• December 1, 2022

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Are my chances of success less if I don’t wake up early every morning? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Andrew Cohen, Founder & CEO, Brainscape, on Quora:

It’s easy to feel demoralized by society’s obsessive “the early bird catches the worm” mentality. As someone who does my best work after the sun goes down, I’ve often read those prolific thought pieces and wondered: “Is my success limited because I’m not up at 6 AM, crushing it? “

Absolutely not. You know why? BECAUSE SCIENCE. Humans are not all biologically wired to be awake, alert, and productive at the same time of the day. How would that have gone down earlier in the Pleistocene Era? If everyone’s circadian rhythms were determined by the sun, there’d be no “night owls” to stay up late at night to guard the tribe.

In other words, if you’re more engaged and alert at night, you are very likely biologically hardwired that way. And understanding this about yourself allows you to stop forcing yourself to be like everybody else and, instead, lean into your “chronotype” to optimize YOUR productivity. (Even if modern society has strong-armed you into working an 8-to-5.)

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A chronotype is a person’s natural inclination with regard to the times of day when they are naturally active and alert, and when they prefer to sleep.

I’m a night owl so I do my best thinking after 4 PM and specifically between 10 PM and 2 AM. But there are some members of my team who are up and doing their best work at 5 AM and then call it a day just after lunch. So, we’re two opposite poles of what turns out to be a spectrum of chronotypes.

This is important: One chronotype isn’t better than the other. But the typical daily schedule around which modern society is built certainly caters MUCH more to early birds than to night owls! Yet, in spite of that, there are ways we can unlock much greater productivity, creativity, and even quality/enjoyment of life.

How? By scheduling your days so that you capitalize on your peak productivity hours, while saving the more menial tasks for your off-peak hours.

Start by identifying the 2 to 4 most productive hours of your day; the hours during which you feel the most alert and are best able to concentrate. Then, get your hardest, most complex and mentally taxing tasks done during this time.

Then, when fatigue sets in, wind down the intensity of your tasks by answering emails, taking calls, wrapping up admin, planning for the following day, hanging out by the water cooler, and flirting with Jill in accounting, etc.

The punchline here is to cascade your tasks, getting the hardest and most complex done during peak productivity time with a build-up on either side. Then, during your lowest points, either take a power nap, get out for exercise, or watch Judge Judy reruns.

Remember: humans are wired differently. We always have been so it doesn’t matter whether you’re a morning bird or a night owl: if you identify your chronotype, you can stop working against your biological hardwiring and optimize your productivity.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

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