Discover more from Terri Lonier’s Working Solo
Can a night owl turn into an early bird?
For the last two weeks, I’ve abandoned my night-owl tendency to get up at dawn to work and write. What have I learned? And would it work for you?
For years I heard glowing reports of the joy of waking up at dawn to enjoy the quiet solitude and get so. much. work. done.
Hah, I thought, the only way I see dawn is if it’s the end of a very long night.
I’ve been a night owl since my college days. I’d stay up late to finish art projects, getting in the groove after dinner and cruising through the evening hours. I remember many evenings convincing the security guard to close up the rest of the art building and then come back to me as the last person to leave.
This continued through my early freelance years, since I had control of my time and could work a schedule around my own preferences.
Throughout those years, I reveled in the late-night hours, championing legendary pre-dawn workers like artist Louise Nevelson, who allegedly roamed the streets of New York City at 4 a.m. scavenging for materials to use in her artwork.
Switching the clock
More recently, I found myself spending late-night hours catching up on social media, scrolling through multiple platforms to admire friends’ accomplishments, or laugh at their silly antics. Soon midnight was far behind me, and the bedside light would finally go off.
Over the last few months, I’ve been deep in building mode, putting together my next project, my Solo Business School. Creating this collection of 3-minute audio and text playbooks for solopreneurs requires focused writing and attention. It needed energy that I could no longer rally at the end of a long day.
So two weeks ago, I switched my work clock. My days now end by 10 p.m., and I get up at 6. With a quick start to the day, I’m at my desk and able to get at least two solid hours of writing done. Over a week, that’s comparable to an entire extra day of quality work.
Now, I readily admit that 6 a.m. is not really “early” for many folks. And I’m sure dogmatic “Morning People,” especially those advocating ice plunges and other abrupt awakenings, would call me wimpy. But stumbling out of bed at 6 a.m. is earlier than I’ve been up in years, unless it was to catch an early flight at O’Hare.
Beware the distractions
What have I learned in just two weeks?
First, don’t squander the precious early hours. No email, no digital meandering. Definitely no checking social media.
Get in the zone. I pop in my AirPods (we live in a building where noise travels) and put on my favorite Spotify playlist that I have designated as “writing music.” It’s a lyric-free collection, so I’m not tempted to sing along.
Listening to the same music every morning has programmed my brain to automatically enter a focused work state.
Set the day’s agenda the night before. As my work day ends (or as a last resort, before my head hits the pillow), I make a list of the tasks I want to tackle the next day. I put a star next to the task that will move my #1 priority forward. That’s where my focused energy will be best put to use.
Pace yourself. I’ve discovered I can go for about 2 hours, then I need to get up, stretch, and maybe have a light breakfast. I’m not a coffee drinker, so your mileage may vary, especially regarding caffeine.
Sleep really makes a difference. To get up at 6 a.m. means I need to end my day much earlier than before. My screen time has been cut, but I don’t miss it. We often hear about the benefits of sleep, but I had forgotten how much a good night’s sleep can impact the rest of your life. When you’re rested, everything in your day goes better.
The sustainability question
Will this early-bird routine last—and would it work for you? Like every part of a solopreneur’s life, I think it’s a matter of experimenting. I’m only 2 weeks in and may find these early hours to be unsustainable.
Or, this could be the start of a wave of new-found productivity. (And there’s always the possibility that the positive feelings could be just from extra sleep.)
Whether it may work for you, of course, depends upon your lifestyle, environment, and personal choice.
But as someone who has always considered herself to be a tried-and-true night owl, I find myself delightfully surprised. Perhaps you will, too.
Update: I’m posting M-F on LinkedIn these days if you want to follow along for more Working Solo news and insights. I’ve been experimenting with visuals and summarizing classic business books, adapted for solopreneurs. Last week was Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
Thanks for being a reader. See you next week, as we share this grand adventure of working solo.
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