From Night Owl to Early Bird: Resetting Your Body Clock To Boost Productivity
Is finding time to do the things you love difficult? Is it possible to make more time in a day? PHS Editor, Kali Anthony, tells us how changing her writing time from late night to early morning helped boost her productivity.
Don’t you just love those days when you have nothing to do but write? Hour after hour stretched before you of free, unadulterated time to put down those gleaming words onto a page or screen.
What? You don’t know what those days are? Really?
Well, neither do I. Unless you write full time, most of us are lucky to snatch a few hours each day in between some or all of: dealing with kids, jobs, elderly parents, pets throwing up on the carpet and adulting in general.
So, what if your usual writing time evaporated? Could you find another time to write?
Two years ago I had a routine. Get up, battle the crazy of getting me and the family out the door, go to work, come home, do the reverse crazy of getting the kids fed-bathed-into bed, then take a deep breath. From eight when the kids went down, till ten when my husband got home, was my time to write.
Would I have liked more? Sure! But that time was mine and I guarded it fiercely.
Fast forward a bit and my kids are older, going to bed later. My husband is arriving home way earlier. People decide to come in to where I’m writing, and talk…Now, I love my family but I did not love the interruption.
Guess what? I had no writing time left, at all. Cue existential crisis.
I pondered for a few days, asking myself the important question: Self, do you really want to keep writing?
My answer (and that of the people living in my head who jostle for supremacy to get written next) was an emphatic, “YES”.
With that sorted, I considered the words of Dorothea Brande in her work, Becoming a Writer:
….rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise. Just as soon as you can -— and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the
night before -— begin to write.
That’s how I came to the inescapable conclusion that if I wanted to write every day I had to find another time, and the only time I had, was *shudder* the morning. One and a half hours, five till six-thirty.
Okay then. Morning it was. Did I mention that I’m not a morning person? And am a person who needs about eight hours sleep? Ugh.
I took a deep breath, set my alarm for five am, and went to bed at nine.
My previous lights out was closer to eleven. Getting to sleep was hard. Getting up was even harder. I crawled out of bed, made a cup of tea, turned on the computer and started writing. My brain was barely in gear and the words were twaddle. I persisted. Then I realised that it took me about fifteen minutes to get organised which ate into that precious writing time. This meant setting the alarm even earlier, to four forty- five.
It took a while to reset my body clock. For about a week I suspect I functioned little better than a zombie (I see my family nodding in violent agreement). But little by little I got used to the new routine. I enjoyed morning’s hush. The sound of the birds waking. That first, perfect cup of tea in silence. What started out as my worst nightmare, turned into a time enjoying those simple pleasures.
I’m not saying that some mornings aren’t hard. Winter, rainy days, if I’ve gotten to sleep a bit later than normal. Yes, those times I still hit snooze. But in the main, I get up, plant my backside in a chair at the kitchen table, and write.
So what have I learned in the process? The first is the necessity of organisation. School lunches, my lunches, school bags, tennis rackets, uniforms, and everything else required to get out the door in the morning, needs to be done the night before.
Communication with the family is also the key. I was going to bed early and getting up early. My family had to understand and respect it, which they did in the end. Now if the kids are getting to bed a bit late, they tuck me in!
But the biggest challenge has been the writing itself. Writing at night gave me a whole day to process my story and to think about where I was going next. Writing in the morning meant I had to just get up and get started, which on bad days, left me frozen. Now, before I turn off the lights I take a few moments to think about where my story might go the next day. To plan. It’s not a perfect solution, but it sure beats not writing at all.
So that’s the story of how this night owl became an early bird. I’ve been doing it for about a year now, and have found that I can bash out a thousand words if I’m extremely lucky. Of course, some mornings I only do a hundred, which is okay too.
I’m writing every day, and that’s what matters.
Kali is a writer of happy endings and a failed domestic goddess. She will work for coffee, wine and chocolate! For more information check out her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Are you a night owl or an early bird? Has changing your routine in some way helped boost your productivity? How difficult was it to make that change? Tell us in the comments or use #RiseAndShine on Social Media to join the #PHS readers conversation on this topic.