4 Reasons Getting to the Office Early Holds Me Back in My Career
My iPhone used to buzz each and every morning at 5:30 AM—but after years of this routine, I wake up naturally around 5:27.
After quickly making the bed, I grab my gym bag and hustle out the door. By 7 AM, I’ve worked out and showered. By 9, I’ve eaten breakfast, answered emails, and written an article.
But I’m not trying to convince you to follow my lead and start getting up in the wee hours. In fact, I almost wish I’d never started getting up and getting to work so early.
What I would give to be a night owl! OK, not a night owl, but someone who doesn’t wake up before the sun.
1. You’re Out-of-Sync With Most People
Yes, getting up early means you can start working before everyone else—but unless you’re willing to work longer hours, it also means you stop working before everyone else. That can be a huge problem.
Case in point: A couple years ago, I’d just gotten home when I received an email from my boss. (She typically arrived and left at the office couple hours later than me.)
Hey! I know you’re gone for the day, but would you mind sending me new versions of those graphics you made for the microsite? For some reason, my computer won’t open the other ones.
An easy task—except for the fact that I needed Photoshop, which wasn’t installed on my personal computer. Since I knew we were sending the microsite to the client that night, I had no choice but to hop back on the train, run into the office, resave and send the files, then get on the same train back home. The whole ordeal took around two hours. If I’d be sitting in the office when she emailed, however, it would’ve only taken three minutes.
That’s definitely not the only time finishing up before everyone else has caused me trouble. And I run into issues on the other end as well: I’ve had urgent questions come up while I’ve been the only employee awake, and I know my colleagues won’t be checking their inboxes for at least another hour.
2. You Might Look Less Dedicated
Being off-schedule from everyone else isn’t the only problem with wrapping up your day early. When I worked in NYC, I arrived at the office around 7:10. That wouldn’t be out-of-the-ordinary for some offices—but this one was a fashionable media startup, and most of my co-workers didn’t get in until 9 or 9:30. I didn’t typically see my bosses until 10.
Because everyone started so late, they stayed late as well. The problem? I was ready to go by 5; after all, even with an hour-long lunch, I’d still been working for 9 hours. But without announcing, “I got here at 7:10,” I worried leaving hours before everyone else would make it seem like I wasn’t committed. As a result, I ended up lingering till 6:30 or 7 at least one night per week.
3. You Can’t Network at Night
When I get invites for networking events at night (which, let’s face it, is most of them), I always have to force myself to say yes. Unlike most of the attendees, who’ll be hitting peak energy levels right when the event is picking up, I’m only going to lose stamina. Having engaging conversations, remembering names, being outgoing: All those things are somewhat challenging when you’re fully awake. When you’re worn out? Pretty darn difficult.
Plus, you can forget about drinking any alcoholic beverages. The last time I accepted a glass of wine at a late-night event, I almost fell asleep in my chair.
This problem extends to non-formal networking as well. I’ve had co-workers ask me to go grab drinks at the local bar—which would be a total blast if I wasn’t already fantasizing about the moment I’d slip on my sweats, jump into bed, and shut my eyes.
A couple times, I tried asking people to do things in the morning instead. It worked—sort of. While an evening meet-up doesn’t have a formal cut-off, most professionals can’t spend more than an hour at breakfast or lunch during the week.
4. You’ll Lose Sleep
As I mentioned, my body is trained to wake up early. I’ve tried to wake up later—but except for when I’m truly exhausted, the latest I can make it is usually 7 AM.
That’s less than ideal when I’m running a sleep deficit. And of course, when I’m tired, I’m nowhere near as productive. While I might’ve gotten up a few hours earlier than everyone else on Saturday, I’m probably accomplishing only 50% of what I normally can. Those 120 minutes aren’t enough to make up for the efficiency dip, and to make matters worse, I’m grumpy and impatient.
While early risers are probably reading this, nodding their heads, and debating becoming night owls—rest assured, there are workarounds! For example, just because you get up before everyone else doesn’t mean you need to get started on your day right away. Try reading a little bit in bed before you jump in the shower, cook a real breakfast, get your errands done before you go into the office—sure you’ll still be tired come 9 PM, but not in the same way you would be if you’d been working your brain since 7 AM.
However, if you’ve tried and failed to become a morning person, please do not feel guilty. Getting up later comes with its own unique advantages. If I could turn back time to when I decided to “try something new” and wake up at 5:30 AM, I might just decide not to set that alarm.