Go to Bed, Young Man!

On Productivity

Someday, when I’m rich and famous and oh-so-successful, I imagine some interviewer is going to ask me a question along the lines of “What’s your secret to success?” or maybe it’ll be “Do you have any advice for those who want to be successful?” or something similar.

And I will of course reply, “Why, yes, I do have an answer to your question,” which will be followed by this golden nugget of wisdom:


Seriously. So much of my day is determined by when I went to bed the night before. And it doesn’t even have much to do with the amount of sleep I get.

Consider: for the first few weeks of almost any break from school, I tend to maintain my “end-of-school-freaking-out-now” sleep schedule (which puts bedtime around 2 a.m. with a standard deviation of about one hour). But I cannot for the life of me keep up with whatever waking schedule I may have had during the school year. So I’ll worm my way out of bed around 10, 11, noon, whatever. Noon is usually the latest, but I’ve gotten up at 1 or 2 pm before, hasn’t everyone?

Anyway. This destroys my chances for getting anything done that day.

I mean, think about it, you get up and the sun has passed its zenith, most everyone around you is about to hit their afternoon slump, and whatever plans you made for the morning (if, indeed, you made any) feel unattainable because you budgeted a WHOLE day for whatever-it-is, not HALF.

And even though you went to bed last night at 2 am, and are thus running on 8+ hours of sleep (PLENTY of sleep, people, almost too much for a workday), you don’t think of your day in terms of “10 to 2” or whatever. NO. Nine to five. Just like the song says.

(Actually, come to think of it, nine o’clock is a generously late starting time. I don’t think I would ever get anything done if I was forced to wait until nine o’clock to get started. But whatever.)

So you tell yourself, “It’s fine. The day’s  wash. But I’ll do better tomorrow.” You promise yourself that you’ll go to sleep at midnight, or eleven, or whatever other reasonable time you think will give you enough fuel to get up at eight, or seven, or whatever other arbitrary time you set for your day to begin.

But, of course, it doesn’t happen. You find yourself trying to fit all the fun stuff you were hoping to do today into half a day (or maybe you just putter around on the internet for twelve hours [don’t lie, you know you’ve done it]) and then you finally look up at the clock and realize “omygosh, it’s already ten/eleven/etc. o’clock, and I haven’t even checked my email/Facebook/Twitter/blog/webcomics/etc. I’ll just do that quick before bed.”

Four hours later.

“Yeah. I guess I’ll just go to bed now.”

Rinse. Repeat. Regret.

Now, I know there are a lot of folks who HAVE to get up in the morning because they have kids/jobs/etc. that don’t give them any other option. That’s great for them. But for little old nonparent unemployed me? Not gonna cut it if I want to get stuff done.

Actually, the bulk of what I’m talking about here is directed at the entrepreneurial (being defined here as “anybody who has to their own stuff done, instead of someone else’s”). The more and more I sink into this culture/lifestyle, the more I grow convinced that success in it is driven primarily by your consistent effort, as opposed to inconsistent effort — i.e. a routine.

A couple weeks ago, I started a daily routine, filled with various writing, reading, education, workout, meditation, and etc. goals. I had specific tasks, and a system for determining how much time to devote to each, and alarms and alerts and timers and everything. Glorious!

For about two days, my life was bliss. Productive bliss.

Then I was up until 2 am cleaning house after a game night. (I love my game nights, don’t get me wrong, I just need to be more responsible about scheduling them.) As you can probably guess by now, I woke up late the following day.

And…I moped around doing pretty much nothing (though I told myself I was “cleaning,” and “cooking,” and all kinds of other homey things) until about 4 pm, at which point I “got around to” starting my daily routine.

Yeah, it didn’t go very well.

That’s when I realized how much sleep affected my productivity.

Yeah, yeah, news flash and all that. But again, I’m not talking about AMOUNT of sleep. I’m talking about WHEN you sleep.

I’ve always known that I should get eight hours (or seven, or nine, or 4-5 cycles of 1.5 hours each, or whatever the new fad is) of sleep each night. And I always tried…yeah, “try” is a really weak word. Sigh.

Back on track. Amount of sleep is a significant factor in physical and mental health. I recognize that. I’ve almost always recognized that. But this was perhaps the first time that I recognized the impact that the time I went to bed at night had on the following day’s productivity.

Since this revelation, while I haven’t been perfect at it, I’ve had an explosion of productivity. I won’t go into all the details, but I have to say that getting up in the morning, seeing the sun hanging low in the sky where it’s marking the start of a new day, almost giving you permission to make new opportunities for yourself, well, that’s exciting.

I’ve always considered myself a nightowl. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to develop and maintain a schedule where I worked through the night and slept during the day. But after seeing the affect the sun has had on my productivity, I really have no choice — if I want to be successful in my various endeavors — other than to become a morning person.

You want to know how to be successful? Try getting up in the morning. It might help. 😉


One thought on “Go to Bed, Young Man!

  1. No matter what time I hit the sack, I’m up by 7. You’re right, we can pack so much into a day if we just stop farting around. Last Saturday, I managed 1400 words on my WIP, baked a cake, cooked a huge dinner, and drafted two blog posts–also, went to bed at 10. I can do it, and your post is further inspiration to just follow it up harder!! Early to bed–yes 🙂

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