“I’m a morning person.”
“I’m totally useless in the morning. Can’t do anything until I’ve had three coffees.”
We’ve all heard people make those claims: I’ve no doubt the vast majority of people reading the blog would file themselves in one of the two categories.
But there’s increasing evidence that what your Granny told you was right. The early bird does catch the worm. Early to bed, early to rise and there’s only one possible outcome…
In simple terms, we’re at our cognitive best in the morning. I can vouch for that: without question, I’m better in the morning. I’m sharper, more alert and I’m conscious that I’m making better decisions.
But enough of the anecdotal: what about the analytical?
Researchers in Denmark studied the performance of two million 8 to 15 year olds in standard tests, taking the time of the test into account. The results showed that for every hour after 8am results declined by 1% – apparently equivalent to missing ten days of school.
As lead researcher Dr Hans Henrik Sievertsen said: “Our ability to focus, make decisions and react is affected by cognitive fatigue.”
So if your teenage son comes home clutching his exam timetable and beaming because his exams are all in the afternoon, he might be paying a high price for sleeping in.
It’s not just students. An article in the Scientific American cited the fact that doctors are more likely to default to simply prescribing antibiotics and prescription drugs as the day wears on.
And judges become less lenient…
In one study, 1,112 bench rulings in a parole court were studied. The data showed that as judges advanced through a day’s cases they became more likely to deny a prisoner’s request and accept the status quo. The proportion of favourable rulings started out high early in the day, at about 65 per cent. By the time the court broke for lunch, favourable rulings were close to zero.
Scientific American draws the same conclusions as Dr. Sievertsen: “the demands of multiple decisions throughout the day erodes their mental resources and leads to inappropriate and all-round bad decisions.”
I think this is fascinating – and it’s got real implications for business. Clearly, we need to be making our big decisions in the morning. Granny was right again: ‘sleep on it’ – because you’re going to make the best decisions when you’re fresh.
It also looks like we’re more creative in the morning. As the day wears on – as cognitive fatigue sets in – both the judges and the doctors were more likely to revert to the status quo, the easy option. If you want to think ‘outside the box,’ you need to be doing it over breakfast. After all, we know what you get if you ‘do what you’ve always done…’
It’s not just making decisions and being creative: there’s the experience of the prisoners and their parole – or lack of it. Clearly, you need to ask for things in the morning as well: if you have to negotiate, then negotiate at nine in the morning. (Preferably not with a judge though!)
So with the analytical and the anecdotal in full agreement, one of my commitments to myself for next year is to be even more of a morning person. Dan and Rory are getting older: we don’t need to be quite so ‘hands-on’ as they get ready for school – so there’s more time for tea, toast, planning the day and feeling in control. I know that benefits my business and my TAB York members.
And there’s a work/life balance bonus as well: with work planned and organised and the big decisions made, evenings are there for my family – not for my laptop.