Productive Mondays! Are you a night owl or a morning bird?

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To tell the truth I’ve always struggled to define myself as either a night owl or a morning bird. Which one are you?

…On a daily basis fully 85% of the people follow an early bird schedule in the morning, but given any choice in the matter, only 22% would continue to do so.” (read more about it here )

Some periods in my life I could say that definitely working and/or studying late evenings or even at night felt most productive to me, and yet on different occasions (depending on my circumstances such as having vs not having children, work shifts etc.) I felt that I kept falling asleep around 9pm-ish but felt so much better in the mornings! Why is that, then? I was curious as to how to find out how my natural biological clock works and if this is even still possible in a world as artificial as the one we have created: we have light at night and technological devices that distract us all the time.

Thomas Edison apparently used to promote his idea of the light bulb a lot by emphasising that future generations won’t sleep much and they will be able to have longer days due to the breakthrough of electric light, and because of this they will be able to achieve more! He wasn’t entirely mistaken BUT… sleeping less than 7-8 hours isn’t part of our human nature and leads to many negative consequences, like bad mood, stress and even to some health conditions… We can control light but it doesn’t do us much good, does it?

On the other hand, when we count how much time we sleep in our BUSY, PRODUCTIVITY-BASED & ACTIVE lifestyles it seems like a huge waste of time and we feel that if we could sleep “just a little bit less” we could accomplish SO MUCH MORE!

I’ve read the book The Power of When (available HERE ) and it got me thinking… The author suggests that each of us can be one of four (rather than just two) types of people or actually… as he prefers to call it – type of an animal. It was great to find this book because it sounds so unfair to categorise ALL PEOPLE simply in one out of two categories: early riser or night owl.

It looks like I’m a bear type and I feel most energetic if I can get up when the sun is rising and go to sleep when it’s getting dark outside. It is a bit problematic where I live, in England, because during most of the cold months days are really short and I can’t do everything just within 6-7 hours a day because that’s the only time we get light! So although I may be a bear, I still need to make a choice and decide whether I can feel better and accomplish more when going to bed very late or by getting up very early. I tried both.

According to studies, night owls can often be associated with intelligence and creativity but there are so many more different benefits that you get when you get up in the morning (read more here).

I think the real breakthrough in my thinking about it was a book which I didn’t want to buy because I felt that the title was somewhat silly… What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: How to Achieve More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam. It turned out to be a fantastic and useful book (available HERE ).

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The author convinced me that getting up earlier and not spending my time on ANYTHING I have to do – such as cleaning, working, cooking, etc. – but on the most meaningful tasks and activities which make me happy, are connected to my passions and are important to me, can be a great way of improving my work-life balance and life satisfaction! Lack of tiredness and little or no distractions help me to achieve a lot more in the mornings in terms of completing different tasks related to writing, for example. Yes, that’s true, it is difficult to get up early… but once you start to do it you just need to stick to the routine even at weekends/ your days off and then it becomes so much easier.

Why 92% people don’t achieve their personal goals?

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I didn’t achieve some goals in the past and I realised a few things. I believe many of these reasons would be the same or similar for most of you as well (please comment below if you agree!)

  1. I achieve goals IF I’m asked to do them by someone important at work or at a university. So if a lecturer tells me to write a 5,000-word essay in 3 weeks, I’ll write a 5,000-word essay within 3 weeks. I asked for an extension a few times while studying my two degrees and working at the same time but an extension meant 3-7 additional days. No more. If I tell myself to write 2,000 words in 2 weeks sometimes it may take me 2 or 4 months!

I keep postponing my deadlines because they are MY deadlines. It’s kind of understandable. If I don’t perform well at work, I may lose my job and have no income for a while. If I don’t execute my own goals ‘nothing’ really happens … except that my well-being will probably decrease and I’ll feel like a failure. I’ll also complain about not being able to achieve my aims, and get all sorts of negative thoughts about not progressing much and staying at the same point of my personal growth for too long.

It’s quite disappointing that actually many of us don’t take our own personal objectives seriously enough. We don’t think of ourselves and our aims as priorities and complete them only when everything else is done. I must admit it’s difficult, especially for a working parent, to manage to do a lot when each day has only 24 hours but I’m confident that this can be improved. I don’t believe in making excuses because most people on the Earth DON’T have perfect conditions, resources and circumstances. Yet, some are more disciplined, consistent and perhaps stubborn, and are able to achieve what they want to and dream about!

  1. I’m too strict and I tend to expect too much from myself. I plan and want to do too many tasks in too short a time without thinking much about all the unpredictable things that can happen in life.

I’ve been impressed with writer Gretchen Rubin’s goal to blog 6 days a week. It’s actually a very challenging task, especially if you are a working parent. You may simply not feel well enough some days. Sometimes I don’t have any Me Time at all! HOWEVER, as with everything, I’ve learnt that there is actually a solution for such a problem! My friend (talented author Carol Browne – please see her blog here ) taught me that anyone can schedule their blog posts. How great is that!

I believe I can still expect QUITE a lot from myself but then I also need to:

be more self-disciplined,

try to work smarter and harder

and have a bit more flexible approach which means:

  • to review goals and action plans, e.g. on a weekly basis, think of ways of how to change them to make them work better
  • and try out more consistently various productivity tips.

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    3. Fear is another big factor. Consciously or sub-consciously I don’t always believe that I’m good enough, that I have enough knowledge or skills or qualifications to do something I enjoy doing. So yes, there is fear of not being able to do my goals to the standard that I want (perfectionism!). I wouldn’t say it aloud much but surely there is some fear of criticism and some days I  lack of confidence while working on my goals! It’s difficult to be highly motivated all the time especially when you don’t see progress quickly. Then you lose focus and try to find the reasons as to why your goals haven’t been achieved yet … But – everything worth doing takes time – they say.

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     4. Most of the time I didn’t have an action plan at all, let alone a good one. The idea of writing down goals and steps/actions in the form of an action plan always sounded a bit ridiculous to me … BUT there has been a lot of research which proves that people who write their goals down and who have action plans are A LOT more likely to achieve their objectives.

     5. Often I used to think I work hard on my goals but when I think about it now I can      see that I didn’t put enough effort in, or I stopped doing some of the tasks and taking action for days, weeks or even months (!) due to other commitments (work, family, taking care of the house). How can you achieve anything if you work in such an ineffective way?

Phew … It was really difficult to get to the bottom of the issue and to find out why I don’t achieve some of my personal goals. The answers aren’t always as straightforward as we think they may be. This didn’t feel like a very comfortable task but it’s definitely something that finally HAD TO be done in order for me to better myself and consider how I can achieve my goals in the coming year.