Episode 117 is going to answer a question that I get pretty often: Can I become a morning person?
Now if you’re reading this and you’re thinking – “Anna – I have no trouble with mornings. I LOVE waking up early and starting my day. I’ve got no problem with mornings.”
If that’s you, then keep listening, because your mornings are about to get EVEN better.
But if you’re like me and dragging yourself out of bed in the morning is your least favorite thing ever, and you’re nodding off during your morning kickoff meetings, or you’re overdoing it on the coffee to try and stay awake and alert… then this episode is definitely for you.
So today, we’re talking about
- Whether it’s even possible to become a morning person if you’re historically terrible at mornings
- The three biological chronotypes – which is a fancy way of saying morning person, night person or somewhere in the middle
- And, I’ll tell you how to figure out which one you are so you can tailor your AM and PM strategies to your internal clock
- And finally, I’ll share a few simple tips that you can start implementing tonight to help you have a better morning tomorrow
Also – big news for my Baton Rouge friends!
If you’re an It’s About Time fan within driving distance to Baton Rouge, Louisiana you’re going to want to listen up.
Are you ready for a refresh on 2022? A do-over. A reset?
What if you could hit the reset button on your diet, your time and your messy house in just one afternoon – while sipping mimosas with friends?
Well – you’re invited to hit the reset button with ME on Sunday, March 27 at The Spring Reset in Baton Rouge.
The Spring Reset is an exclusive, popup lifestyle workshop I’m hosting alongside Sara Landry West of South Coast Organizers – you might remember Sara from Episode 73 – and Kylee Arnold of Arnold Nutrition Coaching. We’ll be sharing our secrets for managing your time, getting your house in order, and revamping your nutrition.
First, we’ll get settled in with bubbly mimosas and brunch nibbles. Then, we’ll workshop it up. Did I mention that all of this is happening at Red Stick Spice Company? That means we’ll get to watch one of their amazing culinary instructors whip up shrimp & grits before we savor a delicious scones and hot tea.
Think of The Spring Reset as “brunch with your besties” meets “being your best self.”
If you need a spring reset, Click Here to grab your seat. You can also find the link in the shownotes. There are only about 10 spots seats left, and they’re going fast. If you’re in or near Baton Rouge, I’d love to see you there!
What exactly does it take to become a morning person?
Is it even possible to become a morning person if you’ve always been a night owl?
If I’m already an early bird – how can I make my mornings even better?
All questions that I’ve gotten in the past few months from friends, in my instagram DMs and from members of the It’s About Time podcast community. With last week’s episode – Episode 116 – being all about adapting to Daylight Savings Time – mornings are on our minds.
Me personally? I’ve always thought of myself as a night owl – I’ve never been one to wake up super earlier – except for a few months during my pregnancies. Somehow I started walking up some mornings around 4:45 or 5:00 ready to start my day. Hormones can do some crazy things, right?
But for the most part, I would much rather stay up late, drive at night or pull an all-nighter, than wake up early and do just about anything. But – you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. When you’ve got to or want to start work at a specific time, and when that involves getting tiny people out the door and to school on time, too – when the alarm goes off, hitting the snooze button until 9AM just isn’t an option.
Where do we begin?
So where do we begin – First off we’re going to talk about whether it’s possible to become a morning person, or if it will always be a struggle for some of us.
That will take us to a dive into biological chronotypes – and discovering which chronotype we are. And by the way, biological chronotype is just a sciency way of saying whether you’re a natural morning person, night person or somewhere in between. Yep – turns out, there’s more than just morning larks and night owls – there’s a third bird – and you just might be in that flock with me.
Then – once we have an idea of which feathered friend we are, we’ll look at a few simple steps that anyone – regardless of type – can take to make mornings better than ever.
Alright. Ready? Here we go!
Is it possible to become a morning person?
So – Is it possible to become a morning person?
Well… yes! And also… sort of no. And it also kind of depends on how old you are. And here’s why…
You know how sometimes during your day, you feel totally on point. Awake. Refreshed. And then sometimes you’re totally dragging – usually after lunch, that afternoon lull where you feel kinda foggy. Sometimes that afternoon lull can feel totally frustrating – but I want you to know that you’re not alone in feeling these ups and downs throughout the day.
They’re totally normal.
You see… We’re all biologically wired to experience energy peaks and valleys throughout the day. In fact, there are three different energy phases that we all experience each day
Three energy phases: Peak, Trough and Rebound
The peak. The Trough and the rebound.
