Morning routines and why I’ll (likely) never be a member of the 5am club!

If you’ve spent anytime on LinkedIn you’ll have read many people promoting the benefits of their morning routine on LinkedIn and how it helps them be successful. It might include getting up at 5am, journaling, meditation, ice baths, exercise etc and if you are a busy parent, or just not a morning person it might feel like you are failing because you struggle to drag yourself out of bed and constantly snooze the alarm.

Here is my alternative viewpoint.

I always knew I wasn’t a morning person (apart from a small window in my childhood when I’d wake up at 6am to do my homework in early years of secondary school (this is quite revealing in my approach to deadlines as homework would always be handed in on time, but never significantly early) or when I would watch Open University as a small child without my brother fighting over the TV channels (too long ago for a remote back then!)

For many years my daily start time at work was 8am, which isn’t especially early, but after reading “Why we Sleep” by Matthew Walker I discovered that genuinely some people are “night owls” who are unlikely to fall to sleep early even if they go to bed early as when we lived in more primitive times we’d take different shifts to keep “look out” over the rest of our tribe. The “night owls” would look out for the first part of the sleep time and the “larks” would get up early and take over.

The other enlightening fact I learned from this book was that if you wake up 2 hours early into your recommended 8 hour sleep cycle and only get 6 out of 8 hours of recommended sleep, you in fact miss out on 85% or your REM sleep. This means that you miss out on lots of critical brain activity that is essential for mental function and mood. I came to realise that the 9 – 5 (or 8 – 6!) work pattern is stacked against night owls who get their peak energy levels late afternoon to early evening. Even a 23andMe report revealed my ideal “wake up time” is 7.58am!

The pandemic and lockdown were obviously awful for many to experience, but the unexpected outcome for many people has been more flexibility around working hours (albeit it has also meant the barrier between work and home eroding causing some people to overwork and burn out). I now manage my own time and choose to start work at 9am rather than 8am. That’s not to say I don’t ever log on before 9am or won’t meet someone earlier if it meets their needs, I can be flexible, but it does mean that most days I have at least an additional hour (or sometimes more) of sleep than I did for many years. Guess what, I’m just as productive, if not more so as I’m not constantly falling asleep on the sofa at the end of the day or finding myself yawning and staring into space as the fatigue kicks in. Sometimes I’ll find myself in a real flow and it will be later in the evening, and I’m mindful of sending emails with a delay on for the following day so that I don’t interrupt someone’s evening, but some of my best ideas and work have happened past when I’d have usually been expected to “log off”.

On an “in office” day my morning routine is waking up at 7am. I head downstairs, hurdling over the cats as they race me down the stairs. I have no option but to feeding the cats and kittens first before I’m allowed to do anything else, I then empty the dishwasher and make a coffee and bowl of cereal for breakfast. I’ll likely check on LinkedIn and then read for 10 minutes before getting ready and heading to work at 8am. Reading is my gentle introduction to the day and allows me to do something mentally stimulating without too much doom scrolling first thing. This routine I’ve found allows me the energy levels to be productive on a more consistent level throughout the day as well as the flexibility to pick up projects requiring additional levels of concentration when my brain is firing on all cylinders in the early evening. I also exercise typically at lunch for an energy boost (great especially in winter to make sure you’re getting some daylight exposure!) or in the evening to round off the day. My routine is similar for a day working from home with the only difference that I don’t have to leave the house at 8am so can maximise even more on my sleep!

Finding what works for me has meant I’m more productive at work, but also with my own time outside of work and so rather than trying to copy someone (including me!) spend time finding out what works for you. Are you someone better at doing meetings in the morning when your social energy levels are high? Or is it best for you to log on at 7am to do a really technical piece of work before the day has distracted you and worn you down?

Experiment, reflect and keep changing it up until you’ve found what works best. Most employers are more open to different start and finish time and if you aren’t working for one, speak to me and I’m sure I can help you find an employer who will allow you to realise your most productive and happy self!

After all life is short, only “Four Thousand Weeks” (great book recommendation by Oliver Burkeman) so it’s great if you can spend it not feeling either perpetually exhausted or like your failing because you haven’t run a half marathon before getting into the office.

Lucy Rider – Senior Director 
T: 0113 868 0884