The Early Bird Catches The Worm

Our world is definitely skewed towards early risers. Work starts early in the morning for most people, and aren't there about a million expressions that equate to the early bird catches the worm?

I have never, ever liked getting out of bed in the morning. And for years I have pined after the dream of springing from under the covers with energy, excited to face the day. I've definitely come to terms with the fact that this will never happen. I've even read a whole book on chronotypes, hoping for some insight into how I could change my natural bio rhythm in some way. No chance.

Whatever your chronotype, whether it's a lark or owl, you're stuck. The good news is that the world is set in a normal distribution, meaning that very early larks or really late night owls are rare. But if you tend to be one of those people who sleeps in a little bit later on the weekend, you lean towards the owl side of things, and spend your weekdays living with "social" jet lag.

I'm not a really late person, but whenever I am on holiday I find myself staying up later and sleeping in later, until going back to work is exactly like having jet lag. I long for the day when I can set my own work and leisure schedule and get up at a time when I just wake up naturally. But let's face it, this situation is incredibly hard to come by. And it must be even worse for people who have kids. I really don't know how you do it.

But why is this so important to me now?

One of my goals for the year is to get into the daily writing habit. I've had a lot of success with writing first thing in the morning on the weekends, which is how I wrote the first draft of a book last year.

The problem is that when something goes wrong one week, like maybe I need to do my (paid) work on the weekends, that substantially affects my word count for the week.

I've experimented with writing after work, even for 30 minutes before bed, but it never seems to take hold. I'm just too mentally exhausted from the day. Or I'm out and about and don't really have time when I get home.

I realize that although I'm not a morning person, the reason writing first thing on the weekends works for me is that no matter what time I get up, it's the first thing I do (if you're curious, it varies, but on weekends I get up between 8 and 9, and am always writing by 9 if not earlier).

If it's done first thing it's a priority -- it's that simple. It's much harder for the day to get away from you, for unexpected things to crop up, or for someone to invite you out for a drink, for example (and clearly, I have a hard time saying no to this as the day progresses). I try to hit the most important (and usually hardest) thing at work first too. Doesn't always happen, but on the days it does I just feel so much more productive.

This brings us to weekday mornings. Is it possible that I could get writing before work?

For weeks last summer I tried. I really did. I even committed to texting my friend when I woke up, thinking this would do the trick. And it worked for a few days at a time, but then I would oversleep after a few successful days.

But I'm going to try again. And if it means getting into work slightly later, so be it. Luckily I have some flexibility with the hours I work.

What I'm hoping will make a difference this time is that I'm going to start with the bar very low. If I only write one day a week before work I will call it a success. And I'm not starting with Monday, but with Friday. Because then I can't say, "Oh, it's O.K., I'll just get up early tomorrow."

Yesterday -- on the first Friday -- I managed it. It was not a roaring success. I wrote 198 words in 30 minutes, contrasted with the 1,676 words I wrote in two hours this morning. Since you probably don't want to do the math yourself, this was 6.6 words a minute, compared with 9.3. So about 30% less efficient at 6.30 in the morning then when starting closer to 9 a.m.

The quality of those words? Now that's a harder analysis to do. But with first drafts does it really matter?

I'll keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime, let me know if you have ever tried to do the most important thing in the morning. And also, of course, if you're an owl or a lark!

Photo credit: Horned Lark, Fresno Cty, CA, 2005_03_25 (4 of 5).jpg via photopin (license)
Photo credit: Whoooo via photopin (license)

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