A successful entrepreneur I know recently posted on his Twitter account, “Why am I most productive after midnight?”
That prompted one of his Twitter followers to point the entrepreneur to an article that suggests people with high IQs stay up and sleep in later.
According to the news article in the Winnipeg Free Press, “Extensive research by Satoshi Kanazawa and colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science has uncovered significant differences in sleep-timing preferences among people, depending on their IQ scores.
“People with higher IQs are more apt to be nocturnal night owls. Those with lower IQs tend to restrict their activities primarily to daytime.”
According to Kanazawa, ancestral humans were most active during the day—presumably when they could see better to hunt and watch out for predators. He describes the shift towards more nocturnal activities as an “evolutionarily novel preference” requiring “a higher level of cognitive complexity.”
But if you’re reading this article at 1:00 a.m., don’t think that makes you something special. Italian research at the University of Bologna suggests that early-risers are comparatively more conscientious. A 2008 study by psychologist Marina Giamnietro indicates that evening types tend to be less reliable, less emotionally stable and more apt to suffer from depression, addictions and eating disorders than those who habitually wake up earlier.
My own experience is that if you’re trying to do complex, thoughtful or analytical work, there’s a simple reason why you may have more success at 11 p.m. than 11 a.m.—fewer distractions. Many studies indicate that people who try to do too many things at once tend to not do any of them well, and take longer doing them. If you’re trying to finish a complex report or proposal while the phone is ringing, emails are flying and subordinates are crying for your attention, it’s no wonder you’re not feeling productive.
Why not get that late-night feeling in the middle of the day? Close the door, shut off your Blackberry and ignore your email. You might just bag that sabre-toothed client you’ve been hunting for.