An hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after.
The early bird catches the worm.
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Yep, the one thing we learn as we get older is that the traditional sayings are the best. And where going to bed and getting up are concerned the wisdom of the ages is unequivocal.
Go to bed early, get up early: you’ll be successful and you’ll get your work done. As no less a business guru than Emily Bronte wrote in Wuthering Heights,
A person who has not done half his day’s work by ten o’ clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.
Or as one of the TAB York members – who’s regularly at his desk by 7am – simply says:
I like to get ahead of the day.
So that’s that. Or is it? I’ve another very successful TAB member whose preference is to work afternoons, evenings and occasionally through to midnight. That’s what suits him and – every bit as importantly – a lot of his clients, who are in the US. (And he’s in good company: when he was in prison Nelson Mandela famously slept through as much of the day as he could – and wrote his memoirs at night.)
When you work for someone else your working hours are largely dictated for you. Start your own business and you have much more flexibility – in fact, being in control of your own time is one of the main reasons for starting your own business. After all, Sports Day and the Nativity Play take place when the corporate world wants you at your desk.
Very few people building a business will work the conventional ‘9 to 5.’ We’re all going to work outside those hours and there are going to be times when – quite rightly – we decide that watching our children is more important than any client meeting could ever be.
Given the choice, I’m a morning person. If I want to spend some quality time working ‘on’ the business, then I’ll always go for mornings. That was something I started when I was doing my MBA and it’s unquestionably when I’m at my sharpest.
…And like my TAB member, I relish getting things done in the morning. Achieving something significant early in the morning isn’t tiring – it’s motivating. It gives you energy for the rest of the day. You really do feel like you’re ‘ahead of the day’ – and ahead of everyone else.
Besides, as the boys get older my evenings are rapidly becoming a ‘no-go’ time zone: cricket, rugby, football… And according to disturbing reports I’ll soon be ferrying them to that place all teenagers end up living; ‘Out, Just Out…’
For me, working productively in the mornings is as much about managing my energy as it is about managing my time. This is something covered in The Power of Full Engagement, the bestselling book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Managing energy, not time, as the book says, is the key to high performance as well as to health, happiness and life balance.
I absolutely agree. If I’m working ‘on’ my business, then I need my creative energy – which my body clock dictates is there in the morning.
Interestingly, one of the techniques the book suggests for discovering your optimum time of day for energy is to work in concentrated bursts of 90 minutes. This is a reflection of one of the earlier posts about the Pomodoro technique – although as you may remember, the ‘pomodori’ are much shorter: typically 25-30 minutes.
One final point. Success isn’t just about managing your own time and energy. Not all of your team – or the potential clients you’re meeting – are going to be at their best when you are. So don’t be afraid to ask the question, ‘What time of day suits you best?’ Be even more blunt – after all, we’re in Yorkshire – and simply ask, ‘When are you at your best?’ People appreciate being asked – and I’ve yet to meet anyone who claims to be at their peak for every minute of every day.
So take note of the time of day when you’re most effective – and do the same for the people you’re working with. You could well see results improve dramatically – and Emily Bronte wouldn’t need to worry about your productivity…