Night-owls vs early birds — the wax and wane of energy

In winter, I wake hours before sunrise, rolling out of bed into the dark and cold, doing the zombie shuffle towards the kettle.

After I have convinced my body that we are up, that yes this really is happening, my mind is at its sharpest and freshest. I write new pieces, blog entries and tackle more complex tasks. By mid-afternoon, my mind is slowing down. I edit or study, as I am not firing on all cylinders. As for nights? After a full day of work my mind is moosh. I am barely functioning. There is very little I can wring out of my brain after a full day at work a 90 minute drive admiring the rear end of the car in front.

To wring adequate writing hours out of each week I need to get up early. This did not happen overnight (pun intended!). I did not suddenly leap out of bed at 4am… although that may work for some people. I eased it back slowly, cutting my sleep time by 15 minutes every morning for weeks, potentially months, until my body was comfortable with this routine. Going to bed early helps. A solid night’s sleep is a vital part of my self-care. It keeps my mind sharp and creative.

Most of us know when our minds and energy are the sharpest, but it's still worth an adventure experimenting at different times to see what fits our routines/day-jobs/care responsibilities and what we could, potentially, slowly grow into.

I was not always a morning bird. I vividly recall sleeping in to ridiculous o’clock as a teenager and through my early twenties. I recall the days when six am was a chapter at the end of a great night out. It’s been a long road, but it is possible for a night-owl to transition to an early bird if that is what is required for you to be your most productive.

I’m an introvert. My job is people. This means when I finish work I am emotionally exhausted and utterly drained. Flopping down in front of a computer when I am at my most depleted is never going to work for me. I barely have enough in the tank to operate a TV remote. As the day starts, my energy is at its peak. Being up early is not hard. It’s getting up early that’s hard… those moments in the dark when you jolt awake to the sound of your alarm and the sulky child in all of us whines “…just need another five minutes”. Once I am up and dressed and have a mug coffee in front of me I am sharp and focused and very ready to kick creative butt.

What is the wax and wane of your energy and focus levels? Is it worth trying a few different things to see how they fit for size? Do you need to ease yourself into a new routine that allows more time or focus for your creative projects?

First published 30 July 2020

Nicole writes short stories and novel length speculative fiction and a weekly blog or