There is a proliferation of early bird aficionados writing self-improvement articles about their morning routines.
They want us to join them in the dark morning hours to meditate, drink Kombucha, write in journals, guzzle gallons of water, run half-marathons, and take ice-cold showers.
I much prefer to stay in a nice, warm bed for as long as possible. So does my cat, and he’s the most stress-free little dude I know.
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know? — Ernest Hemingway
I did the early morning thing for many years in my law enforcement career. As a police chief, I was often the first one at the office, to take advantage of the quiet.
I’d catch up on emails, phone messages, and in-basket tasks. Then I would attend the morning patrol briefings, catch the on-coming and off-going patrol officers, and visit for a bit.
I was very efficient during the workweek thanks to my early morning routine. I think I even felt a tad smug about it. Like I had one up on other people.
But every weekend I slept in whenever possible and it was magnificent.
The second mouse gets the cheese
My natural circadian rhythm mirrors the swing shifts I used to work as a rookie cop on patrol.
Those shifts started at 3 PM and ended at 11 PM. After work, I’d come home and jump in the hot tub with my roommate (he was a cop working swing shift too).
We’d hit the sack around 1 AM and snooze until 9 or 10 AM. Best sleep ever. Then we’d get up for some exercise, laundry, errands, and go back to work at 3 PM.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. — Stephen Wright
Unfortunately, those halcyon days didn’t last. When I joined the police administration as a young Lieutenant, my schedule became Mondays through Fridays, 7 AM to 5 PM.
But this was a lie because to get anything done, I had to rise at the crack of dawn, before interruptions and unexpected crises ate up my day.
So I understand the wisdom behind the early bird gurus. Starting early can help you get ahead.
But here’s the thing about wisdom, sometimes it contradicts other wisdom.For example, the inimitable, late poet and novelist Charles Bukowski famously said, “Never get out of bed before noon.”
I liked him the moment I read that quote.
Sleep is the best meditation
Yes, Bukowski was an alcoholic who lived a debauched lifestyle. He would have been canceled in a minute today. I won’t defend his failings, but I like a lot of his writing and wisdom.
This brings me back to his advice about sleeping in. Advice that was likely born out of many hangovers. Or maybe he truly believed that sleep trumps pre-dawn initiative and exhausting morning routines.
Sleep is the best meditation. — Dalai Lama
The point is, nobody has a lock on what’s the best way to live your life. The early morning crowd may get the worm, and I may get the cheese.
In other words, take all these self-help gurus with a grain of salt. Including me.
I get my best work done at night, and then the cat and I get up when the sun has warmed the house and the thought of fresh coffee lures me out of my slumber cocoon. So I guess we’re kind of like Charles Bukowski, except neither of us drinks alcoholic beverages.
If you function better at night, then stay up late and sleep in. If you’re killing it with those early morning routines, more power to you.
The point is, everyone is different.
Don’t let the early morning gurus, or the Charles Bukowski night owl types, tell you what’s best for you.
Listen to your body, and you decide.
As for me, I won’t be checking my emails or messages until after lunch.
Before you go
I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint, shoot classic black and white photos, review books, and write elegant essays about life. To get the latest, check out my popular Saturday Newsletter here.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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Illustrations by John P. Weiss