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How To Be A Productive Night Owl

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Are you one of the many who enjoy nighttime? Do you find that you do your best work when everyone else has already gone to sleep? Well, if you work later hours, then you’re in luck. But if you find yourself with a day job, then this may wreak havoc on your life.

I have always found the early evening into the wee hours of the morning to be my most productive times. I could clean my house, wash all the laundry, prep meals for the week, and walk on the moon if I wanted to. The trouble is that every single job I have ever had was during the normal 9 to 5 hours. FastCompany created a list of tips with some experts, including Robert Matchock who is an associate professor of psychology at Penn State Altoona, about how to help night owls that find themselves in the same predicament as I do.

night owl

© Flickr user kvn.jns

1. CREATE A WORK CHEATSHEET THE DAY BEFORE

Being a night owl means, as you guessed, late nights. So showing up to work early in the morning will probably leave you with a brain fog you can’t seem to shake, at least not for the first few hours. Creating a cheat sheet the day before with all the tasks you have to complete will make it easier on your hazy mind. Write notes down next to each task so you know exactly what you have left to do and where to begin again.

2. STREAMLINE YOUR MORNING ROUTINE

You need to have a routine and have it down pat. If you’re scattered, you’re losing much needed time that could have gone to an extra hour of sleep at night. That hour can lead to some pretty surprising improvements that you can’t ignore. You’ll find yourself to be more alert, in a better mood, and a productivity machine!

3. DO AUTOPILOT PROJECTS FIRST

Maybe you have some mindless data entry to do, returning some phone calls or scheduling appointments for your week. These are things you could probably do in your sleep at this point which is why it’s recommended to handle them first. You’re less likely to make a mistake on these items than any others! Put these tasks behind you so when you start to really kick into gear later, you aren’t wasting your energy on the minor duties.

4. SCHEDULE TOUGHER TASKS DURING PEAK PERFORMANCE TIMES

Matchock said it best:

“Even scheduling difficult tasks during the late morning hours is better than early morning for night owls. I recommend the late morning before lunch or the very late afternoon, since there can be a drop in alertness, body temperature, and glucose levels after eating a large meal—what we call the “postprandial dip”—making the early afternoon tricky.”

5. BRING SOME WORK HOME (SORRY!)

You probably just glared at the computer screen after reading this. Unfortunately, most night owls find that they really do their best work after 7 pm. So if you want to turn in your best, that would be the time you should aim for. You don’t have to take all of your work home, just the items that would bog you down during the day!

6. ASK FOR A LATER START TIME OR EVEN WORK-FROM-HOME DAYS

If you’re lucky, you may be able to work something out with management to be able to start later in the day or even just telecommute. Matchock stated:

“Rather than fighting biology to match occupational time, we can change occupational time to match biology.”

Don’t be afraid to ask! A surprising amount of companies are starting to jump on board the telecommuting train.

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Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea transplanted from Illinois to South Carolina. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her dog and her family. Alyssa is very active on social media. She has been part of the AccelaWork team since 2013.
Alyssa Shea

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  • robbyslaughter

    Great post, Alyssa!

    I too am a night owl. I love getting things done in the late afternoon and early evening, and even just past midnight.

    I find this is a great time for work like researching or writing that takes a lot of concentration with minimal distractions.

    Thanks for sharing!