You’ve heard the cliche, “The early bird gets the worm.” I’m here to say that’s nothing more than another fairytale. I know people who are working by 5 a.m. but aren’t producing as much as their co-workers who get in at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. It’s not about being the first at the office or the last one to leave; it comes down to what you’re doing during those hours that creates your success.
Here are five reasons why tenacity and hard work pay off much more than being an early riser.
1. You use your time wisely.
We all have the same hours available to us each day. From an early age, it was bestowed upon us that we needed to wake up early for many reasons: we were told that early risers are more productive, more successful and have a stronger work ethic than those who wake up later. It’s great to arrive early to work, but that isn’t even half the battle. It’s what you’re doing during those early hours that sets you apart. If you show up early to take long coffee breaks, play around on social media and read the news, how does that make you more productive?
Conversely, if you show up at 9:30 a.m. or even 10 a.m., and you’re focused, cheerful and ready to work, your overall productivity will surpass that of your co-workers who show up earlier and fail to make use of that extra time.
2. You know your strengths.
I know many successful people who don’t show up to work until mid-afternoon because that’s when they think and feel their best. If you’re in a position of flexibility and are able to do that, kudos to you. For instance, Aaron Levie, co-founder of Box — a billion-dollar business — usually arrives at the office between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., and his head usually won’t hit the pillow until 3 a.m. The hour of the day doesn’t necessarily depend on your success; it’s what you’re doing with your time that does.
3. You are willing to refine your practices.
Tenacity means that no matter what time you show up, you’re always looking to improve systems and practices. Think about it: We’re always learning how to be more effective in our efforts. Leave no stone unturned. That said, don’t make changes just for the sake of making changes. Make sure you’re refining intentionally, with an end goal in place. Figure out how to automate repeated jobs, work a little faster, or use resources more efficiently. It’s a constant practice.
4. You don’t settle.
Stick close to your mission and check back often with how your daily practices align with your overall vision. Tenacity can function as a sort of muscle — it takes less effort the more you flex, so once you’re in the habit of tenacity, it will feel more natural and less like work.
5. You work with your strengths.
Collaborative, supportive workspace environments provide real, tangible benefits to understanding the best case scenarios that help you and your co-workers perform effectively. Some people need a little more silence; others prefer stimulation. Some people work better early in the day; others tap into their creative genius later into the night. Find ways to support and capitalize on these strengths, and you can build tenacity into your team.
Perhaps “early to bed, early to rise” and all of this worm-chasing nonsense is a holdover from days when we were far more dependent on daylight for agrarian work. There was a time not too long ago when we were dependent on daylight to guide our work, but our infrastructure frees us from dependence on the sun. Perhaps this platitude hangs around because of the lingering misconception that everyone has the same circadian rhythms, and thus the same optimal wake time. Whatever the reason, don’t worry if you’re more productive (and more pleasant) at a later time than most. Learn to use your strengths to your advantage, and it won’t matter so much what time you arrive — as long as you keep showing up.