I have always been a night owl. As a child I was crippled by insomnia. If it’s true that your most productive time is related to when you are born then mine is accurate. I was born at 8.55pm.
That said, I have always felt obliged, and was often forced, to stick to 9-5 hours for work, as most of us are. We are trained from a young age to be productive during daylight hours. I’m still doing it now and I’m not quite sure why. I procrastinate all day, doing little bits of everything, but never really getting stuck into a task. And then I pack it all away at dinner time, because that’s when you’re supposed to switch off from work, right? And yet, all my best ideas come at night.
It started to become a more obvious problem when I took on my studio in Manchester. Once the novelty of having such a huge separate space from my home life had worn off, I started to slip back into my old creative patterns. I felt I had to reinforce a 9-5 routine. I would force myself to sit there all day because I was paying for the space. But I didn’t produce any more work than when I had been working from home. I would still get all my best ideas, and my enthusiasm, at night. In the cold light of day, I had no interest in it. Now that I don’t have that place to commute to anymore, I think it’s time I threw out the office hours mentality and gave in to my internal clock.
Google is loaded with explanations for why people are often more creative at night, mostly citing circadian rhythms and tiredness for kicking in dormant parts of the brain responsible for creativity. There are in fact some very logical explanations for why your brain suddenly seems to come alive late into the evening. But can you harness it into daylight hours or should you just take advantage of it when it comes to you? I’m not sure my problem is related to being tired, since I am very often still awake when I head to bed after midnight.
Of course, I don’t have to battle with a week day routine anymore and I’m not struggling with what they call ‘social jet lag’. I’ve stopped setting my alarm in the morning. I get up when I wake up and I have to say that the afternoon energy slumps that I used to get, have pretty much disappeared by allowing myself to sleep when I want to, not because of some enforced social expectation.
At last, I have also stopped feeling guilty about waking up late. Quite simply it deals with a part of the day when I’d be procrastinating and worrying that I wasn’t being productive enough. Now that I work from home, what is stopping me from switching my day around and getting more out of it? I fill what is left of the winter daylight hours with admin and domestic chores and errands and I let creativity kick in later. I do a lot of my writing in the evening. I do my accounts at night. I’ve realised I should be designing. It’s a compromise that’s worth embracing if it means I am working for productively.
It is drummed into us that we have to stay busy 24/7 when we’re running a business. You feel guilty if you don’t, that somehow you are doing yourself a disservice. But the truth is, I find it really difficult to be creative during the day and that’s never changed. Instead, I am going to submit to my inbuilt clock and see what happens.
And this is my New Year Resolution number one.