How to Be a Night Owl and Still Be Productive

Some people work best long after everyone else has gone to bed

You’ve heard the saying’ the early bird catches the worm? Is it true, perhaps? The early birds are the larks of life. But they’re not the only type of bird we talk about in time management and productivity. You maybe a night owl. These birds do their best work long after everyone else has gone to bed and are snuggled up in duvet land. Night owls sometimes get a bad reputation for being lazy because given the chance they will also sleep in. However, for some people those late-night hours can be some of the best for getting meaningful work accomplished.

If you’re a night owl use the following tips to use the late evening hours to your advantage:

  1. Get enough sleep, but don’t overdo it. Just because you went to bed at 2:00 a.m. doesn’t mean you can sleep until noon. Too much sleep will leave you groggy and much less ineffective for the first few hours you’re awake. Too little sleep is also detrimental. Sleep studies have shown that everyone does better on seven hours of sleep than they do on six or less. Everyone.
  2. Consider a nap. No matter when you go to bed, there is a point during the day when your alertness takes a nosedive. For those that work a typical 8-5 job, that low point is around 2:00 p.m. Depending on when you go to sleep and wake up, your low point will vary. If possible, this is the perfect time to take a 30 to 60-minute nap if possible.
  3. Start your day with routine. Late risers still need a morning routine to get the day off on the right foot. Create a routine that gets you started and prepares you for a productive evening.
  4. Be prepared for the morning. When you’d still like to sleep for a few more hours, the rest of the world is getting busy. Cars are driving up and down the street. Your spouse or roommates are making noise. The phone starts ringing. Not to mention that at certain times of the year the sun is intent on lighting up the world. Be prepared for these things. Turn your phone off. Get blinds and thick curtains for the windows. Consider the use of ear plugs or a white-noise generator.
  5. Use your time productively. There’s no point to staying up late if you don’t use the time productively. The early morning and late night hours have the fewest distractions. As a night owl, use the later hours for your creative work and enjoy the peace and quiet. Get your more mundane work, like returning phone calls and answering emails, done during the active parts of the day.
  6. Have a definite end time? It can be tough to stop when it’s 4:00 a.m., and the creative juices are still flowing. Consider what happens to the following day if you stay up too late. Your sleep cycle is disturbed, and your day is off-schedule. Have a set time where you call it a night and go to bed.
  7. Have a set wake-up time, too? Night owls tend to be long, undisciplined sleepers. This is a mistake and lowers your effectiveness. An evening routine can also be helpful. It can be hard to unwind and go to sleep after working furiously for a few hours. Avoid allowing work to be the last thing you do before going to bed. Spend at least 30 minutes unwinding. Listen to peaceful music, read, or watch a little television.

Not everyone is cutout to be an early riser. Some of the most amazing people in history cofess to being a night owl. Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, Barack Obama, and Voltaire are just a few examples. Productive night owls are rarer than productive early birds. However, some people do their best work later in the evening.

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Till Next Time

Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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6 thoughts on “How to Be a Night Owl and Still Be Productive

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head Mike! Point #5 – your statement on using time productively is so applicable to many night owls (myself included). Thanks!

  2. Mike, there are times when I go into night owl mode which is a struggle when the mornings are my normal productive times.

    Some great tips for when this happens to me.


  3. Great post Mike, as more of a Night Owl, than an Early Riser, I truly resonated with a LOT of this! Love how you suggested having a time to go to bed and being much more organised, makes a lot of sense to me. I have started to do this, and it is allowing me thankfully to be more productive and focussed, so thanks so much! You are the Time Doctor, for day and night!! 🙂