I’ve spent my whole life dodging early mornings.
My first job was in a large manufacturing plant. Guess what? My department started work at 7:30 AM! There must be some natural law that manufacturing has to start early. When the whistle blows, you start working — “We have a hundred computers to ship today, so move it!”
The early start was bad enough, but the managers’ attitude was worse. Early starts were their red badge of courage. “By the time those office workers get in, we’ll have built 25 percent of today’s production. Wake up man, you’re in production.’’
After three years of macho mornings, the company transferred me to an office job where we started at 8 AM.
But the macho morning types weren’t confined to the manufacturing department. Some managers insisted on scheduling staff meetings at 7:30 AM — even before the official start time. They used the meetings as tests. Anyone who arrived late would find the manager looking at his (yes, his) watch as if he was counting the seconds.
Over the years, I developed elaborate schemes to mask my daily rhythm. If there were tasks to do the next morning, I’d finish them the day before. When I managed a group, I’d designate early mornings as “manage-by-walking-around time.” My assistants learned to schedule critical decisions between ten and three o’clock, my most productive time, while late afternoon and early evening were devoted to loose ends and mop-ups. But corporate life demanded conformity with the company’s daily schedule. They wanted smooth performance throughout the day, day in and day out.
After starting my own company, I designed the workday to match my most productive times. I always worked long hours, but what a luxury to be able to schedule work to match my energy cycle!
All of us have daily cycles. How often do you hear a colleague say, ‘I’m a morning person” or ‘I’m a night owl”? But have you taken the time to observe your energy cycle hour by hour? Try it for a week. Make a note in your agenda each hour to indicate your energy level. Rate it from 1 (sleepy) to 5 (energetic). Then look back over the week to check for a pattern.
Can you arrange your work to work on the most critical tasks during your peak energy period?
Can you match the tasks to your daily cycle?
Give it a try; you’ll probably be a lot more productive — plus, you’ll be less drained at night.
Macho mornings won’t go away. We all have to work when needed, but the more we know ourselves, the better we can balance our working days.
Just don’t call me before nine.