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How Being an Early Bird or Night Owl May Affect Your Productivity

Written by Tom Ewer on 07 March 2015

Is it true that the early bird always gets the worm?

Or can people be equally productive depending on the time that they have the most energy or focus? Early birds typically get the credit for being the most proactive and productive members of society – is it truth or myth? Let's explore some of the research to find out the answer for ourselves once and for all!


Do you know that we are each predisposed to functioning better at certain times of the day? Some of us are naturally night owls – people who function better working into the night – while others of us are early birds – people who innately get more accomplished in the morning.

A chronotype is an individual disposition toward the timing of daily periods of activity and rest. Your chronotype – your night owl versus early bird disposition – is thought to be determined largely by your genetics and your biological makeup. Maybe your willpower can only get you so far?

Night Owls

Night owls have actually shown to have less concentration of white matter in certain areas of the brain. There is some science behind why some of us function better at night.

Although people that work better into the night are often more creative, there are a few drawbacks as well. Night owls are often more temperamental, impulsive and more likely to develop addictive behaviours or mental disorders.

They also have a higher propensity for taking risks though; as a small business owner, if they are smart risks, that could be to your advantage. Often you have to have faith in yourself and take big leaps (like leaving your day job) to get where you want to go.

Early Birds

Research has shown that our early risers on the other hand tend to be more persistent, more resistant to fatigue and better able to handle frustrations and challenges thrown their way. They are also less anxious on average and report higher satisfaction with life overall. I like those odds!

Can You Change?

Even though our genetics often are what determine when our productivity clocks are set, behaviour and environment can make a difference. About fifty percent of the population falls somewhere in the middle; these individuals can adjust easily to either end usually.

Others fall more squarely into morning or evening camps. Some argue that if you fall too far toward one end of the spectrum or the other ultimately the body is boss and can't be changed.

I think this is worth some personal experimentation. If you aren't currently an early bird, but want to be, it may be worth a try to change. Higher life satisfaction, more persistence and an easier time overcoming adversity are reason enough to challenge the status quo – but where should you start?

Prepare for Bedtime

If you want to start getting up at five in the morning and are an eight hours of sleep a night type of person, start getting ready for bed at eight o'clock at night. You don't need to be in bed at that time, but you should start preparing for it.

Consider starting your own bedtime routine if you don't already have one. Wash your face, brush your teeth and tidy up for the night. Just like babies and toddlers thrive on a bedtime routine, so can you. What do you find relaxing that would help you unwind before bed?

Turn Off the Electronics

Typing away at your laptop or watching television aren't the best ways to relax before bed. Electronics often have the opposite effect and signal your brain to be alert. Consider not using electronics an hour prior to bedtime.

Instead of watching a show or checking Facebook before bed, try reading a fiction book or conversing with your spouse. Do a few yoga moves or stretches – try meditation if you haven't before.

Rise and Shine

Set your alarm clock. Try not to hit snooze. Have your coffee maker set on auto-brew and prepped the night before. This works wonders – knowing there's a cup of coffee waiting for you should help you get out of a bed a bit easier.

Rinse and repeat until you make it a habit. If you're one that falls somewhere in the middle, it might just take a bit of willpower and time to make rising earlier a little more natural for you.

If on the other hand you're happy with the creativity that comes with being a night owl and working the night away, there's nothing to say you have to change. Embrace when you're most productive and make the most of it. Know yourself – your strengths – and own them!

Are you naturally more of a night owl or early bird? What do you like about it or what would you want to change?

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