The peak is your highest energy point in the day. This is when you feel amazing, this is your best time for focused work. For deep work that requires concentration.
The trough is your lowest energy point in the day. This is when you’re totally dragging and you’re craving a coffee, a nap – or both.
The rebound is another high energy point, but it’s not quite as high as your peak. You’re feeling pretty good – you’re able to get stuff done and you’re able to focus. This is that second wind that most of us feel as we’re wrapping things up for the day.
But here’s the crazy thing – even though we all have these three energy phases every day – we don’t all experience them in the same order, or at the same times of day!
And that’s where your biological chronotype comes in – which, as I said before is a fancy way of saying whether you’re a chirpy morning lark ready to sing with the sunrise Disney Princess style, or a night owl who’d rather pull the covers over their head and smash the snooze button for the fifth time.
Three biological chronotypes
And while we usually group ourselves in one of two feathered flocks, there are actually THREE biological chronotypes: morning larks, night owls… and third birds.
Yes, third birds! That’s a thing! So if you’ve ever felt like you’re not quite a morning person, but you’re not really a night owl either… you might be a third bird – just like me.
I learned about these three chronotypes reading Daniel Pink’s book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
So let me tell you a little bit about each of these three birds so you can get an idea of where you land. And – if you want to be even more exact – head over to the shownotes and download the free worksheet I’ve created for you – It’s called Bird is the Word and with some quick math based on when you fall asleep and wake up, you can pinpoint exactly which one you are.
Until you can get your hands on that worksheet, listen in to see which bird sounds like you.
Ok – we’ll start with Morning Larks
Morning Larks – no surprise – feel their best in the early morning hours.
They experience the three phases of energy in this order:
Peak, Trough and Rebound.
So they’re at their Peak in the early morning hours – usually around 6, 7 or 8. Then they have their lowest energy point in the afternoon. And finally, in the early evening they feel a second wind – another boost of natural energy with their rebound.
Larks are our typical morning people. They’re early to bed and early to rise. Remember how I mentioned earlier that you can become a morning person? Sort of?
Your bird can change throughout your life
What’s interesting about chronotypes is that your bird can change throughout your life.
Most children, from toddlers to pre-teens are larks. Any moms listening whose kids have bounded into their room at 5AM on a Saturday morning already know this.
More women are larks than men, and many adults over 60 become larks, even if they experienced different patterns during other parts of life. Also interesting? Statistics show that people with fall or winter birthdays tend to be larks.
Here are a few fun personality traits most often associated with Larks. And remember – these aren’t hard rules, just common findings. There are always exceptions to the rule.
Larks are often introverted and conscientious. Agreeable and persistent. They’re known for being emotionally stable, and for taking initiative. They’re also very likely to make plans for the future.
So let’s head to the opposite end of the spectrum and meet the Owls.
Owls are our typical night people – naturally late to bed, and naturally late to rise.
Remember how larks experience the day in this order? Peak, Trough and Rebound?
For owls, it’s the exact opposite.
Owls actually start their day in the Rebound phase. So in the morning hours, owls can feel okay – but they’re definitely NOT at their best. Then in the afternoon, just like the Morning Larks, they dip even LOWER into the trough. And then finally in the evening, they totally come alive in their peak.
So again Morning Larks are Peak, Trough Rebound, but Owls are Rebound, Trough, Peak.
Remember those morning lark kiddos up at the crack of dawn
Once those morning lark children make the transition into their teenage years, they become more owlish – and that owlishness typically lasts through their early 20s. So if you were a total night owl in college, but now you can’t keep your eyes open past 9PM – that’s why! Your owl days just might be behind you.
More men than women tend to be natural owls, and owls are typically born in the spring and summer months.
One very interesting thing to note is that Owls make up only one fourth of the population, so they’re a lot less common than you might think.
Here are few common personality traits of the Owl. They’re known for being open and extroverted, impulsive thrill seekers. They’re typically more creative, have a superior working memory, plus they’re generally hilarious.
Ok – so we’ve talked Morning Larks, and we’ve talked Night Owls – but what about those Third Birds?
Chances are, you are a third bird.
Call this a mid-morning pigeon, a flamingo ready for brunch, a midday hawk – whatever you want, but Third Birds are those of us who don’t fall neatly into the lark or the owl category. Third birds are the most common type and make up 60-80% of the population, so like I said – there’s a pretty good chance you’re a third bird. Like the morning lark, Third Birds experience their daily energy phases in this order: Peak, Trough and Rebound, but their peak and rebound times are pushed back a bit. Think midmorning peak – instead of early morning, and early to mid-evening rebound.
