Do you have to wake up early to be successful?

I follow a number of blogs and newsletters, and lately I’ve been noticing a trend: a number of my favourite newsletters and blogs recommend waking up an hour earlier to get your writing done. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially because it was one of the key recommendations in COMMIT, the self-help book recently published by Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer.

I know this strategy works for a lot of people, but I resent the idea that in order to be successful, I have to wake up earlier.

Instead, I believe in a concept introduced to me by DIY MFAmagic timeMagic time is the time of day when you are at your best. It is the time when you can accomplish all your work in half the time it would normally take, the time when you’re most focused and productive.

Magic time is actually a different time of day for everyone. Many people will find their magic time happens to be in the morning, but for others, that time might be afternoon, evening or even the wee hours of the morning. My magic time happens to be between 6 and 10 PM, probably because I got really used to the routine of writing after school.

Getting up earlier isn’t critical to writing success, but determining your magic time and setting it aside to write is. Making sure you spend this time writing every single day allows you to maximize productivity while still producing the best work possible.

For me this happens to be easy: my boyfriend works evenings, meaning the house tends to be empty when I want to be write. For you this might not be so easy, but it’s still crucial to your success.

So how do you find your magic time?

Finding your magic time is easy, albeit time consuming. You have to try writing at different times of day: try staying up an hour later, then waking up an hour earlier, then blocking off the time immediately after you get home from work, then any other time you can reasonably devote to writing. You have to test each of these times for a two week period–or longer if you want–to determine which is best for you. Anything less than two weeks won’t give you a solid idea of how productive you are during that time overall.

Once you’ve found your magic time, protect it by any means off. During your magic time, turn your phone off, keep your office door closed and inform anyone you live with that you are unavailable. You’ll probably find that your magic time still gets interrupted once in a while, but if you deliberately carve it out, keeping that time free will get easier every week and you’ll find yourself producing more, better work than ever before.

Do you know when your magic time is? Let me know in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “Do you have to wake up early to be successful?

  • Raghavan

    I would assume that the gray cells have time enough to digest & remember whatever is essential, though the time one wakes or goes to sleep, time spent can be important, the hours at which one wakes up or goes to sleep (total hours of sleep is surely important)..
    Another fact is that this has not been recommended by great mathematicians, logicians or scientists. I need some proof to swallow this :). Probably the interest in the subject & IQ & a good book by a good author is needed.
    warm regards,

    • dlgunn

      I haven’t really done much research into actual studies on the concept of “Magic Time”, though I’ve read about the concept(often called something else) on a number of blogs and in a handful of newsletters. What I have found interesting is studies about how the circadian rhythm changes during a person’s lifespan. For example, it has been proven that teenagers naturally sleep later and stay up later than adults — .

      I suppose now I’ll have to do some research on this concept of Magic Time…

  • I think you are spot on. Like you, I write best in the evenings and for the same reasons. When my kids were busy with activities and I was still teaching, the only peaceful time I had to write was after everyone went to bed. I so my best writing from about 9 to midnight. I always had to get up early as a farmer’s daughter, a teacher and a mother. One of the best parts of writing full time and having grown children is sleeping in.

    • dlgunn

      I’m glad I’m not alone! I think one of the great things about the modern era is that our society has started to acknowledge and even accept how different people are, biologically, culturally and in pretty much every way. 30 years ago a lot of people didn’t take night owls seriously and getting up in the morning seemed to be part of having a “real job”, but that attitude is shifting in a big way–and it’s starting to change company and even government policies.

  • In the best of all worlds, I would start writing around 11 PM at night. I am a true night owl. I’ve tried waking up early but I have this lovely mom who is 84 living with me. She loves getting up at 4 am. So much for having a dedicated writing time. You may ask, why don’t I be super quiet? I own dogs who announce everything to the dogs down the hall in her room.
    I read your about section. You look and sound like and exceptional young person.

    • dlgunn

      Wow, you really are a night owl! I used to work on much the same schedule, but I find that my rhythm has shifted in the last few years.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your sweet comment, I hope you’ll stick around!

  • I totally agree, I really struggle to write anything remotely creative in the day, it all goes on in the evening. Luckily for me I can cheat a little bit as I live in the GMT time zone so afternoon for me is still morning in the US where most of my readers live!

    • dlgunn

      Ha! I don’t have any such luck, but WordPress does have a handy scheduling feature. I try to actually schedule posts 2-3 weeks ahead so if I’m sick on a Monday night my post still goes up Tuesday morning.

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll stick around

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