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.