You’ll read countless blogs and books about how the top performers get up early.
Tim Cook (Apple CEO) gets up at 3:45am
Richard Branson (Virgin) at 5am
Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) at 4am
Peter Balyta, (President of Education Technology at Texas Instruments) wakes at 5:20 am and does math while exercising
(The last one almost made me cry)
So, it’s easy to assume or be told that to be successful you have to get up early.
However, it’s not as straightforward as that.
If you get up early, you need to go to bed early. Sleep is the most important recovery tool you can use to keep yourself productive in work, the gym and life. If you don’t have good sleep, you just run yourself into the ground.
Also, you’re miserable without sleep. If you’ve got kids, you know.
As a little counterbalance
Mozart did his best work late at night
Winston Churchill didn’t get out of bed till 11am but often worked till 3am
Mark Zuckerberg wakes around 8am
Mark Currey, author of Daily rituals studies 50 of the world's greatest artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers and found their routine varied significantly between them. Note: they did have a consistent personal routine.
The key to performance is about operating at your best, while still having time to recover (go check out last week’s newsletter on Stress + Rest=Growth)
To operate at your best, I recommend working out your chronotype and building your routine around it.
Chronotypes is the scientific term for the unique ebb and flow of energy that everyone experiences over the course of 24 hours.
Basically, people have different energy levels at different times of day. Remember the friend who dragged themselves out of bed for college and was just starting to think about going out to party at 11pm.
Scientists refer to people most alert in the morning as “larks” and those most alert in the evening as “owls”.
Most people tend to perform their best either in the earlier (lark) or later (owl) part of the day, and this can be physically or mentally focused work. (I’ll give you a couple of tips to work out what you are at the end)
Once you know which type of person you are, the key is to put your deep work e.g. strategy, important meetings, slide creation, etc during your time of peak energy.
Then using your lower energy times for administrative work e.g. emails, status calls, washing up
Interestingly your creativity is the reverse. So, a lark will be focused and alert in the morning, but more creative in the afternoon.
By doing this you maximise your performance and output, while not expending excess energy on low important tasks.
Don’t fight your body and hormones, work with it.
Build your daily routine around how you operate at your best and see your productivity increase.
To discover your chronotype
Researchers from the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, UK went deep into this topic, however, here are 3 high level questions they propose to get you thinking about what type you are
If you were entirely free to build your evening routine and had no commitments in the morning, what time would you go to sleep?
You have 2 hours of physical hard work/exercise to do. If you had no constraints on your day, when would you do this work?
You have a 2-hour test, that will be mentally exhausting. If you had no constraints on your day, when would you do this work?
Now over the next few days make a note of your energy level along with these questions and see how you can tweak your routine to leverage your energy levels.
P.S. I’m a lark, afternoons are not great for me for detailed work. What are you?