The Golden Hours

In the fall, Elizabeth wrote about a post about her favorite podcasts.

And since I was struggling to find audiobooks to listen to (curses on my Austin Library Card finally expiring – and then I ran out of time to renew it when we were actually in Texas last week), I subscribed to The Lively Show.

Over the course of a few weeks, I listened to most of the episodes and found it utterly delightful and inspiring.

Most of the episodes are interviews with various bloggers and small business owners and I couldn’t get enough.

But the thing that has stuck with me most was something from the very first episode with Erin Loechner.

She talked about how, after the birth of their daughter, she and her husband, who both are self-employed, split up the childcare.

She had always been an early bird, so she took the morning shift, while her husband, who is more of a night owl, would take the afternoon and evening time with their daughter.

But after a few months, they realized that they were spending their most productive times of the day doing puzzles or going on walks with their daughter, and by the time they got to the work part of the day, both of them were fairly useless.

So they switched it so that she got up super early and worked through until lunch when she was at her most productive, then they’d have lunch together as a family and he’d work while she took over the care of their daughter and she could enjoy being present and engaged, rather than feeling antsy about wanting to get work done.

This was like a giant lightbulb for me.

I’ve recognized for a long time that I’m not a night owl. Not once in my entire life have I stayed up all night – if I ever had too much homework to finish, I’d go to bed and get up super early (3 a.m. or so) and plow through it then. Staying up straight through the night was basically not an option for me. I struggle to be productive at night.

And yet, for the last few years, as I’ve started working more, I’d make grand plans of all the things I’d do once the girls were in bed for the night. I’d write ten posts! I’d send a thousand emails! I’d clean the entire house!

Except then I’d shut their doors and want to just lie on the couch and read. Or maybe scroll aimlessly through Instagram. Even the thought of going to the grocery store or Old Navy just about killed me.

If I did absolutely have something due, it would take me ages to wade through it, probably two or three or four times what it would have taken me earlier in the day when I wasn’t so exhausted.

In the morning, however, I can pound through my to-do list like I’m on fire.

I decided to start waking up about an hour or so earlier most mornings and getting some work done first thing. I thought it would be excruciating to wake up earlier, but sitting in bed with my laptop was actually so enjoyable, I looked forward to it every morning (plus, it gave me an excuse to not work in the evenings, since I knew I’d be hitting the ground running first thing).

By the time my girls got up, I’d already have put in a solid hour. I don’t do this every morning, but I do it most mornings, and it’s been a game-changer for me.

After getting ready and having breakfast, I really focus on getting errands run, house stuff accomplished, and daily tasks done. The girls are generally in good moods in the morning, too, and more likely to be willing to go on errands or play together.

We have lunch around noon and wind down for quiet time and naps, and then I work for two hours. By the time they get up, I’m pretty much spent for the day, and they’re ready for more undivided attention and I can happily go to the park with them, read endless stacks of books, or play Uno.

And then, when they go to bed, I can read, browse the Internet without guilt, or do mindless projects while I listen to an audiobook.

It’s such a little thing, but realizing that some times of day are more productive than others has totally revamped the way I set my expectations for the day and run my schedule.

And I’m getting a lot more sleep too. Until I have a newborn again. Then all bets are off.

(Interestingly, my sister Merrick seems to be the opposite. She told me last year, “I do all my best work after midnight.” I think we look similar enough to be sure we’re related, but not only do I not do my best work after midnight, I don’t do ANY work after midnight. I’ve usually been in bed for an hour or more).

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  1. Same, except I'm not trying to get any work done in the mornings. Except maybe dishes or something. But once I had my first child, getting up at 5 a.m. seemed like a reasonable thing to do if it meant I would have an hour without dealing with anyone else's needs. Of course, with each subsequent child, there are more needs and less opportunity to find ANY time to myself no matter how early I get up, but when this latest newborn gets a little more regular with sleep I suppose I'll get my solo early morning hour again. Maybe. I hope.

  2. I started getting up an hour earlier a few months ago as well. It's been great, except for the days when my kids decide to wake up that early too. Then I'm just really, really annoyed. 🙂

  3. I have never not ever stayed up all night to get something done. I'm just like you–the early morning hours are my best. By 8pm all I want to do is veg.

  4. You sound like me. My most productive time is early in the morning. I feel absolutely amazing when I get up before everyone else, when it's still dark outside. I've made early bedtime a priority for me this year. I'm cursed with being a night owl AND an early bird. I started listening to The Lively Show last year, but I've been binge-listening for the past month. I love listening to it when I drive to and from work. It's one of my favorite times during the day!

  5. I used to wake up at 3 or 4 am to do homework in college as well after going to sleep at midnight or so. Spencer thought I was crazy, but I just can't work through the night.

    1. Oh, and whenever my family gets together, guess who is the first adult to go to bed? So I get how sisters can be on VERY different schedules.

  6. Through most of my life I've definitely been a night person but now that I'm older I feel like that's not really the case anymore? But mornings still don't work. I think maybe I'm just not meant to be productive ever.

  7. It's fun to read through everyone comments and see what spectrum everyone is on. I feel like my most productive times right now are nap time, and bedtime, but during the morning I'm constantly trying to respond to emails, and get things done while there's a free five minutes here or there… I'd probably do better to wake up a little earlier too and get things done before the babies are awake!

  8. I've always known I'm a morning person, but having kids disrupted my sleep so much I lost all my good morning routines (you know, just trying to get some sleep any time I could). My resolution this year was to wake up an hour before anyone and get my morning routine back. Eight days in and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner. I LOVE my morning hour.

  9. I'm a morning person too and the only time I've stayed up all night was when I had my baby, which was, you know, hard to avoid 🙂 . I love working in the mornings but unfortunately my toddler likes waking up early too so the main time I actually have free is his long afternoon nap, when I am at my least productive. Sigh. Hoping he sleeps in later when winter gets here.

  10. I did mornings really well as a teenager, and nights too, I guess. I think I just didn't sleep as a teenager. I'm terrible at mornings now.

  11. I do my best work after midnight, too. If I let myself stay up that late I can get a whole day's tasks done in an hour and a half – but then I'm super tired and snappish the next day. If only I could live on college time again and not get out of bed until noon.

    I am lucky in that I do still at least get an 'awesome hour', after my husband goes to bed at 10. It's not quite as productive as midnight, but 10-11pm is a pretty good time for me:)

  12. I can't tell you how much I love this. I am the exact same. I'm always like….ohhh I'm going to get so much stuff done after the boys go to bed….and here I am watching Friends on the couch.

    I've been thinking about making myself get up a little earlier (not every day, like you said), but on a few days. I'm a morning worker as well!

  13. For years and years and years (the majority of my life), I was both a morning person and a night owl–I just didn't sleep much. As I have gotten older, I am still an night owl, but I find myself enjoying sleeping in much more. I do try to make it a point to get some "me" time (ie, work or workout) before my son wakes up a couple of mornings a week, and it really makes a difference. Most of the time, though, I work into the wee hours of the night!

  14. I dream of succeeding at this same schedule. I do like staying up late, but I know it's unhealthy and it means not as much sleep as I need because the kids are still going to get up in the morning, so I try to get to bed at a good hour. BUT, I just CANNOT get myself up in the mornings. It's still something I'm trying to make happen because I know how nice it is when I do it.

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