'Early Birds' and 'Night Owls' Move Over! Introducing the Power of the 'Mid-Day Meerkat!'
by Robin Sacks
We've all heard the terms 'early bird' and 'night owl.'
Like so many other labels in our lives, these are labels that subconsciously affect or impact our efforts and the way we approach our days.
I always find these labels humorous because, like many people, I am neither of those things.
Working late into the night after everyone else in the house is asleep does not give me energy or focus, nor do I have that energy and focus when I 'jump' (I use that term loosely) out of bed in the ridiculously early morning.
There are a lot of people who will tell you, through their books, articles, and programs, that there is something magical during these times of day. It kind of makes sense...kind of. But it's not about the time reflected on the clock that makes you productive or successful. After all, if an early bird travels halfway across the world, oddly enough they've become a night owl instantly. If a night owl travels halfway around the world, they overnight become an early bird. Hmmm.
It's something else - something that these two times of day do have in common. That something is an undistracted block of time. In other words, quiet.
Night owls benefit from the quiet that comes with everyone being asleep. Early birds benefit from the quiet of everyone not being awake yet. Nobody is vying for your attention; no phones dinging, no emails chiming, no notifications popping up. No distractions.
When we find periods of time with no distractions, we can get an amazing number of things done - regardless of what the hands on the clock say.
I've tried the 5:00 am thing and I've tried the stay up late thing. While there are definitely less distractions, they are not for me. I'm obviously a weirdo who happens to have a peak of energy at around 2:30 pm every afternoon. Maybe I'm an 'afternoon aardvark' or a 'mid-day meerkat.'
You don't have to be a morning person or a night person to be wildly successful (or to just get everything you want to do done!).
The key is to figure out two things: when your personal energy shows-up each day (if you pay attention, I guarantee you'll find a couple of peaks every day when you are truly at your most focused and productive ) and when you have periods of quiet without other people or things there to demand your attention.
How do you figure that out for yourself? Here's exactly how!
First, for one week, pay attention and actually write down the times when you find yourself focused and productive. Many people don't pay attention to this, simply because once they're into their day, they're in their day and are completely on autopilot.
Really start being more self-aware. Even if it's for 5 minutes, when do you have times of peace and quiet. (Side note - don't poo-poo this and say, 'There are never times when I have peace and quiet.' You're wrong. You are just not paying attention.) Realize it when you go do a coffee run in the morning or when you go to the bathroom. Start there. You could spend a couple extra minutes in the stall just chilling. It can be that simple at the beginning.
Even if it's for a couple of minutes (until you get used to finding this time in a lot more places!), those are the times when your answers will come to you. Those are the times when you can get away and think a little more clearly. Those are the times when you realize simply getting up and moving oxygen gives your body and brain enough that it can think clearly again and you quickly come up with what you've been trying to figure out for the previous three hours sitting at your desk or at a conference table!
Next, after you've done this for a week and have identified when your personal times of high energy and high focus are, actually schedule them in your calendar. Again, even if it is five minutes a day at the start, block it off! Know that you will get more done in less time just because you are making a point to do things at a time when you are more highly focused. This is why doing something at an unfocused, low-energy time might take you two hours to complete, while doing it at your focused, high-energy time might only take you 45 minutes!
The more you do this, the more time you will find in your days.
The way to making this time really have a positive impact for you is to do high-level, high-thinking, high-priority work at these scheduled times. If you just do menial work during those times, you will have thrown out valuable time you are probably looking for in other areas of your life. You are wasting the opportunity to work at a much faster much more productive pace.
The third thing is to respect those appointments that you've just made with yourself. Once you've become aware of your focused-energy times, and you've made a point to see how they can fit into your daily schedule, they need to become non-negotiables. Just as you would not change an appointment you have set with someone else, you will not change these appointments you have with yourself going forward.
There are no excuses here. If you just thought to yourself, "Yes, but," or "I can't do that with my schedule," or "I don't have the time for that," you are lying to yourself. Stop bullying yourself. You have the time. If anybody else called you and said, "I need to talk to you about something, can you chat at 2:00 pm?" you'd say 'sure,' and you'd put them in your calendar, wouldn't you?
You have the time, but you can only see that if you stop telling yourself that you don't.
You need to begin treating yourself with the same respect that you do other people. You need to start giving your projects and your work as much respect as you do everyone else's.
To recap, here's how you do that:
1. Discover when your personal high-focus, high-energy times are
2. Schedule them into your daily calendar
3. Respect them
Now stop reading and go be the most amazing 'daytime dachshund' you can be!