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Night Howl: When Early Birds Run the Team's Schedule

It's 6 a.m. on a Monday morning, and you're already sitting in a meeting.

You know, the Monday morning meeting that used to start at a very manageable 10 a.m. -- until somebody decided that 10 o'clock was way too late. Night owls, it's time to call a time out on morning meeting creep!

"Morning meeting creep" is when meetings keep moving earlier and earlier in the day. Ah, the days where you could slap the snooze button a few times as the sun was coming up! Now you're sipping a cup of coffee and logging into Skype for the 5 a.m. team round-up. You're online before the first Trump tweet of the day. How on earth did this happen?

I'll tell you exactly how it happened: The crack 'o dawn people have gotten their mitts on the team's scheduling process, and the night owls on the team are paying the price. Your Fitbit sleep stats are screaming at you to get more sleep, but the early birds would like to push the weekly team meet even earlier to get a bigger jump on the day.

"If only we could have gotten an earlier start today, we could have gotten more done," the early bird scheduler muses wistfully at 9 a.m. "Then we could have..." Please stop. This phrase feels like salt in the wound to us night owls, who were STILL AWAKE AND DOING THINGS while the early birds where fast asleep in their nests!

Early Birds vs. Night Owls
Sleep deprivation is a big problem at school, at work, and everywhere else. We've all seen the studies suggesting school start times move up to 8 a.m. (or later) to give teenagers in particular the shuteye they so desperately need. But the early birds always push back hard on this suggestion, and with a long list of reasons. First on the list: parents need to get to work for the 7 a.m. meeting!

The early birds are winning the battle of the work schedule, and it's time for us night owls to get smart, open our bleary eyes and speak up about it. Thanks to technology, there is no excuse for not logging in for the crack-of-dawn Skype conference if that's what the early birds on the team want. But at what cost?

I know what you early birds are thinking: just go to bed earlier like I do. I'm lights out by 8:30, up at 4:30. No, it doesn't work that way for us. That's when we night owls are just getting our second wind, and it's off to the races. We have a ton of stuff to do before we catch MSNBC's The Eleventh Hour with Brian Williams in real time to keep up with the destruction of our democracy. Maybe they'll have Rick Wilson or Steve Schmidt on tonight! Score!

The night-owl brain does its best thinking between the hours of 9 p.m and midnight. This slice of nighttime is when we're at our most creative, and energized. We can't change; we've been like this since grade school. "I can hear you making noise up there!" our mothers would yell. "It's after 10 p.m. You'd better get some sleep, or morning is going to hit you like a ton of bricks!"

Sound familiar? In fact, science has determined that our sleep pattern is genetic. If you're a night owl, you can blame it on your ancestors. Maybe one of your ancestors worked the overnight shift, and reprogrammed his or her system to stay awake all night.

Now you're a grown-up night owl dealing with the early birds on your work team who want to control the schedule. How can night owls politely push back and say, "No, that early time of day won't work for me"? Is it even possible without feeling incredibly lazy? Here are five tips for throwing the pillow at morning meeting creep:

1. Break out the stats. Show the early birds a few statistics about sleep deprivation. Do they know that employee sleep deprivation costs our economy $411 billion in productivity losses every year? Do they know that two-thirds of employees in a recent Glassdoor survey said they would be better employees with more sleep?


2. Don't let the early birds crow too loudly. When your early bird teammates tell you to go to bed earlier, remind them that you were awake and productive while they were snoring. Work happens at all hours. Don't let them forget it.


3. Question the urgency. Why does this meeting need to happen at the crack of dawn? If it isn't urgent, then it can wait until everyone has had a shower and cup of coffee. How does 4 p.m. look for everyone? Better yet, can we get by with a summary email instead?


4. Suggest alternative meeting times. Go ahead, throw it out there. "Is there any chance we could move this weekly meeting to later in the day?" The early bird will surely balk, but make your case, anyway.


5. Don't feel like you must change. You are a night owl, it's how your brain works, no apologies necessary. Own your inner owl! It's better to question why your teammate wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning to ride the elliptical. That's precious sleep time!


Morning meeting creep is real, and it will only get worse until the night owls on the team give enough of a hoot to speak up. Keep in mind that studies have found there are far more night owls than early birds (it's around a 17-to-1 ratio!) yet the early birds run the show. Why is that?

Don't let the answer keep you awake, night owls.


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