Early riser or late owl?

Being my own employer means that I have varying working hours. Most of the week I work with clients in Stockholm, which is approximately one hour away whether commuting or going by car. (1,5 hours during rush hour or when leaves on tracks prevent Swedish trains from running properly)

Some days I work from home, preparing assignments, trainings, or just working with any of the stuff that tends to fill my backlog when I'm not watching.

This means that I have early mornings, and mornings where I can choose. Naturally, I thought that having the luxury of being able to opt out of the alarm clock some mornings, I would be an idiot if I didn't. So it became one of my principles, to "wake up whenever I do" those mornings.

In the end, I started growing tired of it. The constant shift of wake-up time gives me an eerie kind of jet-lag and those mornings where I "sleep in" - typically to 8 in the morning - it seems to take twice the amount of caffeine to get me even close to normal capacity. But it's not fair - I should be more rested! And, of course, having slept in a bit, I was no longer as tired in the evening, meaning that I would inevitably go to bed a tad bit too late, meaning that if the next morning was an early one, it would be rough.

It didn't always use to be like this. I was your typical night owl as a student and during my first ten years or so of work. I used to think that inspiration would hit me late, and I could get into creative flow late in the evening, perhaps around ten o' clock, and work in my studio until 1 or 2 in the morning. It felt a bit sad to waste so many hours being unproductive during the early evening, but thought that was the way it worked. Didn't a lot of creative geniuses work through the nights, lit by kerosene lamps?

Then I read an article about HĂ„kan Lidbo, a Swedish electronic music producer, who is known for being extremely productive, almost ridiculously so. In the interview, he told the story on how he used to be "creative only during night" which according to him wrought havoc on his social life. Finally, he grew tired of it thinking: "If I'm supposed to have making music being my job, it better behave like a job". So, he got up in the morning and sat in the studio. And did nothing. For the first day. And the second, and later during the first week, he started getting ideas. Finally, he conditioned himself to become creative when he entered the studio, especially so in the morning!

That was interesting! So I actually conducted my own experiment during a vacation years ago. For a week, I got up early (like, work-early) even though I wouldn't have to. (You can imagine the discussions with myself and my alarm clock the first morning). My findings were similar, it wasn't about the time of day, it was about setting myself up for being in the mode of creative work. I later learned that many people have special rituals to put them in a particular mode - and if you have read about Pomodoro Technique you know that the action of winding the egg timer eventually becomes a trigger to get into work mode. 

Anyway, back to my work jet lag. Some time ago, I decided to make all my mornings similar, so I started setting an alarm clock even for weekends. It actually removed some of the problems and I felt more energized. But could I even become a morning person, after having been a night owl for most of my adult life? It's popular nowadays to talk about "early risers" and quoting successful people as getting up at 5am when everyone else is sleeping. Sound skepticism aside, I started to get intrigued on whether it would actually work for me. I read quite a few blogs and discussions on sleep patterns, the most entertaining and bizarre coming from the guy who even did polyphasic sleeping for almost half a year! (If you haven't read his account of the ordeal, you should. It's stuff for legends)

As always, most of these things are personal, and different people will experience different things. But I decided to try becoming an early riser, using a variation of biphasic sleep (get up early, big nap in the evening). I will try this for at least two weeks, and share my experiences here.

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