Owls, Larks, And Productivity

It appears that any form of life on this planet has its internal clock, even plants and single-cell organisms. Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan, a French astronomer, observed that one of his plants, a Mimosa pudica, unfurled its leaves every morning even without access to light. There was no external indication of the time of the day, and yet the plant “knew” it was morning and time to unfurl its leaves.

The same applies to humans. I mean the internal clock, not the leaves unfurling. Have you ever heard about owls and larks? People generally have one of two chronotypes or patterns of circadian rhythms. If you are a lark or early chronotype, you have the most energy in the early mornings. If you are an owl or late chronotype, you have the most energy in the evenings. There is a ton of inconsistency in various studies, but about a fifth of the population are larks, a fifth are owls, and the rest is somewhere in the middle.

This is an important realization. Some of us are simply better, smarter, and more ethical in the mornings and some in the evenings.

It is not just genetics that plays a role. Interestingly our circadian rhythms change with age. Young children are often larks. When they go through puberty, they turn into owls, and then when we get over 60, we often turn into larks again.

According to available research into the correlation between personality traits and time-of-day preference, the morning types or larks are often introverted, agreeable, persistent, emotionally stable, and generally pleasant and productive. They have higher levels of positive affect than night types. The owls are often more extroverted and open, creative, with better memory, but also more likely to be impulsive, neurotic, succumb easier to addictions, and generally tend to have more unhealthy lives. This, combined with the way how our time-of-day preference changes with age, means that older adults are more positive and emotionally stable larks. In contrast, young adults are more open, impulsive, and neurotic owls.

What does it all mean?

When you combine all the information, you may deduce that owls are in puberty and extroverted, while larks are above sixty and introverted. Or you may acknowledge that there are many factors in play, and you shouldn’t try to label yourself.

Genetics, age, personality, and habits all play a role in setting your internal clock. The important thing is to realize what your internal clock says and do your best to adjust to it. There are times during the day when you are at your best, and they are times when you can’t get anything done. There are times when you make good decisions, and there are times when you are the most creative. Learn to recognize what time of the day works for what type of activity for you specifically, and then schedule your day accordingly. To get the most of your days, consider napping at the appropriate time. And to keep your internal clock healthy and aligned, have a routine. Get to bed and wake up at the regular time as much as possible, including weekends. Routine aligned with your circadian rhythms will work miracles.

What is your take on the topic? Are you a lark or an owl? When do you have the most energy? When are you the most creative? When it is the easiest for you to make decisions? How did your circadian rhythms evolve with age?

Photo: A_Different_Perspective / Pixabay.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Categories: Productivity

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