Are you a night owl? A morning person? Maybe you have felt pressure to change your sleep habits. After all we have sayings like “the early bird gets the worm” or “don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done” that can encourage us to try and get up earlier and stay up later.
However, contrary to popular belief, you can’t simply decide to get up earlier and expect to be productive. Research by Harvard and others seem to indicate that how and when you best sleep is a genetic trait like your eye color or whether you are right handed or left handed.
The good news is that whatever your sleep tendencies, you can make the most of it to maximize your productivity. Here are some tips to embrace your inner sleep style and get more done than you ever thought you could at the same time.
Before you can take advantage of you natural sleep cycles, you need to know what they are. This may be hard to establish if you are chronically sleep deprived. Take a week or two to make sure you are getting enough sleep, and then observe whether you have more trouble falling asleep or waking up in the morning. Keeping a sleep journal may help, or even using an app to track your sleep and sleep quality.
Plan for Productivity
One of the ways that we lose productivity is when we are constantly interrupted in our tasks. A way to avoid letting this happen is to plan work that requires focus for when we are less likely to be distracted. For morning birds, plan this type of work for early in the morning before anyone else gets up or shows up to work. For night owls do the opposite. Of course, those with flexible work schedules will be able to best use this technique. Don’t assume it is not an option for you if you have never asked. Talk to your boss about trying an adjusted schedule to see if it makes a difference. Be ready to report on your results too.
You can also plan for productivity by planning tasks that are more difficult or need your best problem solving skills for times when you are at your peak.
If you are a morning person, you can maximize your productivity by getting to bed early. Make sure that you plan events as early in the evening as possible, and that you have a plan to wind down at the end of the day so that you are able to hit the ground running in the morning.
You may also want to skip your morning coffee. It is likely if you are naturally a morning person that you don’t need the coffee to help you wake up, and instead save that coffee for your early afternoon slump so that you can re-energize to finish out the day.
If you are a night person, you can maximize your productivity by avoiding important meetings and tasks that require full focus and attention first thing in the morning. Instead, start your morning with a workout, or any physical task that needs to be done. This will help your blood start flowing and help your body wake up and get into gear.
You will also want to plan your morning to eliminate as many things as possible from your morning so that you can sleep in as late as possible. Set out your clothes the night before, program your coffee to brew automatically, and prepare your food ahead of time. Rather than hitting the snooze button, try to shorten your prep time so that you can use that time to sleep.
What About You?
Are you a morning person? A night person? What is your favorite way to take advantage of your unique schedule?