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I’ve never been an early bird. Early birds hit their stride at sunrise. As a night owl, my best ideas arrive when the sun sets. Living in a 9-to-5 society can be tough on night owls. See if you can relate:
- You wonder if you’re a slacker or just genetically deficient.
- You make up for your sluggish mornings by outhustling early birds during the day.
- You read article after article about how to establish a morning routine, but the advice doesn’t take.
Related: How to Manage Time with 10 Tips that Work
If you’re nodding in recognition right now, I feel your pain. I fought the good fight for years. After a little research and a lot of experimentation and practice, however, I came to three conclusions:
- I’m hardwired to think at night.
- I can’t change my nature.
- I can change my routine.
These truths changed my life. I used them to develop four habits that can help you outfly the early birds.
Follow a disciplined night routine.
My night routine is simple: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. is family time. Once everyone else is asleep, I nerd out creatively and intellectually on my vision for my company, Nav. These are the hours of progress and inspiration.
Around midnight or 1 a.m., I look at my schedule for the next day and prioritize while my mind is clear and I can think strategically. The last thing you want to wake up to is a full inbox.
In the early morning, do just enough.
My wife Rachel and I have six school-aged daughters. I get up before dawn whether I like it or not. But I also don’t stress about exercise, an ideal breakfast, etc. I help Rachel with the girls and head out the door.
If you’re not the first person in the office, that’s okay — you got lots of great work done the night before. This will not only motivate you to work your tail off, but give you confidence as well.
Related: In Praise of Night Owls: 4 Successful People who Sleep Little
Execute during the day.
As soon as I’m at my desk, I enter execution mode. Phone calls, interviews, messages, meetings — I methodically plow through them all.
This is the time to execute the practical tasks necessary to build on your ideas from the previous night. If lightning strikes, huzzah, but you should mainly think of yourself as a day laborer sweating hard for the dynamic creator you become once the sun goes down.
Follow inspiration at any hour.
I’ve used a CPAP machine since I was a kid just to be able to sleep. A few nights ago, as I was drifting off, I was electrified by an idea for Nav. I had an early board meeting, but I peeled off my CPAP gear and opened my laptop anyway. Privileging creative flow over an extra half-hour of shuteye is always worth the sacrifice.
Forget the old stereotype about early birds and worms. It’s not a question of better or worse, right or wrong; it’s about embracing who you are and being productive. Besides, as any respectable wormologist will tell you: The juiciest specimens don’t poke their heads out till it’s dark and cool outside.
They’re called night crawlers for a reason. Go get ’em.