How to design the ideal morning routine if you’re a night owl

You don't have to wake up early to get more done.

caption
You don’t have to wake up early to get more done.
source
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

  • Night owls might feel too intimidated (or tired) to design their own morning routine.
  • But productivity experts say morning routines can be beneficial even if it’s only a 10- or 20-minute add-on to your morning activities.
  • Start by identifying one habit you wish you had – writing, reading, meditating, and so on.

About a third of people are night owls. They have difficulty waking up early, can easily stay up at night, and find that they’re able to do their best work in the evening.

Understandably, they’re not able to mesh with the new societal expectation of waking up at 4 a.m. to read a novel, do marathon training, cook a three-course breakfast, and write a few poems.

Though night owls might hate the morning time, it’s important to make them at least a little enjoyable. Mornings set the tone for the rest of your day, Eric Barker, author of “The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong” told Business Insider.

And, according to productivity guru Laura Vanderkam, an ideal morning routine doesn’t need to be an hours-long, sunrise experience.

“It doesn’t have to happen at 5 a.m. to count as a morning routine,” Vanderkam, the author of several productivity and time management books including the forthcoming “Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done,” told Business Insider.

“It’s about having something that makes you feel like you started the day in a way you wish you started the day,” Vanderkam added.

Here’s how to design a morning routine that accommodates your night owl ways.


1. Ask yourself why you really can’t wake up

source
Kaewmanee jiangsihui/Shutterstock

Maybe you’re a night owl and you need the evening time to do your best work of the day.

But more likely, Vanderkam said, you’re spending your nights on Netflix, Instagram, or some other non-essential task.

Relaxation is important, of course. But, if you’re hoping to start reading or exercising more regularly, you shouldn’t spend your Tuesday night re-watching The Office for the umpteenth time until 2 a.m..

“Look at how you’re spending your time before sleep, and ask yourself, ‘Am I happy with that?'” Vanderkam told Business Insider. “If you are, awesome, but if you’re not, then go to bed a little bit earlier.”


2. Figure out one habit you want to add to your day

source
lithian/Shutterstock

Maybe you want to read more novels, meditate, or build arm strength. Don’t pick a habit that you think should be doing – find one that actually makes you excited.

“If you feel like this is just some dumb project, you’re not going to be terribly motivated,” Barker told Business Insider.

Being super-motivated is especially important for night owls. While they tend to be more creative than morning people, they also tend to be less intrinsically motivated, Barker said.


3. Set your alarm back by 10 to 20 minutes

source
Phalinn Ooi/flickr

If your morning routine has at least one meaningful activity, it’s a win. And that “doesn’t have to take three hours,” Vanderkam said.

If you want to add more exercise, don’t feel like you need to go on an hour-long run. Do the seven-minute workout. And while meditating for 30 minutes can be highly-beneficial, so can five minutes of silence.

Also, there’s a surprising benefit to being a little sleepy during your morning routine, Barker said. When we’re tired, we’re “fuzzy” in the head – therefore, more creative. Sort of like “write drunk, edit sober.”

“In the morning typically they are going to be more creative and less analytical,” Barker told Business Insider. They should ask themselves in the morning, “What are the creative problems that I need to solve first? Not the rigorous, logical tasks.”

So perhaps morning might be the best time for night owls to get started on that Pulitzer Prize-winning novel – or just writing a page in a journal for similar mental benefits.