6 Ways I’m Adjusting To My Early-Morning Work Schedule As A Lifelong Night Owl

I am a die-hard night owl. No matter how old I get, I firmly believe that 2 AM is the best time to have a conversation. My soul longs for the intimacy of the night, and my best memories fall between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM. (As long as 5 AM marks the end of a day, rather than the beginning.)

I graduated a year ago, but I have jumped through a number of part-time jobs and seasons of volunteer work that allowed me to continue to maintain the creature-of-the-night lifestyle that college brought to my life.

Then I got my grownup job, where I am expected to be up and running at 8 AM — when my boss gets here — while wearing business casual and a smile. For someone who is not a morning person, this has been a huge challenge. My first week, I’d wake up pretty easily, thanks to my nerves. But since settling in, I’ve had to get more creative with ways to get myself going in those early hours.

1. Getting 8 hours of sleep — no more, no less.

My apartment mates used to take bets on how late I would sleep in on Saturdays. I would legitimately sleep until noon when I didn’t have a reason to get up…and sometimes (*she says shamefully*) when I chose to sleep in regardless of my reasons to get up. What can I say? I love sleep.

So, when I started this job, I started making a point to go to bed early. This process started as going to bed at 10 so I could get up at 6. Then that turned into going to bed at 9…and then 8. At one point, I was in bed and asleep by 7:30. Who needs food when you are this tired? But the thing is, I wasn’t tired. I was mentally exhausted, no doubt, but I had not done anything physically to wear myself out. I started waking up just as tired as I was when I went to sleep.

As a night owl, I know what it’s like to function on three hours of sleep. Trust me when I say…get a good night’s sleep. But equally, don’t overdo it. Your body can’t process having so much excessive sleep.

2. Streamlining my processes.

I cook my lunch. I lay out my clothes. I pack my gym clothes.

I’ve gotten to the point that I fix a lunch for the whole week on Sunday and then put it in containers ready for me to throw in my lunch box. For those of you who like variety, I add some by taking snack bags. This is something else I prepare on Sundays, but I have enough variety in the fridge so that if I am not really in the mood for grapes, I can grab an apple instead. The bags also help me spread out my eating. This keeps me from sitting down and eating half my container of plantain chips because I still had salsa left.

So, each morning, I throw everything into my lunch box and go. It’s a two-minute process with minimal thinking. Thinking that early in the morning is just about the worst thing I can imagine, so it’s nice to take that out of the equation.

3. Eating breakfast (even if it just tea).

I’m not a coffee drinker. Also, just like thinking, cooking is just the worst in the morning. Thankfully, there are lots of non-cooking options out there. For example, I sometimes eat refried beans for breakfast. I know it sounds gross, but it gives me the protein I need to get going. For you, that might be oatmeal or fruit.

I know you’ve heard it one thousand and seven times, but I can testify that, for me, breakfast really is important. It kick-starts your body after you haven’t eaten for somewhere between eight and twelve hours (depending on when you ate dinner). Making just a little time to consume something in the morning makes a huge difference in my day.

Another thing that seems to work for me is detox tea — I sip on tea with honey and apple cider vinegar. A nice perk of my job is the kitchen, where I can make this tea — which gives me an extra ten minutes that I don’t need to spend being awake.

4. Getting to the office earlier than necessary.

I know this is kind of backward thinking. If I want to have as basic of a morning as possible, why would I leave earlier to do so?

I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you can do it, I highly recommend it. Not only is it a quiet place to get into your rhythm, but you don’t have your bed or thoughts of your kitchen table that really needs to be cleaned off floating around. I go in before everyone else gets there. I unlock everything and get the coffee going. I fix my tea and walk back to my office. I unlock my computer sometimes, but mostly, I just sit at my desk.

This pulls you out of the leisure of being at home. Coming into the office a little early puts me in the physical space to be productive and alert.

Also, it looks crazy impressive to your employer when they come into a building where the coffee is already going, the lights are on, and their employee is moving around ready to receive the day’s projects.

5. Getting into my groove slowly.

Okay, so “ready to receive the day’s projects” might not be exactly how I am when my boss gets there. When I start my day, it takes most of my focus to simply look awake. So that is my project: I greet my coworkers on their way in. I check my email and voicemail. I make a list of the things that I need to get done that day. I get my game plan, and then I jump into the things I am going to do first. This is a side effect of not being a morning person, but I know this is who I am, and going slowly during the first 20 minutes of the morning is just part of that.

6. Letting go of morning grumpiness.

Here’s my last tip for all those night owls out there who are having to function at hours that are not meant for us: try really hard to remember that not everyone is half asleep. When that cheerful person comes bouncing in at 8:02 ready to talk to you about *insert subject line here*, don’t inwardly curse their existence. Releasing the grumpiness in those moments of the day leads to better days and makes the process of becoming a morning person a lot easier. So, take a breath, crawl out of bed, pull on your happy pants, and get moving. Because at the end of the day, when you’re thinking a little clearer, you’ll be grateful for having something worth getting out of bed for.

Amber is a 23-year-old who is trying really hard to stick to her budget and pretend like she enjoys it. She writes because it brings her joy, maybe someday it will bring her money, too. For now, she will work at her glorified secretary position with joy, because she is still gaining skills, even if in a field she didn’t choose.

Image via Unsplash

  • Wolf

    I’m a natural early bird – I’d need a “how to enjoy being around people after 9pm”.
    I can start working at 7am, but at formal dinners, I already run out of energy.

  • Lady Zwei

    You’ve got all the right ideas. As a night owl myself, I can testify that it’s a long, uphill battle to be functional in the mornings. Exercise helps, sometime in the evening when you’re starting to get your “second wind”(really your first), to make you feel sleepy and want to curl up in comfort after. Get into a routine with it. You’ll fall asleep faster and get better sleep. Eat a balanced diet, or take supplements to make up for what you’re missing, or both. Most importantly, don’t let yourself slip. This is from experience: it takes nothing to revert. I mean nothing. One late night and 7 years of this constant routine and I’m back at square one, waging war with myself to Go. To. Bed. when it’s 2:00am and I have work at 8:30am. You can do it. It’s hard, but you can do it.

  • Julie Ann Cook

    Way to go, Amber for figuring this out at 23! 🙂 I’d love to see what you have to add to it in a decade or so, especially when/if you add some kids to the mix. 😉 Same principles. Whole new level of follow through.

  • George @ 20 something lawyer

    Totally can relate! As a night person it was initially tough to sync my body clock. But sleeping at 9pm definitely helps for me to be up by 5 am and at the office by 7 am!