How to Get More Done Without Having to Wake Up Earlier

Too many performance hacks favour early birds. A productivity plan for night owls

Written by Joe Castaldo

The world is made for morning people. The typical 9-to-5 work schedule favours those who can wake up early and power through a mountain of tasks before the sun has barely risen, getting a head-start on the rest of us.

Articles and lists on how to boost your productivity also tend to emphasize the importance of mornings. The number one tip from this article about how to have a productive day, for example? Start the day early.

Not everyone is wired this way, though. Night owls hit their stride much, much later in the day and need to implement a different strategy to increase their productivity. Mike Vardy, a productivity expert and night owl in Victoria, published the Night Owl Action Plan for this very reason. “With proper planning, you can still get ahead and be proactive with the next day’s activites,” he says. Here’s how.

Embrace your inner night owl

Night owls are able to wake up early if they have to—it’s actually easier for them than it is for early birds to push past their bed times. But that still means night owls would be fighting their bodies’ natural instinct. “With so much out there about the importance of getting up early and attacking the day, it pushes people to fight their natural rhythms, and that’s a problem,” Vardy says.

Forcing yourself to wake up early all the time could just be a recipe for feeling drained later in the day. Instead, make being a night owl work for you.

Establish an evening routine

Since night owls can stay up late, they will. Sometimes they have a harder time shutting down for the day. “When it’s time to go to bed, you need to literally go to bed,” Vardy says. His evening routine helps him do that. He writes down three major tasks to accomplish for the next day, writes a journal entry, and closes the door to his office. That last step is important, since it serves as a physical reminder that it’s time to stop working. Before he started shutting his door, he found himself getting sucked back into working when he really needed to unwind.

Schedule activities based on your energy levels

Night owls are not as mentally alert or focused in the morning as they are later in the day. That’s why it’s best to schedule easy or repetitive tasks for the morning—administrative work or answering emails, for example—and save the big tasks that require more attention for later. Night owls might consider saving creative work or problem-solving for their off-hours. Research has shown that both night owls and early birds arrive at creative solutions when experiencing a bit of mental fatigue.

Have a detailed plan for the next day

Planning based on energy levels might not be enough for some people, and a more detailed plan is required. This is especially important for night owls, who are more prone to grogginess and mental fog in the mornings. It’s easy to waste time or get side-tracked by others when in that state. That’s why the night before, Vardy writes down three tasks to tackle when he wakes up. “You really want to make sure you’re able to plan the night before, so that you’re able to get up and go,” he says.


Are you an early bird or a night owl? How do you use that to make yourself more productive? Share your strategies and tips using the comments section below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com