Why Morning People Rule the World

     

We are all morning or evening people. Scientists have established that our genes dictate around half of what they call our “chronotypes” – our natural preference for certain times of the day.

Evolution has produced a range of humans capable of being alert to danger at every hour of the day. Our experience confirms these findings. We all know people who love to be at work bright and early, with a cup of coffee to hand and decisions to make, and others who would rather stumble through the day until reaching a state of relaxed clarity around dusk, when their minds are purring.

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The problem is that those with the genetic gift of “morning-ness” tend to be more highly rewarded. Morning-ness is perceived as a sign of activity and zest, whereas evening-ness implies laziness and loafing. How often did we have to see David Cameron on one of his early-morning runs to get the idea that here was a leader of potency and vigour? How different would it have been if he slunk out of bed to work, then exercised at around 8pm? Could a Prime Minister be elected today who worked like Churchill, reading, writing and thinking in bed before getting out of it at noon?

History is full of great bores praising the virtues of early rising, but few have made the case for letting the day drift by until you kick into gear around happy hour.

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Yet the research continues to mount, arguing that evening people have qualities which should be nurtured. They tend to be more creative, intelligent, humorous and extroverted. They are the balance to morning people, who are said to be more optimistic, proactive and conscientious.

Evening and morning are the right and left sides of our brain, the creative and the analytical, both of which we need to organise, process and advance our lives.

New research by Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education at Heidelberg, however, concludes that morning people are more likely to succeed in their careers because they are more proactive than evening people.

He surveyed 367 university students, asking them when they were most energetic and willing to change a situation. It was the morning people who were more likely to agree with statements such as “I feel in charge of making things happen” and “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself.”

Discussing his research in the Harvard Business Review, Randler says: “When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. My earlier research showed that they tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimise them. They’re proactive.”

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July 6, 2010