Have you always been a morning person or a night person or do you find that your cycles change depending on what you are doing? For most of my life, I was a hardcore night owl. I would struggle to fall asleep before 1 am and detested waking before 8 or 9, usually sleeping later if I could. I built my company around those hours, and the jobs I most enjoyed worked around them as well. When things would come up that required a schedule shift, I struggled and suffered through them (hello live TV show for a year that required I be in full hair and makeup and on set by 5 am at a studio 45 minutes away!) and then gratefully went back to my habits when they passed.
But the last few months have shifted something in me and now I find myself up most days by 6, and some days even 5! I will be happily at my desk within about 15 minutes, writing mostly, and enjoying the quiet of the morning. What the hell is going on?? Part of it I’m sure is that I am in my early forties and many people find that they begin to wake up earlier with each passing decade (I conducted an unofficial Facebook poll which confirmed this, lol). The main reason though came out of something I started really paying attention to in the past few months. I started tracking the times that I was performing the best at certain tasks. Have you done this? It’s incredibly interesting when you start to see the patterns and realize how much you try and align your best times with what you are doing.
In my former job, I wore many hats, as all entrepreneurs do, but the majority of my work was incredibly creative. It involved designing and hand making jewelry which was released in quarterly collections. With the majority of my time spent marketing these collections. The rest of the hours were occupied with the tasks required of all businesses. I handmade jewelry as Manic Trout for almost sixteen years, and for ten years as a hobby before that and I without a doubt knew when I performed the best in this area. At night. Ideally about 8 – midnight. My sweet spot was 9 pm. This set the tone for the entire business model as I made everything (or at least was involved in some part of the process) and sometimes that meant making extensive pieces in quantities as high as I could manage, which were in the triple digits during high production times.
The earlier part of each day I was much stronger at the tasks that involved sitting at my desk. Answering emails, posting on social media and doing admin and business tasks. Pitches were the strongest when I wrote them first thing, as was any writing I did such as blog posts. Photography was best in the early afternoon and photo editing and web site building/coding were best at night but on the earlier side. I also found my sweet spot for exercise which I would have the most energy for (and not be distracted by too many thoughts) from 4-6 pm. If I tried to work out in the morning, I would be awkward, hurt myself and think of all the things I had to do that day. So my sleep patterns worked nicely with all of these rhythms and I was settled into a lovely routine.
Then I through a wrench in everything and decided I would change careers. For a few months, I was going through the exit plan with Manic Trout and starting a new business at the same time. Tasks were changing. Also, having to talk to people and leave the house every day for meetings was suddenly a reality. I quickly saw that my routine no longer worked. So I started to figure out what my new schedule should look like. Here is how I approached it:
- What are the tasks that would not need t0 change? Morning routine, exercise time, meditating and reading before bed.
- What are the skills that I would need to be doing the most? Writing, coaching, networking, marketing, admin tasks.
- What did I have no control over? Meetings with people are typically at 8-4 on weekdays.
- What were the reoccurring non-negotiable things on my schedule that I would work around? Workouts from 4:30-5:30 at the gym plus 30 minutes drive time on either end and a shower after. Wednesday morning 6:50 Breakfast Club. 1-hour morning routine. 1-hour nighttime routine.
I put all of the reoccurring things into my google calendar in repeated blocks and then for a few weeks, tried out different wake-up times and times where I did different tasks. Some very surprising patterns started to appear. First of all, I had to make sure that no matter how early I had to be somewhere in the morning, I added on an hour for my morning routine, the time it would take to get there, and the 30 minutes required to get ready. This meant that on Wednesdays, I needed to get up at 5. Ouch. This meant two things. One, that for my own sanity, I should always wake up as early as I could to stay in that routine (which usually means 6 or 7) and that I needed to start going to bed earlier. If I took into account my nighttime routine and desire to sometimes read for a few hours in bed, and therefore got myself to the bedroom at a decent hour, I would not stay up too late.
I noticed that my favorite time of day to work was now the hour at my desk before I had to get ready to leave. Initially, I thought I could get away with keeping my mornings free so I could spend the time at my desk. But I quickly saw that I could never have more than one weekday without a morning meeting. So I started getting up at 6 every morning to ensure I had an extra hour or so to work. It’s been mind-blowing how much I get accomplished before the day begins. Which is great, because talking to people takes a great deal of energy, especially when I am coaching. I sometimes feel that much of what I do is give clients some of my own energy before I send them on their way for the week.
If I have blocks of time in the middle of the day, I create work blocks of two hours, and this time is best used for organizing work. Or for technical stuff, like coding or editing. It is not usually a great time to write unless I am sparked by inspiration. I was reading business books in the evening, but the earlier bedtime threw me off too much, so I also try and read non-fiction books for an hour or two in the afternoon now as well. Usually business, biography or on a subject related to work.
Late afternoons and evenings are when I workout, shower, make and eat dinner, and then get ready for bed to finish off the day. A note about evening events. I try and avoid anything that makes me drive in rush hour traffic, miss a workout or have me home late, but one sneaks in at least once a week. I accept it and move on. I do try as hard as I can to avoid them though! I also want to mention that I am married, and my husband has a crazy schedule with work and jiu-jitsu. We try and have a date night a few times a week to spend an hour or so alone together, but otherwise, we happily each have own schedules and enjoy the moments we do get together. It works for us.
The last thing I want to mention about rhythms and schedules is that I recently implemented a “chore day” rule. I leave all laundry, sheet changing, cleaning (besides the near-compulsive tidying and vacuuming I do every morning and evening for a few minutes) and home chores for one weekend day each week. I try my hardest to leave that day unscheduled, where I don’t have to leave the house, put on makeup or talk to anyone. I usually plan out my week, clean off my desk and get my head ready for the week ahead that day as well. It’s a much-needed rest and reset day where I can flit from one thing to the next and not have a schedule for the day.
Have you tracked the time you do things the best? Isn’t it wild how much of a difference tweaking your schedule to these times can be beneficial? I’d love to hear about your experiences!