. You can also use that burst of energy and motivation to focus on non-work-related tasks. "Evening hours can be used for all manner of things that morning folks do in the morning—there's no reason that morning is inherently better for exercise, meditation, journaling, or deep work," says Haselberger. "But in order to use that time well, it's best to plan in advance how you'll use it. I recommend planning today for tomorrow, so that you'll start each day with an executable plan versus leaving it up to chance." Schedule breaks, too: "Don't burn your candle at both ends," says Marshall. "Make sure you figure out when your recharge time is—when you can completely switch off to recharge your energy, creativity, relationships, your life outside of work, your chores, and your personal life."