If you get up earlier in the morning to do work, obviously you’re introducing more time to get things done.
But there’s something more.
It feels good.
You feel good.
You feel like you’ve done something creditable.
This goes beyond the actual work done and becomes something about the positive feeling it creates.
Spurred on by the book The Miracle Morning, a friend of mine is waking up at 5am every morning to do the activities suggested in the Miracle Morning (which include visualization, affirmations and exercise).
(For the record, apparently the book does not specifically suggest waking at 5am to do this, but obviously to fit more activities in to your morning schedule, you do need to wake earlier).
Waking up at 5am and starting off your day this way sounds like the perfect routine for getting things done.
But is it?
It depends on what your goal is.
My friend’s experience is interesting. He’s waking up at 5am and getting a lot more done than previously.
But at the same time, he’s exhausted by 7pm. I spoke to him the other day at 7.30pm and he was half-asleep.
He’s paying for the early starts by less time awake in the evenings.
And this then comes down to your priorities.
Do you mind being asleep or half-asleep at 8pm?
For me personally, that wouldn’t be acceptable.
Just because it feels good, doesn’t make it right
At this point it’s worth talking about the book the Productivity Project by Chris Bailey.
Bailey had a similar experience of trying to wake early and finding that on balance it wasn’t worth it. He just became more and more run down over time.
There is a great line from his book, worth repeating over and over again:
“Just because you feel productive, it doesn’t mean you are”
Are you getting more done?
I feel productive and virtuous when I wake early in the morning and start working.
But I feel the same feeling, when I stay late at work too.
As this infographic shows, if I work 8am till 6pm, I feel like it’s a normal day. No warm glow of satisfaction at the end of that.
But if I work till 10pm, regardless of whether I took 5 hours off in the middle of the day, I feel like I’m more hard-working and have been extra productive.
Note, in the second scenario, I’ve actually worked fewer hours. But it is that feeling of staying late that makes me feel more productive.
I’ve noticed this tendency to equate working late with hard work in other people too. At a clinic I worked at a few years ago, there were people who convinced themselves they worked hard because they didn’t leave work till 7pm (as opposed to their usual knock-off time of 5.30pm), even though all they were doing at that time was surfing the net.
What Tasks Are You Doing?
I find that the later I stay at work, the lower the quality of tasks I work on.
It’s very rarely that I will be producing content of any quality at 10pm.
And if you’re waking early, what are you using the time for?
For instance in the Miracle Morning, two of the suggested activities are affirmations and visualisations. There is evidence that both of these can actually be counter-productive for goal-achievement.
So, if you’re waking up early and devoting time to things that don’t work, is this the best use of your time? Is it better than getting a few extra minutes of sleep? Or being awake enough to spend time with friends or family in the evenings?
- We are all brainwashed into thinking that waking early is the ultimate sign of a productive person. It may help. But equally it might be the worst thing you do.
- Don’t assume that just because something feels virtuous that it is good for you (or productive).
- Be clear on the implications of any changes in your schedule. Be on the lookout for all the consequences, positive and negative.
- If you’re starting early or working late, make sure that you’re using the time in the best way possible.