The Early Bird Gets It Done: Does When You Wake Up Affect Your Productivity?

alarm clock
I have noticed that I am more productive on days when I wake up early (5am) than I am on days when I “sleep in,” which for me means 7-8am. It’s decadent to lie in bed and pull out a book – or to be honest my cell phone – and aimlessly scroll through my Twitter feed, then bounce to Instagram, then to email. Before I know it an hour has gone by, and I am still in bed, and I feel like a slug most of the rest of the day.

I justify this by telling myself, “Everyone needs unstructured time” and “I don’t have any place I have to be – I need  sleep!” Yet, I notice on the days that start off without a wake up plan I am almost always regretfully unproductive.

The Best Part of Waking Up

On the days when I wake up at 5am, I head out to exercise with my running or biking group. There is a deadline – a meeting time – so I have to be on time. This means I pop out of bed and get going without distraction. Usually, when I get home, I shower, eat breakfast, walk my dog and meditate before starting my work day plans. However, on the days when I don’t have a plan, I often waste time on the internet and email, and before I know it two hours have passed and I haven’t showered or done any of my “pre-work day” tasks.

I love the feeling of waking up early, and it increases my chances of being productive. I am a “morning person,” and it feels good to me to get a jump start on the day. But does that mean that waking up early causes productivity? No.

Make a Plan

Night Owl or Early Bird – the key to productivity is not when you wake up (although the amount of sleep you get is important!). The key is having a plan and a routine to your day and sticking to it. For me, planning to wake early, exercise and do all of my routine things so that I can be focused at my desk by 9am feels good. When I feel good about myself and when I feel in control of my day, I am more productive.

So whether you wake up at 5am or 11am, you should have a plan for how you start your day, and then for how the day should unfold. The key is planning, not what time you wake up.

The key to productivity is planning.

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