Can a Night Owl become an Early Bird?

I’ve always been a night owl. My first late night job was in high school, mopping up and taking out the trash part time at a restaurant after closing at 11PM. After high school, not taking well to college right away, I worked second shift 3:30PM to midnight at a factory in San Diego for 18 months. This resulted in countless all-nighters, though I did, unbelievably, maintain perfect attendance without one single late or sick day.

It was a Japanese-owned factory, and perfect attendance each month was rewarded with a $5 bonus and the designation of “Honor Employee”. I liked my $5 bonus the first of each month ($4.34 after taxes), and I liked the way my manager bowed in thanks when presenting the bonus check and saying to me in broken english “You are Honor Employee. We appreciate you”.

To this day, I can’t believe that a wild young, irresponsible, unreliable 18-19 year old like me could be tamed and made 100% punctual by the desire to receive that simple ritual affirmation and a few extra dollars each month. But if you’ve never been bowed to in ritual and honored by an oriental boss, and told you are appreciated in front of all your co-workers, it’s intoxicating. It’s addicting. And it made me feel entirely worthy and valued when everything else in my college-droppout-beer-drinking life indicated otherwise.

So I made sure I was on time every day and didn’t miss work. I think my lifelong work ethic can be attributed to the punctuality habits caused by that $5 bonus and the seemingly trivial yet potent acknowledgment of appreciation each month.

After moving to Texas, I worked in a restaurant in Corpus Christi while attending restaurant management college for 2 years. Again, the 4PM to midnight shift with a little partying afterward, then homework, then to class by 8AM after a few hours sleep. Later, as a restaurant manager for Dominos for about 4 years in Austin during the 1980s, there were regular “closing shifts”, leaving the pizza shop at 3AM, often after opening that morning at 10:30AM, thus working what we called the “Rambo” shift, which was a 17 hour mega-shift. I even had an inspirational movie poster of Rambo on the back office wall. I’d do 4 or 5 of those Rambo shifts a month, getting in 70 or 80 hours a week, and very little sleep.

So I got habituated into becoming a person who can stay up late and work long hours with little rest. A night owl. I can do all nighters at the drop of a hat. It’s no big deal. When my daughter needs to be picked up and brought home from a friend’s house at midnight on a Friday or Saturday, it’s no problem. I’m up anyway.

This Night Owl attribute has been a valuable asset and an incredible productivity advantage. My most productive time of day has long been 11PM to 2AM. I get more done in those three hours than I can in a full 8 hour “business” day. I’m not kidding. I love 11PM-2AM.

From 11PM-2AM, the phone doesn’t ring, the kids don’t need attention, I can concentrate without interruption. It’s dark outside. I like the dark stillness of the night. I’ve written the majority of my 500+ blog articles over the past 4+ years between 11PM and 2AM. I usually save and proof read them the next day, but the bulk of writing gets done late at night. Most of my accounting, paperwork and research gets done during 11PM-2AM. I can think straight and clearly during my 11-2. I need my 11-2 shift.

No Longer a Night Owl?
So imagine the distress I’m feeling at the current prospect of losing this late night stamina. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older (almost 47), but with ever increasing frequency, I’m too tired to stay up late and work. My late night mojo is fading. Shamefully, I even fell asleep on the couch during the recent Saints-Vikings playoff game. Sorry Brett. If I’d been up cheering you on, you might not have thrown that stupid interception that cost you the game. I’ve also failed to make it through the 10-o’clock news or Nightline on multiple occasions. Often when I do remain up, I’m not as sharp as I use to be. I feel sluggish and tired. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have any lifestyle changes to which I can attribute this change in energy.

What’s going on here? I feel like I might be losing my super-power. My secret weapon. If this progresses, I don’t know when I’ll catch up on emails, run CMAs, enter listings into the MLS, update the website, straighten out files, knock out Sylvia’s todo lists. I have a physical next week so I’ll be discussing this with my doctor.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering what my options would be if my circadian rhythm is shifting and my 11-2 is taken away. I’ve tried a midday nap a few times, but it wipes me out for the rest of the day, rendering me listless and dimwitted, both unpleasant and unprofitable attributes. And so now I wonder if it’s possible to cross over to the other side.

