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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

Here's How to Succeed When You're Not an Early Bird or a Night Owl

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Woong Bae Jeon/EyeEm/Getty Images

I’m not a morning person. I don’t jump out of bed when my alarm goes off, run through my favorite sun salutations, and dive headfirst into my work. If anything, I’m that “Don’t talk to me before my coffee” cliché.

The catch is that I’m also not a night owl. In fact, I’d say that my peak productivity hours are between 10 AM and 2 PM. That means if you met me at lunch, you’d leave the meal saying, “I now know what caffeine would look like if it came to life! What ideas! What vision!”

But if you asked me to meet up at either 8 AM or 8 PM, your thoughts would be more along the lines of, “It would’ve been nice of her to mention she was in a coma before agreeing to grab a drink.”

As you can imagine, this is a problem, because the average workday is eight hours and most professionals don’t love the “Sorry, but I’m totally brain dead after 2 PM” email response. Knowing that left me with two choices when I started working.

One: Open up a brunch-only restaurant so I can always be on my A-game. Or two, learn to schedule my day around the hours when I’m good at my job.

In the interest of not giving my parents heart attacks, I opted for number two (although, if I had known that Instagram would take off and that taking photos of your eggs would be socially acceptable, I might’ve changed my tune).

Here’s how it works: Because my peak hours—or golden hours as they’re known in some circles—are midday, I block off that time for creative work. And because I turn into a zombie as soon as the sun sets, I save all my brain-less tasks for then.

What qualifies as brain-less (my boss might ask as she’s reading this)?

  • Answering emails
  • Updating spreadsheets and documents
  • Setting up meeting agendas
  • Filing my expenses
  • Creating my to-do list for the next day

You know, all those things that I have to do to do my job well, but I’m never, ever excited to sit down and actually get started on.

While I’m not going to lie that pushing your expenses to 5:30 PM suddenly makes them exhilarating (or even moderately interesting), I will tell you that using your peak creativity time to do creative things makes that part of your day much more fun and productive. And that saving all the easy stuff for the times when you do feel like a zombie makes those “I’m not exactly at my best” patches also feel productive.

So, if you’re in the same boat of not being an early bird or a night owl, why not figure out what your golden hours are—and then, barring urgent tasks, do your best to schedule around those. Trust me: Work’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re not forcing your brain to slog through assignments when it’s not in the mood. (Also when you stop letting bird sleep cycles dictate how you describe yourself.)

Let me know on Twitter if you’re going to give this a try…and/or if you’re down to go in on a brunch-only restaurant together.