Remember how I mentioned that Owls are less common than you might think? I’ve found that many people who think they’re owls are actually third birds!
And if you’re curious about Third Bird personality traits, they’re a bit more unpredictable than the Morning Lark and the Night Owl, so consider a Third Bird personality a mix of both.
And if you’ve listened to me talk about all three birds and you’re still not quite sure where you fly, download and print the free Bird is the Word worksheet so you can zero in on which bird you are.
Is it possible to become a morning person?
So going back to the original question – is it possible to become a morning person.
Biologically – some of us are just born that way. And then we can lean Morning Lark depending on our stage of life, when we’re children or senior adults.
One thing I truly hope is that by understanding that there are three distinct time types, that you’re able to give yourself a little grace if mornings aren’t the easiest for you.
And there’s no doubt that the working world rewards the early bird tendencies of morning larks. Traditional business hours and school start times are built for larks and are pretty doable for third birds, but are often a struggle for owls.
And if you have a child, coworker, significant other, or someone else in your life who you can totally spot as being a different bird from you – I hope that you’re able to be understanding with them, too.
I like to believe that most of us really are trying our best, and working with what we’ve got – in this case our biological chronotype.
And for all of my owls who are listening – yes – it IS possible for you to have good mornings, too.
You have a choice – you can use your Owl-ness as an excuse “I can’t do mornings, because I’m an owl.” or you can choose to find a way to make mornings work for you.
How to have better mornings
So how can we make the most of mornings regardless of our feathered time type?
First, we’re going to start with why.
Then, we’re going to make being “good at mornings” a part of our identity.
Finally, we’ll start our good morning before we turn off the light the night before.
01. Start with why
First – Starting with why.
Anytime you set out to do anything, it’s critical to articulate WHY you want to do that thing in the first place.
In his book The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey tested out dozens upon dozens of different productivity hacks over the course of a year to figure out what worked and what didn’t. After reading that tons of the most productive people – from CEOs and Entrepreneurs to Scientists and Artists – wake up at 5AM, he set out to do the same.
He found that, for him, waking up at 5AM was totally miserable because he didn’t really have a good reason for getting up that early. He had evening hours pretty open and available to him, and there really was no good reason for him to get up that early.
For me, on the other hand, and I’m sure for many of you – it’s a much different story. As a mom to two little girls waiting for me at daycare, I just don’t have the option to keep working into the evening. Once I do my shutdown routine at the end of each workday, my evening hours are totally spoken for until around 8PM with dinner prep, bathtime, and bedtime routine. Sometimes later if my three-year old is having trouble sleeping.
Maybe you don’t have kids at home like I do, but you spend your evening hours on volunteer activities, nonprofit meetings or other things and you want to take advantage of those early morning hours for things like working out, personal development or meditation.
Morning Personal Development
If you want to incorporate more intentional personal development into your mornings, Back in Episode 19, I dedicated an entire episode to designing a next level morning routine that includes meditation, affirmations and other ways to start your day.
Regardless of your reason, before you set out to become a morning person, your first step is to articulate your why. If you don’t have a clear purpose in mind for getting up, and you know that you struggle to climb out of the bed, it’s going to be nearly impossible to pull yourself out of bed for no good reason.
Why do you want to be a better morning person?
So ask yourself Why? Why do I want to be a better morning person? And then once you have that first answer. Maybe it’s to work out, maybe it’s to get in an hour of work, maybe it’s just to have some stillness before your family wakes up – once you have your first answer, ask yourself why again. Why do you want to work out? Why do you want to get in an extra hour of work? Why do you want some stillness before your family wakes up?
What would that give you? Would working out enable you to feel more confident in your skin? To prove to yourself that you can run a marathon? Does that extra hour of work get you closer to a promotion or the next level in your business journey? Does that stillness enable you to step into your day feeling calm, prepared and peaceful? Is that your time in scripture or a devotional that strengthens your relationship with God?
Before I move on to step two – want you to ask the question right now. What’s your reason? What’s your why for having better mornings?
Ok – Good.
02. Tie mornings to your identity
Once you know your why for waking up early and becoming a better morning person, the second step is to tie mornings to your identity.
If you’ve been listening to It’s About Time for a while, you’ve probably heard me mention James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. In this book, one of Clear’s first steps for starting any new habit is to make it a part of who you are.
