“The early bird catches the worm.”
Even as a child, this saying was ingrained in my head a hundred times. By my mom, who had to coax me awake (almost always strongly) at 5 am to prepare for school. And later, our society, whose definition of successful people are those who are awake by 4 in the morning.
Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his day at 3:45 am. Best-selling author Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code) says he wakes up at 4 am with a smoothie and a cup of coffee. While Michelle Gass, CEO of Kohl’s department stores, has her alarm set every 4:30 am to start her day with a morning run.
All of these examples suggest that starting the day early is a habit many of the world’s most successful people have.
Inc.com explored this when they published their article, “5 Morning Rituals to Boost Your Productivity.”
They must have expected a different kind of response.
But it caused Twitter to go on a field day for to a different reason.
Bestselling author JK Rowling (who happens to the be one of the most successful people out there, herself) retweeted it with the most relatable response:
Oh, piss off. https://t.co/DohNNW2Fcp
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 17, 2018
And quite a few people wholeheartedly expressed the same sentiment. With over 500,000 likes and 5,000 comments, clearly not everyone is inclined to wake up before dawn to chase success.
And some replies, for night owls like me, really struck a hilarious chord.
The world's most interesting people go to bed at 4am.
— Greg Gilbert (@GregDelays) December 17, 2018
It’s all a good laugh, but does it necessarily ring true?
Do you have to be an early riser to be successful?
Clearly, many people thrive from waking up early.
But the reality is, it’s not for everyone.
And it doesn’t have to be.
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant sums it up perfectly.
“The world’s most successful people aren’t worried about what time others wake up. They wake and work on the schedule that works for them.”
What may work best for early risers might not necessarily work well for you. Because what time you start your day has got nothing to do with your level of success.
It’s all about what you accomplish and how you accomplish it – it won’t make a difference if you do it an hour or two earlier or later.
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Waking up early has nothing to do with success.
How you wake up matters – not how early you do. Because how you feel and how you start your mornings sets the tone for the rest of your day.
What if you choose to wake up at 10 am? Does this mean you’ll lose your chance of becoming a billionaire?
All of these articles, videos, and self-help books advocating the effect of waking up early and how it increases your productivity misses out the point in one important area:
Not everyone’s productivity and energy levels peak in the morning.
Even a lot of the most successful people in the world wake up a little later than usual. Take a look:
- Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, goes to bed at 1 am and wakes up whenever he wants.
- Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s alarm clock rings at 8:30 am.
- Iconic former English Prime Minister Winston Churchill didn’t go out of bed until 11 am.
- Alexis Ohanian, a Reddit founder, sleeps around 2 am and “tries” to wake up by10 in the morning.
Which is better? Be an early bird or a night owl? Let’s see what science says.
There’s been a spectacularly wide selection of research about the difference between early risers and night owls.
And science agrees that we all have different circadian rhythms that determine our sleep-wake cycles. These rhythms can even be influenced by genetics.
But since it’s “trendy” to be an early bird, we’ve all been told of the amazing benefits of waking up early.
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For a change, let’s talk about how night owls can be successful too.
There are also some studies exploring the positive benefits of being a night owl. Here’s what science found.
1. Night owls are even smarter.
Satoshi Kanazawa’s research on whether or not our earlier ancestors’ working culture depended on rising early shed light on two things:
(1) There’s no evidence that suggests our ancestors took stock on waking up early. This means that our late-night tendencies are evolutionarily normal. And if The Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis (a theory that suggests “that more intelligent individuals are more likely than less intelligent individuals to acquire and espouse evolutionary novel preferences”) is worth believing, then it means that night owls are more intelligent than early birds.
(2) When Kanazawa interviewed a large group of young Americans, he discovered that the higher their IQ, the later they tend to sleep.
2. Night owls are richer.
This interesting study in the UK was conducted in an effort to determine if it’s true that “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Out of the 1229 people who participated, 26% were night owls compared to the 29 % that are early birds.
Interestingly enough, they found that the saying was not completely true.
“There was no indication that larks were richer than those with other sleeping patterns. On the contrary, owls had the largest mean income and were more likely to have access to a car.”
3. They’re more creative.
JK Rowling obviously is a night owl and you can’t deny that she’s creative. So it’s not unbelievable that night owls are more creative than early birds.
According to another study published by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, among those who rose in the morning, night and in between, the night owls had the highest scores on creative tests.
So in the end, what does this all mean?
Simple: time doesn’t matter as much as your routine does.
What you need, is to recognize when your creativity peaks and schedule your routine around it.
Because why would you wake up at 4 am when you work best late at night?
It’s unnecessary to force yourself to wake up early and work through unproductive hours when you could use that time to rest. Having better sleep is more important than starting your day wrong.
Not only will your body suffer, but your work will, too. So do what is best for you.