July 22, 2014 3:30 pm

Why mornings are more productive [Poll]

It might not feel like it when the alarm goes off, but the chances are that biologically-speaking, the morning is when you’re at your freshest and sharpest, and capable of your best work.

Each of us has something called a chronotype – which is partly down to genetics, partly down to habits – which sets the patterns in things like body temperature, cognitive faculties, eating and sleeping. Humans are diurnal, rather than nocturnal, so our chronotypes tend to mean we’re awake when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark.

Some people do have chronotypes that mean their body wants to keep different waking hours. So how can you tell if you’re a confused early bird or a real night owl? Researchers have come up with something called the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire to work it out. But as a quick guide, think about what time you naturally get tired and want to go to bed, and what time you wake up without an alarm. If your answers are typical waking and rising hours, then it’s likely that you’re a morning person.

Being a morning person has some advantages. Biologist Christopher Randler conducted a study among 367 university students, which found that morning people are more proactive. In an interview with Harvard Business Review about the study, Randler explained:

‘Though evening people do have some advantages—other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humor, and are more outgoing—they’re out of sync with the typical corporate schedule. When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards.’

So if you’re biologically a morning person, but you don’t feel much like one when you wake up, here are some tips for how to make sure you have a productive morning:

The night before

1. Wrap things up– if you leave something unfinished, it can prey on your mind and affect your sleep. This is because our brains hate to leave loops unclosed. So before you go to bed, close your open loops by bringing things to a logical close. Writing down a to-do list of things you need to do the next day can be a great way to do this.

2. Prioritise for the next day– another part of closing those loops might be prioritising your tasks for the next day. That way, your agenda is set for the morning, you know what you need to focus on, and can get straight to the important tasks.

3. Get enough sleep – for some of us, this is easier said than done. For others, it’s a matter of acknowledging how much sleep you need. According to Charles Czeisler, director of the Harvard Work Hours, Health and Safety Group, going without sleep for 24 hours or getting only five hours of sleep a night for a week is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. Being tired at work will harm your performance, so make sure you’re getting a healthy amount of sleep.

In the morning

1. Choose a smart alarm clock – smart alarm clocks can do more than just wake you up – they can wake you up gently, or when you’re at the lightest stage in your sleep cycle, so you’ll feel less groggy and tired. There are some great smart alarms available for your Lumia: Gentle Alarm Clock has a pre-alarm that starts rings quietly and lights up your room for a few minutes before the main alarm goes off; SmartWakeup uses the accelerometer on your phone to track your movements through the night and work out your sleep phases, so you can decide the best time to wake up; BedTime helps you choose the best time to wake up (and go to sleep) based on your sleep cycles.

2. Eat a healthy breakfast – eating a healthy breakfast can help boost your productivity. A study from Brigham Young University found that people with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to report having a loss in productivity as opposed to healthy eaters. In addition, if you want to get a good morning’s work, starting off with low blood sugar will only hinder you.

3. Make time for yourself – a productive morning doesn’t mean jumping straight into work as soon as you wake. It’s a good idea to make a bit of time for yourself before you start your tasks. Whether it’s spent exercising, reading, or with your family, time doing something you love will put you in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the day.

4. Use the morning for the tough stuff in the morning you should be feeling fresh and energetic, so it’s the best time to tackle creative work, or tasks that are cognitively demanding. Don’t waste your morning on things like business-as-usual meetings, email or admin – save them for later in the day when your energy might be starting to flag.

Are you a morning person or a night owl? Will you be trying any of the tips from this post? Let us know with a comment!

Image credit: eflon