I tried and failed to be a morning person. Instead of fighting my body, I wake up later and have more productive days.

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I tried and failed to be a morning person. Instead of fighting my body, I wake up later and have more productive days.
Shoshanna Hecht.Courtesy of Shoshanna Hecht
  • Shoshanna Hecht, a personal coach, tried to master an early-morning routine.
  • She tried to motivate herself but found that waking up early led to fatigue and procrastination.
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Shoshanna Hecht, a 49-year-old personal coach from New York City. It's been edited for length and clarity.

While I utilize several productivity tools I love, the one I've tried that was the most epic fail was to be a morning person.

One time when I was a kid, my dad tried to wake me up for school and I bit him — lifelong non-morning person here.

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When I launched my coaching business in the early 2010s, there was a lot of strong messaging from productivity gurus that the morning was the most productive time of the day and that if you wanted to be successful you had to get up early and get to work.

I bought into the idea that I was and would always be a failure if I couldn't master my biorhythm and become a super-productive early bird. But it just doesn't work for me and my routine.

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For a while I set an early alarm

I dragged myself out of bed between 5 and 6 a.m. and tried to get my morning started with coffee from my French press.

Sometimes it would work, but more often than not I'd find myself procrastinating getting to the computer once I was awake — or if I did get there, I'd make minimal progress on any work for a long time.

I felt awful that it was so hard for me. I thought I really shouldn't be the CEO of a business if I couldn't get up early.

It was also frustrating that no matter how tired I felt in the morning and again in the afternoon, I'd get a second wind at 8 p.m. I'd feel energized and creative and could work or hang out late. Knowing this would sabotage my morning, I'd fight the wave of energetic flow to try to get to bed early to start the cycle again.

Trying to fit into someone else's productivity hack made me grumpy, angry, and frustrated

After two or three years of trying and failing to be a morning person, I realized that the only way to be successful was to do it my way and hone the confidence to stay on my own course.

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I had to stop comparing myself to everyone else and their highlight reels. Most of what people share is the top line of what works for them, not necessarily what they failed at. Time, maturity, and confidence all helped me let go of wanting to get up early.

Now my morning routine begins with me being well rested after eight or nine hours of sleep. Then I do some form of exercise like cardio or weights at home with a variety of apps, do my breath work, write a gratitude list, set an intention for my day, talk to my beloved, read a bit before a shower, and end with coffee.

I get up naturally between 7 and 8 a.m.

Lately I've noticed I've been waking up even earlier than 7 a.m. here and there.

The whole point of trying to force myself to wake up early was to unlock some magical productivity level. But I couldn't actually get to that level using that tactic because it simply didn't work for me.

Now that I'm doing what feels natural to me, I realize I've achieved the goal I thought I was going to hit as an early riser by working with my energy levels and not trying to force it. When I'm not frustrated or fatigued, business and life flow with so much more ease.

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I start the client-facing part of my day at 10 a.m.

I say no to earlier appointments unless they're absolutely necessary and unavoidable. Containing external-facing appointments in particular windows has become a foundational building block in my life and business. I'm up front and clear about my morning boundaries with friends and clients so no one is surprised.

I try not to use the late evening for work. I've learned that second winds are a bit of a trap that can hijack my next day — and if I commit to not working at night, I feel better during my workday. Sometimes I text with my podcast producer in the evenings, but I try to log off for the day by 6:30 p.m.

I have a bedtime alarm set for 10 p.m. to remind me to power down, wash my face, get organized, and read, even if I can only get a page or two in.

Most 'hacks' aren't one size fits all

Try different strategies and see what works for you, but ditch the ones that don't. Sometimes hacks will work for a period of time, and then things — or you — change, and a new method needs to be layered in.

Once I tuned into my inner wisdom and trusted that I could be productive and successful following my own energy, things became easier — and my business grew.

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