Raise your hand if you have been feeling guilty about your work routine, especially when you’re a night owl like me!
There’s a wealth of books, articles, and blog posts about the importance of sleep and morning routines. There’s even evidence from the lives of some of the world’s most successful people like Tim Cook, who gets up at 3:45 am; Oprah, who starts the day at 6 am; and Elon Musk, who rises at 7 am, to name just a few.
I’ve tried (and failed) several times to sleep and wake up early in the hope of becoming as successful as these people. But for a person who works at an agency, you know how that goes. Whenever I try to get to bed early, my brain won’t stop producing ideas. And that’s how I’ve learned that I cannot force myself to become an early bird.
You might be thinking, “Why would you sacrifice your sleeping time for your work?” or, “How can you manage to stay up late at night and still work during the day?”
Well, it isn’t as simple as you think it is. This is why I’d like to share with you the secret to being successful as a night owl.
I know I’m not the only night owl at Vero, so I asked some of the members of the Vero Squad to share their own stories too.
- Manage your energy during the day
Managing your energy is very important if you plan to work during the night. Try logging off your computer earlier than usual and take a super long break (around 3 to 4 hours). For me, my working period usually starts from 9 am to 6 pm. If there are no urgent tasks, I temporarily stop working at 4:30 pm and go for a walk, watch some relaxing vlogs on YouTube, go to the supermarket, or prepare for dinner. Taking a good break before starting my second shift of working recharges my mind, allowing me to work efficiently at night.
To stay effective and productive at night, Kyu Kyu Htun, our senior account executive sitting in Myanmar, has got a hack: “Turning on a Studio Ghibli music is an absolute must during my working session at night since the melody makes me feel relaxed. If there is a report that I must do, I prefer to turn on active music and jam with the energetic beats and rhythms. It motivates me to work.”
- Never rush your time before working at night
There is no rush when you are a night owl. You have the entire night waiting for you so that you can do whatever you want at your own pace. Everything around you is quiet and peaceful, away from various interruptions like emails from your colleagues or messages from your clients. You can also have some well-deserved “me-time” where you can peacefully do some thinking without any interruption.
With fewer distractions (since the world is sleeping), my creativity kicks in, and trust me, it kicks in harder at night than during the day. And with less pressure, I can also take my time and focus on researching or strategizing for a project.
My colleagues agree with this too. “During the daytime, there are many things going on; the situation makes it a little difficult for me to focus on my work. Therefore, I think I work best during the night-time because it is very peaceful and calm, but it is where my creativity takes place and flows the most. The evening allows me to focus on what I’m doing with no distractions entirely,” Edison Htun, IMC Account Manager in our Myanmar office, shared.
- Apply the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule)
A philosopher and economist called Vilfredo Federico Damaso said that only 20% of your work drives 80% of your outcomes. For instance, if you have 10 tasks for the day, you should identify the 2 most important tasks and ensure they’ll be completed with quality. For example, if I have a lot of tasks due during the week, I will choose 1 or 2 of those tasks that I think are most important and require more time to accomplish, and then I work on them at night.
It may take a while for you to fully understand this principle, but once you start applying it to real-life situations, you will see that it can help you become highly productive even when you have less time on your hands. Tanrath Senkwankaew (Tan), Graphic Designer in Thailand, seemed to get it: “I sleep or take a nap when I’m too tired. I also exercise regularly, properly prioritize our work according to the deadline, and LIST IT ALL OUT!”
- Set the timeline for your working period
It is impossible for us to start working from 8 pm until early mornings, like about 4 am or 5 am. Therefore, setting a timeline for your working period is extremely crucial. I usually start my second shift from around 8:30 pm and end it at midnight since my brain won’t work efficiently beyond that. I also need to get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep each day.
Chutima Kateponchai (Noei), Editor, Manager in Thailand, said, “I try not to sleep later than midnight. I also try to manage my work properly and efficiently during the day by arranging my tasks in terms of my energy level. I choose to do the tasks that need less energy and concentration first and do the most complicated, time-consuming tasks later, unless there’s urgent work to do.”
- Consistent bedtimes are everything
While being a night owl boosts our creativity and productivity, some night owls tend to have less sleep than the morning larks, affecting their health.
Just because we’re giving ourselves permission to stay up late doesn’t mean we can throw all the good bedtime habits to the wayside. A study shows that having consistent sleeping and waking-up times matters the most when it comes to building healthy sleeping habits. If you have a consistent bedtime, waking up in the morning shouldn’t be a problem because your body clock gets used to it. Therefore, pick a bedtime, albeit a later one, and stick to it!
- Ditch the guilt
I’ve mentioned earlier that everyone has different habits and their own working style, so one of the most important things about being successful as a night owl is ditching expectations of how it should look! Knowing yourself and living in sync with your true genetic predisposition should feel empowering and affirming, not shameful.
Take it from Kyu: “The guilty feeling comes to me every day, and some questions will pop in my head like, ‘Whaaa…is there something wrong? Am I missing anything?’ I always try to watch movies or any entertainment programs, but the guilty feeling would come again. And whenever this happens, I decide to lie down on my bed and tell myself, ‘Just let it be.’ I let this feeling flow in my mind, and then I go to sleep.”
And if that’s not enough to convince you to shake off that guilty feeling, here are some success stories from some of Vero’s night owls to inspire you:
Noei: “During my high school year, I got to write fanfiction which has taken place at night. It was quite a successful project for me during that time since there were more than a thousand people who read it. And that’s how I knew writing was something I genuinely enjoyed, which has led me to this career.”
Kyu: The proof of my success as a night owl comes when my ideas get chosen. This is when I feel super proud of myself for doing all the hard work, which I often do at night.
We can be productive irrespective of our lifestyle choices. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how you spend your time, you can tick off all your daily tasks quickly if you know how to balance your work and play. Personally, Night Owl has become a part of my daily routine that I truly enjoy. But again, what works for me might not work for you – and vice versa!