Becoming nocturnal.

I am not a night owl.

I came to this conclusion only recently, and it surprised me. I have no difficulty staying up late—in fact, I often struggle to force myself to get to bed at a reasonable hour. And, like most people, I’m not super enthusiastic about getting up in the morning. Yet in spite of these seemingly tell-tale nocturnal characteristics, I am much happier when I start my day early.

I am most productive in the morning. More than that: early morning productivity seems to be a prerequisite for getting things done throughout the day. By the time evening hits, my will power is at its lowest. I simply don’t want to do anything anymore. Why not call it a day and try again in the morning?

On the other hand, when I start my day off right, I’m often so enthusiastic about my early success that I push myself harder. I feel happier. Life feels good.

This has come to be a problem here in Madrid, and I don’t think it’s entirely jet lag’s fault. The thing is, Spain is a night owl’s paradise: the entire country functions about two to three hours later than the rest of the world. The grocery stores don’t open till 9, lunch is at 2:30, many of my friends are just starting dinner at 11pm. And here I am, wanting to get up at 7 so that I can get an early start on work and be ready to hit the city while it’s still light out.

Apparently this is the wrong strategy. So I think I’m going to compromise with my jet lag, and adjust my life according to local custom: getting up closer to 8 or 9, staying up till 1 or 2. I know some people for whom this is the dream: they hate the American corporate custom of being at your desk by 8 in the morning, and rail against their inability to work according to a rhythm that best aligns with their personal productivity. They would love to sleep in till 10, work from noon till 8pm, and not go to bed till 3 in the morning.

Meanwhile, contrary to Benjamin Franklin, I don’t think there’s any particular virtue associated to rising early. However, I know that I won’t get anything done after 8pm, then I have to get my most important tasks accomplished before I start work. And that means getting up early.

So this new routine is going to work very much against my natural inclination, but we’ll see if I can get it going. At the very least, it will help me empathize with my nocturnal friends, once I’m back in the land of the early birds.

One Reply to “Becoming nocturnal.”

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