The words we use to describe ourselves and our internal self-talk is powerful. And if you tell yourself “I suck at mornings.” or “I just don’t do mornings.” That’s exactly what’s going to happen. You’ll act in a way that is in line with your beliefs and your statements.
Negative self talk – whether about your ability to do mornings well or something completely different, has a lot of – you guessed it – negative consequences. Among other it can limit our ability to see opportunities, increases perfectionism, can lead to feelings of depression, insecurity, and a heightened sense of stress.
Flip the script.
So, now that you know your WHY for being a better morning person, flip the script on any morning negativity you’ve been holding on to. Start to bring awareness to those moments when you catch yourself thinking, “Ugh I hate mornings” or “Ugh, I can’t get up early” and replace it with something neutral or positive. “I can do mornings.” or “I can get out of bed because of my why.”
And like James Clear recommends for starting new habits, tell yourself “I am someone who is good at mornings.”
Before long, you’ll begin to act accordingly. Your actions will align with your words and your thoughts. You’ll make tiny decisions that begin to add up to morning success. Those tiny decisions bring us to Step three – winning your morning by making the most of the night before.
In Episode 24 of It’s About Time – Rachel HenryIs the Juice Worth the Squeeze? openly admitted that in her family of four, 0 out of 4 are bright eyed, bushy tailed morning people. But because she recognizes that, they make the most of evenings and prep in advance. Prepping lunches, prepping school clothes. Doing as much as possible the night before, so they can make their way through the morning.
How to have a successful morning
Four easy things you can do the night before to set yourself up for morning success?
- Actually write out your morning routine schedule – with times and everything. You usually only have to do this once or twice, but being realistic about how much time the different parts of your morning take will help you figure out what to keep and what to cut.
- Set out all of your most important things. Can never find your keys? Forget your lunch? Gym bag? Planner – Load the car the night before if you can, or put everything by the door so you don’t miss it when you walk out.
- Plug your phone in to charge across the room from your bed. It’s easy to make excuses – I use my phone as an alarm. Well… cool – I bet you can still hear it from across the room if you turn up the volume. Charging your phone away from you bed takes away some of the temptation to stay up and scroll – plus, it decreases your exposure to the blue light emitted from your screen – and yes – even when you put your phone on nighttime mode, you’re still getting blue light that affects your melatonin (aka sleep hormone) production.
- Finally – get enough sleep. Most adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Figure out what your body needs and get in bed. Blackout curtains, a sleep mask, and a sound machine – or even a free white noise app on your phone (plugged in across the room, of course) can all be super helpful in getting the shut eye you need.
And if you’re listening and have a newborn or other little one at home with a tough sleep schedule – I’m sending you a hug. Remember that this is just a season, and it won’t last forever. I remember after having Camilla – who is now a big girl three year old – I wondered if I’d ever feel rested again in my entire life, or if being perpetually exhausted was just the new normal.
Fortunately, she found a good sleep schedule and our family found its new rhythm. Then we did it all over again a year ago with Elizabeth, this time with the experience of knowing that one day we’d be past the sleepless nights and that yes, I would actually feel rested again one day. If you’re in the trenches, I’m rooting for you. You will get through it.
How to prep the night before
To recap those four things you can do the night before:
- Write out your morning routine to make sure it makes sense
- Set out all of the important things
- Plug your phone in across the room so you’re not tempted to scroll
- Get enough sleep based on what your body needs.
And there are probably a whole host of other things you could do the night before to set yourself up for a good morning – regardless of whether you’re a morning lark, a night owl or a third bird.
You could find a morning accountability partner. You could use a Habit Tracker like the one I shared in Episode 40. The possibilities are endless – and with your positive self-talk – you’ll be able to see the opportunities more clearly as they present themself.
Ok – Final recap on how to be a better morning person
- Start by figuring out your biological chronotype. If you’re still not sure or you want to double check – download the Bird is the Word worksheet and find out if you’re a morning lark, a night owl or a third bird.
- Then – Know your Why – If you don’t have a compelling reason for being a better morning person, you’re not going to take action.
- Next – Flip the script on the negative self talk. Make mornings a part of your identity and you’ll find ways to follow through.
- And finally – set yourself up for success by starting your good morning the night before.
Links & Resources Mentioned in Episode 117
- Join me for my Spring Reset in Baton Rouge! Sign up here.
- Download the Bird is the Word biological chronotype worksheet
- Episode 24: Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze? How To Step Off The Hot Mess Express Once And For All With Rachel Henry
- Episode 19: Win the Morning, Win the Day
- When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink
- The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
- Atomic Habits by James Clear