Can a night owl become an early bird?

The advantages of getting up early would be same. But to get my 3 hours in, it would have to be 4AM to 7AM. That doesn’t sound good to me. Not sure I can do that. I’ve tried to get up at 6:30AM the past few days, instead of my regular 7AM. My mind says “get up” but my body cries uncle and I succumb to the snooze button.

How do you early birds do it? I know there are those of you out there up at 4:30AM, catching up on emails and other stuff before the day intrudes on productivity. Enjoying the same peace and solitude that I experience during my 11PM-2AM window. I imagine I would enjoy being an early riser as much as I have enjoyed being a night owl. But even when I turn in at 9PM, I am 100% unprepared to rise early the next morning. And I feel more fatigued than if I had slept my usual 5 or 6 hours.

Of greatest concern, can I still be a great Realtor if I’m forced to, god forbid, be administratively productive in the daytime? Daytime is for working with clients, attending inspections, showing properties, shuttling the kids, networking, returning calls and handling deal related communications. Being where I’m needed and doing the urgent and important tasks of the day. Not for office work.

I’d like to hear any tips from early birds. Especially if you’re a converted Night Owl. Is there hope?

5 thoughts on “Can a Night Owl become an Early Bird?”

  1. I believe when referring to people the term is “asian” whereas objects would be “oriental”. The Japanese culture of honor and respect is commendable in lacking in our culture. In our society a CEO denies all culpability for any wrongdoing and lawyers up – in Japan the CEO begs for forgiveness.

  2. Man, you’re scaring me. As the father of two small children my greatest fear is that when they become teenagers and I can finally sleep in again that I’ll have converted to an early bird.

  3. Steve & RWH – truthfully I’m torn; as a person of “oriental” descent I find said term grating and sadly reflective of our admittedly American lack of cultural awareness…. however having grown up 2nd generation in Detroit, MI and now approaching my 10-year Austinite “anniversary” I find the whine of political correctness nearly as abhorrent.

    Thankfully I’ve recently come to the following realization: I want to strangle you both


    Steve – regarding the loss of your late night mojo… when I was a teenager I could pretty much eat tupperware, smoke cardboard and wash it all down with gasoline. Since passing 32 my body seems less the cutthroat competitive 24-7 Japanese industry and more the 30-hr-work-week French union; simply put, it’ll strike on a whim and increasingly enjoys it’s naps.

    C’est la vie and remember; once the hip goes, it’s all over.

  4. Hi Allbread,

    My apologies for not being better tuned in to the current and proper use of the words Oriental and Asian. I’ve looked into it further.
    Per Wikipedia:

    The term “Oriental” (from the Latin word for “Eastern”)[32] was originally used in Europe in reference to the Near East. It was later extended to the rest of Asia, but came to refer to Northeast Asians and Southeast Asians in the 19th and 20th century US,[33] where most Asians were Chinese (and later Japanese and Filipino). By the late 20th century, the term had gathered associations in North America with older attitudes now seen as outmoded, and was replaced with the term “Asian” as part of the updating of language concerning social identities,[34] which critics have derided as political correctness.[35] In Europe however use of the term oriental for an east Asian has no negative connotations attached and is commonly used. Note particularly that, in the UK at least, Indian people (for example) are considered Asian but not Oriental, giving credence to the point that the term ‘Oriental’ now means ‘East Asian’ rather than any meaning related to the Greenwich Meridian and its colonial links.

    I will refrain from using “Oriental” to describe people, except when in the UK where it’s apparently not politically incorrect.

    My wife Sylvia has also informed me that the term “kid” when referring to the offspring of others is not polite and that I should use “child”, “children”, or “son” or “daughter”. I say “kid” when talking about other people’s “kids”.

    Forgive me. I’m just limping along through life with my outmoded vocabulary. 🙂 But I enjoy learning and appreciate the input.


  5. Welcome to the space between eternal youth and the glue factory known as “middle age.’ Can you successfully become an early bird? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
    As FZ says, “you is what you am, a cow don’t make ham”


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