Here’s a thought: maybe you CAN have a successful morning routine even if you don’t get up at the crack of dawn.

My creative night owls: this post is for you.

Here’s a video if you’d prefer to watch instead of read:

The Morning Routine message

I am NOT a morning person, and if you’re reading this post maybe you’re not a morning person either.

One of the things that really burns my butt is all this messaging around morning routines. There is a pervasive message that you must get up at a certain time (the middle of the night, really) and do certain things for your morning routine to be considered “successful.”

Deeper than this, there is the underlying message that if you just don’t do mornings, that there is something wrong with you. So, by extension, if you have a successful morning routine you are of more value to society than someone who doesn’t. Ugh.

Morning vs evening productivity: which is “better”?

“I get up at 5am and run 10k and meditate and do 5 loads of laundry and 15 sun salutations and clean the house before my family starts to stir.” (Fictitious “perfect” person here, definitely not this author.)

But what about the people who run 10k and meditate and do 5 loads of laundry and 15 sun salutations and clean the house after the kids go to bed? They stay up until 2am to do it, and because of this they can’t (or more importantly, shouldn’t) get up at the crack of dawn.

The output is the same, but society views the two scenarios very differently.

“Early” vs. “Late”

Think about these words, “early” and “late”. They come with some baggage.

The word “early” comes with the suggestion that we are getting ahead of the game, whatever that game might be. We are being proactive, looking ahead to what is coming and adjusting our actions accordingly.

We have all heard, “The Early Bird gets the worm.” The implication is obvious. Those who get up early and do as many things as possible are those who reap the most rewards.

Conversely, we often associate the word “late” with missing out, or losing opportunities to those aforementioned “early birds”.

Even if we fall into the category of people who do their most productive work late into the night, society generally views us as being behind in “the game”.

Sleeping “late” implies we don’t have our sh*t together enough to haul our butts out of bed.

Staying up “late” means we don’t have the discipline to shut down and go to bed at “a decent hour” like everyone else.

The word “late” is a huge problem.

There is NOTHING wrong with you!

My Creative Night Owl friends, there is nothing wrong with you.

What is wrong here? The messaging is wrong. The idea that doing the same amount of work but at a different time on the clock is wrong. The implication that getting up early means you’re more of a value to society than those who toil late into the evening… is wrong.

But you? There’s not a damn thing wrong with you.

Why “late” work is awesome

I’ve been writing about the phenomenon of “flow” a lot lately. This is when you fall into a state of deep focus on whatever you’re doing, so the time passes without you noticing and progress feels effortless. It’s that magical state that you don’t realize you’re in until you’re not.

Those of us who are real night owls find this deep, dark night time to be the best time to fall into flow. We just prefer it that way.

My favourite time to my deepest work is between 11pm and 1am. It’s quiet, and no one expects you to be available to answer emails or messages or whatever. It’s time that you can justify just for you. I get my very best, most creative and most productive work done during that time, partly because it’s quiet.

There’s a bit more to it though, I think. This is also a time when you’ve had the opportunity to put things away for the day. You’ve cleaned the kitchen and tidied up, and closed the open loops from the day. This allows you a feeling of, “Ok, now I can do this thing that I want to do.” There’s a freedom here.

Early Birds vs Night Owls: we’re just wired differently

Of course the early morning hours are quiet too. At 5am no one expects you to be answering emails or messages either. People who are not true night owls would argue that you can do the same kind of work early in the morning for this exact reason.

But it does deeper than that. It’s not that night owls can’t get up early to work in the morning (because we totally can – keep reading), it’s that we prefer to work at night. Our brains fire faster at night, things come more easily to us then. We are more likely to fall into flow at night.

We love working at night. It’s not that we can’t work in the morning, it’s that we prefer night because it just works better for us.

Staying up “too late”

If you’ve made it this far I hope you understand that working late at night is just as good as working early in the morning. If you get the work done, great, if you love doing it at night, great! Whether you work best at night or in the morning really makes no difference, and it’s no one’s dang business anyway.

However, there is something to consider here, and this is where some of the tension and shame comes from.

The problem is: if you stay up late doing your best work, this often causes difficulties in getting up in the morning.

When you work late at night you have the freedom to work until you’re done working. We know what happens though, right? We stay up “too late”.

“Too late” really just means that our bedtime gets in the way of us getting the sleep we need. How much sleep we need is individual, of course. But we all have time-sensitive morning commitments.

Bedtime Procrastination and the problem of adulting

Those of us who love to stay up late know we’re not always working late. Sometimes we stay up late taking “me time”, which is a crucial component of regular self care. So many of us fall prey to binge-watching a full season of Schitt’s Creek or taking advantage of unlimited lives on Candy Crush (I might be speaking from personal experience here).

Again, there is nothing wrong with this. The problem is we need to get certain things done in the morning by a certain time.

Everyone has a non-negotiable panic wake-up time, that time that, if you miss waking up by this time, causes further problems later in the day. Maybe you end up late for work, or your kids miss the bus, or you don’t get the lunches done or whatever.

Yes, the problem is adulting. We have responsibilities, and some of these responsibilities are time-connected. It just so happens that much of this adulting stuff is connected to schedules that support early-morning starts, and leave we night owls groggy, grumpy, and maybe a little behind.

We still need to get up and do the adulting things. This is likely the biggest challenge facing night owls.

Three myths around having a morning routine

There are so many preconceived notions about having a morning routine, and a lot of those notions are directly tied to this culture of shame towards night owls. Let’s dig in a little.

Myth: #1 You have to be a morning person to have a morning routine.

That is a total load of baloney. People who are grumpy in the morning can totally have a morning routine, and a kick-a** one too. I’m one of those people.

Myth #2: You have to get up at the crack of dawn to do your routine, otherwise don’t bother.

This is also total cr*p. If you get your butt out of bed and do things in the morning that you want to do, then you have a morning routine. It doesn’t matter when you do it.

Myth #3: My schedule always changes so I can’t have a consistent morning routine.

Says who? Where is the morning-routine user manual that says your routine must be tied to the same times every day? The routine can be a series of steps, done one by one, in an order that makes sense for you.

Do you like to sleep later on the weekends? Me too. There’s no reason your morning routine can’t follow you through the weekend. Mine does.

Do you work shifts? Your morning routine doesn’t have to be done in the morning. You can do a morning routine any time it suits your schedule.

How can I create a morning routine if mornings are really hard?

Easy. Automate as much as possible.

Ok, the answer is easy, but the implementation is a little more complicated.

In fact, this will be the subject of next week’s blog, so be sure to come back and read about automations for successful morning routines.

Is there hope for me?

Gosh, yes. Remember the following:

  • There is nothing wrong with you if you like to stay up late
  • Any work is good work as long as long as it gets done
  • Whether you do your best work at night or in the morning is no one’s dang business
  • You can have a successful morning routine, even if you hate getting up in the morning

Tune in next week to find out the big secret to getting your Night Owl butt out of bed in the morning. If that’s what you want to do, of course.

Useful blog links and resource

I have written some posts that are related to some of the content in today’s missive. Here are some posts for further reading if you’re interested:

Also, if you closed the pop-up on this page while you were reading, you may want to grab that freebie. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you manage bedtime procrastination, and it’s related to last week’s blog post. Grab it here if you missed it.

And remember to come back next week for some help with morning automation.

What’s your biggest challenge with creating an effective morning routine?

Post below so we can learn from each other.