How to… Survive Mornings if You’re a Night Owl

Friday’s post entitled Confessions of a Night Owl hopefully illuminated the perspective of individuals who struggle to function well in the morning. Today’s post looks toward helping night owls successfully live in an early-bird society.

A Guide Navigating Mornings Successfully2-25-13 navigate

Over the years, many techniques have increased my ability to become a morning person. Yet, no matter how much effort I put forth, being a morning person has yet to become easy or natural for me. Because of my physical makeup, mornings will always be more of a struggle for me than the rest of the day. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive and positive before 10:00AM.

The following suggestions have developed over many years of trial and error. Keep in mind that these suggestions work best for individuals adhering to healthy lifestyle principles. Also keep in mind the importance of individualizing your approach.

  1. Get thinking, but do it gently. For me, this means reading scripture, checking the weather, and drinking something warm. Find simple warm-ups that gently coax your brain toward action.
  2. Do what works. A warm drink, sometimes green tea and sometimes coffee, exists as an essential part of the first ½ hour of my morning. While I don’t like depending on caffeine, sometimes it is necessary for the sake of relationships. Oh yeah, I brush my teeth right away too. Just better for everyone that way.
  3. Don’t make decisions. When I worked outside of the home, I prepared everything the night before. This meant the coffee was ready, my briefcase was ready, my clothes were laid out, and my lunch was packed. Now, I make sure my boys have everything ready for the next school day before they go to bed. They also need to do any “asking” the night before too. No requesting extras the next morning. The fewer decisions to make in the morning, the smoother the morning.
  4. Don’t think about the day ahead. This means I just do what’s next in my routine, knowing that the prep work for the day is already done.
  5. Say as little as possible. For some reason, my tone is either sarcastic or nagging before 10:00AM without great effort on my part to sound otherwise. Even with great effort, I usually sound slightly irritated anyway. So, I simply say as little as possible in the morning. I listen, I hug, and I say goodbye. All are happier that way.

My kids and husband – who are all morning people, by the way – know that I struggle in the morning, and they do their very best to not push my very sensitive buttons. I promise to try not to scowl, and they promise to try to keep to the routine.

As I reflect over my life, I am thankful that my morning personality has gotten gradually friendlier. But, I also realize that the struggle for this to happen really has not gone away, lessened a bit perhaps but not gone.

Establishing a solid routine and developing positive habits can allow the night owls in this world to function and even be productive in the morning, and, dare I say it, even have positive conversations before 10:00AM.

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DISCUSSION: How does growing outside of our natural tendencies help our relationships? Why is struggling in these ways important for connection?

Related Reading: Please read the excellent article entitled “How to Become a Morning Person” by Michael Hyatt at Intentional leadership. He also has a podcast on a related topic entitled “Become More Productive by Reengineering Your morning Ritual.”

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Confessions of a Night Owl

The Ugly Truth

2-22-13 sun and coffeeThe ugly truth hit me about 15 years ago while working as a dispatcher for a local sewer and drain company. One day, I realized that none of the service guys came through the door to the office before 10:00AM on Saturday mornings. The only exception was when I had a job for someone, but even then they just stuck their head and hand in far enough to get the slip of paper. I finally realized that my morning demeanor may have something to do with this odd behavior, since when I worked evenings the guys were always quite chatty with me while waiting to leave on a job.

I then realized that maybe my mom brought me coffee in the morning starting when I was 13 and through high school not solely because she was nice (and a great mom) but because I wasn’t so nice in the morning.

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place when I realized that my marriage was void of morning conversation for the most part. My husband, an all-day person, intelligently steered clear of me before 10:00AM.

I used to believe that people just naturally chewed louder in the morning but have come to realize that my sensitivity to just about every sound and activity sits at full throttle before 10:00AM.

I also used to believe that changing my demeanor in the morning would be a raising-the-dead type of miracle but have since come to realize that while I won’t ever be a true morning person without that miracle, mornings don’t have to be dreaded by myself as well as everyone near me.

Not Entirely My Fault2-22-13 owl

Turns out, research supports the idea that the blame for me not being a morning person lays at least partially in the way my body works. In fact, research indicates that “neuronal excitability” starts low and increases for night people. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that whatever it is that allows me to think clearly definitely increases as the day goes by.

Also turns out that our alertness tendencies fit within the descriptions of certain animals. Apparently, I am an owlish hummingbird, a night owl who has learned to function otherwise.

What the science means to me (the article I read is listed at the bottom of this post) is that my body and brain work increasingly better as the day goes on, which is why my productivity increases and my physical ease of movement improves significantly as evening approaches. In other words, I run better in the evening and my ideas flow better in the afternoon and evening.

BUT, while my physical makeup naturally works against me being a morning person, my personal habits fired the loaded gun. This means, that changing my habits held the ability to at least make me more of a morning person, which certainly fits more practically into the routines of family life.

Why Change?

Unfortunately, our culture seems to be one that requires operating in the morning. Personally, my world of school-age kids and a working husband necessitate my functioning before 10:00AM. For this reason, Monday’s post will offer some tips for navigating mornings successfully if you’re not a morning person.

But, you morning people, please don’t tune out (or even not ever tune in) on Monday. You might learn something that can help you better understand the morning people in your life. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find ways you can help make their mornings more successful. After all, that’s when you’re at your best, right?

DISCUSSION: What are your experiences either as a night owl or living or working with a night owl? Do you think understanding others perspective in this way is helpful? Why or why not?

Related Reading: Please read the excellent article entitled “Are You a Lark, an Owl, or a Hummingbird?” for fascinating reading from the book The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body’s Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health.

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