If I have to define myself by my productivity tendency based on the time of day, I would have to say I am not a morning person.
I imagine my mother is nodding in agreement as she reads this article, as I didn’t make life easy for her while I was a teenager. Though I enjoyed school for the most part, I was not at my peak in the morning. I worked late into the night, managing an online community and customizing my BBS software (writing WordPress plugins would be the modern equivalent), making it difficult to concentrate in the morning.
The trend has continued. Here’s a peek at my current schedule. I work at my day job between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, with practically zero opportunity for responding to Consumerism Commentary email during that time. Between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, I handle administrative tasks for Consumerism Commentary, like responding to email, scheduling phone calls and interviews, occasionally recording the Podcast, and eating dinner. I write for Consumerism Commentary and other websites almost exclusively during my wheelhouse — between 9:00 pm and 2:00 am. I try to go to sleep no later than 2:00 am every night.
Ideas come to me during the night. Words flow. All I can explain from my own point of view is that my brain works better when the world (or at least my time zone and the few surrounding it) is asleep, even if my eyes begin to get glassy and my body tires.
Are you a morning person or a night owl? If the answer isn’t obvious to you, you can take this quiz, but I would assume that most adults can easily identify the time of day during which they function at their best without a test. I’m also willing to bet that almost all adults show a preference for one or the other.
There has been some scientific research lately on this topic, and the results show that eveningness — the idea that one’s brain operates optimally during the night — is correlated with higher intelligence measured at childhood. Genetics is partly to blame for this preference, and it can change with age. These charts illustrate the data nicely.
Not to be accused of writing this article with the purpose of declaring myself more intelligent because I work best late, I am quick to admit there are some downsides to being an evening person. From The Week:
Night owls tend to be less reliable, more emotionally unstable, and more likely to have problems with addictions and eating disorders, according to a 2008 study by psychologist Marina Giamnietro. They are also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, says Dutch psychiatrist Walter van den Broek… Another study found that undergrad “evening types” had lower GPAs than those who awake early in the morning.
There are some interesting conclusions I could draw.
- The stock market is open for trading only from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Eastern Time on most days. As I live in Eastern Time, the time for trading stocks corresponds to the time when my brain is not operating at its best capacity. I’d probably make a poor stock trader, or not as successful as I would be if the market were available during the night.
- If I were to stay in a corporate environment, I might be more successful if I weren’t tied to a 9:00 am to 5:00 pm routine. Shift work doesn’t appeal to me, however.
And a message to all who have tried to convert me from a night person to a morning person: you can stop now.
Updated March 13, 2011 and originally published November 15, 2010.