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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Can we stop with the early bird propaganda?

This post, is a part of my thinking and research for my new book, HUSTLE & FLOAT that centers around the tensions between productivity and creativity. You can follow other related entries here

I’ve always hated mornings. Give me the darkest hours of night, and I’ll show you my most productive output. I’ve flirted with being an early riser before. Unfortunately, much like overly strict diets, the resulting misery was never worth it and the battle against my body’s natural rhythm was exhaustive and often counter-productive.

I’ve made peace with the fact that I am a creature of the night. I get up around 9am (sometimes later). I like to read, exercise, and am ready to start work right after lunch. I’ll work until dinner, eat, and then go back to my computer for another few hours. 9pm until 3 am is my most productive and magical time. I’ll average thousands of words written, I’ll power through research, and I’ll come up to solutions for client work.

I’m not advocating you adopt my methods, just outlining what works for me. I’ve never thought of my routine as worse or better than an early riser’s and so, I must admit, I’m a little annoyed at the constant preaching about how the most productive people are early risers. There is an interesting early-riser archetype that is being packaged in the media as the embodiment of discipline and success. It’s one of the fascinating cultural influences that I’m researching for my new book, Hustle & Float.

A few points:

  1. We’re all different. Scientists are discovering that early risers and night owls have different brain structures and that our preferences for early mornings or late nights is built into our genetic code. Forcing people who have a natural predisposition to stay up late to conform to early hours can have a negative impact on the actual physiology of their brain. So just because your best creativity happens at 5am, that might not be the case for your spouse, partners, and colleagues.
  2. There’s no one right answer. For every study that says early risers are more productive, there’s one that favors night owls. (Here is one about how people with higher IQs are usually more nocturnal. Not to be outdone, early risers are apparently happier. And so on.)
  3. It’s the same advantages and disadvantages. You know those early morning hours of uninterrupted time? I get the same thing at the other end of the day. While you’re getting ready for a 10pm bedtime, that’s when I’m powering up. And when you’re kicking your to-do list’s ass in the morning, I’m fast asleep. Let’s stop focusing on arbitrary metrics like hours and start looking at output instead.

So how about we stop trying to shame other people into changing a normal and natural preference? Instead, let’s encourage people to:

a) Become attuned to their own energy cycles and schedule their time accordingly. Track your energy and productivity levels during the day and pinpoint your most creative times. For me, it’s between 9pm and 3am. For you, it could be 6am or 3pm. Whatever it is, guard that period of time for your most important work.

b) Make sure you get enough sleep. This amount also varies by person, and could be anywhere from 6–9 hours. You can use a sleep tracking app to find that ideal time and try to avoid over-sleeping.

c) Let’s be compassionate to each other. Especially when scheduling meeting times. I promise I won’t hit you with a 7pm calendar request if you never schedule anything before 10:30am ever again.

Let’s stop trying to make everyone fit in some one-size fits all sleeping schedule. HOOT HOOT!

f you’ve found this post interesting you might also enjoy my monthly newsletter where I share research from my current projects, as well as talk about digital culture, creativity, productivity, and tech. Here’s one I wrote about Leo’s Oscar Meme frenzy. And one aboutAbe Lincoln’s use of the world Hustle. Happy reading!

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