How To Be a Productive Night Owl

The proverb “the early bird gets the worm” emphasizes the importance of starting something early to maximize the potential outcome. Is it still applicable in this modern time? Maybe yes for some and no for others. But there is a lot to be said for staying up late, too. Some people do their best work after everyone else has gone to sleep.  Night owls get a bad rap for being lazy slackers, but those late-night hours can be some of the best for getting meaningful work accomplished.

Use the late evening hours to your advantage:

  1. Maintain seven to eight hours of sleep.  Doesn’t follow that when you went to bed at 2:00 am, you can sleep until noon.  Too much sleep will leave you groggy and much less ineffective for the first few hours you’re awake.
  • Getting too little sleep is also detrimental. Sleep studies have shown that everyone does better on seven hours of sleep than they do on six or less. Everyone.
  1. Consider a nap. No matter when you go to bed, there is a point during the day when your alertness takes a nosedive. For those that work a typical 8-5 job, that low point is around 2:00 p.m. Depending on when you go to sleep and wake up, your low point will vary. If possible, this is the perfect time to take a 30 to 60-minute nap.
  2. Have a morning routine. Late risers still need a morning routine to get the day off on the right foot. Create a routine that gets you started and prepares you for a productive evening.
  3. Think about the morning. When you’d still like to sleep for a few more hours, the rest of the world is getting busy. Cars are driving up and down the street. Your spouse or roommates are making noise. The phone starts ringing. Not to mention that pesky sun starts lighting up the world. 
  • Be prepared for these things – turn the phone ringer off, get blinds and curtains for the windows and consider the use of earplugs or a white-noise generator.
  1. Use the time wisely. There’s no point in staying up late if you’re only wasting time and you don’t use the time productively. The early morning and late-night hours have the fewest distractions. As a night owl, use the later hours for your creative work and enjoy the peace and quiet.
  • Get your more mundane work, like returning phone calls and answering emails, done during the active parts of the day.
  1. Have a hard cutoff time. It can be tough to stop when it’s 4:00 a.m., and the creative juices are still flowing. Consider what happens the following day if you stay up too late. Your sleep cycle is disturbed, and your day is off-schedule. Have a set time where you call it a night and go to bed.
  • Have a set wake-up time, too. Night owls tend to be long, undisciplined sleepers. This is a mistake and lowers your effectiveness.
  • An evening routine can also be helpful. It can be hard to unwind and go to sleep after working furiously for a few hours. Avoid allowing work to be the last thing you do before going to bed. Spend at least 30 minutes unwinding. Listen to peaceful music, read, or watch a little television.

People vary and have differences. Not everyone is cut out to be an early riser. Some of the most amazing people in history were night owls. Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, Barack Obama, and Voltaire are just a few examples. Productive night owls are rarer than productive early birds. However, some people do their best work later in the evening.