How to Hack Daylight Saving Time and Gain 7 Extra Hours Every Week

Why you should go on a Standard Time strike and instantly get an extra hour in your morning this November

Jennifer Graham
Oct 7 · 7 min read
Illustration of an alarm clock.
Illustration of an alarm clock.
Image by Yury_Velikanov

On the day that Daylight Saving Time ended in 2019, I got a newsletter with a subject line that promised to give me “three ways to deal with the time change.”

I smiled and deleted the email without reading it.

I don’t need three ways to deal with the time change, because I know a better way to deal with the statutory madness that afflicts Americans in 48 states twice a year: Ignore it. Go on a Standard Time strike. Decline to participate.

This may sound radical, but it’s actually the most sensible solution to a practice that is roundly denounced every year, but like a bad bunion, stubbornly endures.

So the only reasonable thing to do is to fix the problem yourself.

That’s what I’ve done for the past two years, and with the exception of having kids and taking up running, it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself.

Instead of getting one “extra” hour of sleep in November, an hour I have to pay back in March (worst gift ever), I gain seven extra hours a week. This amounts to seven extra hours each week of high-grade productivity.

It’s a neat, sleight-of-hand trick that my body doesn’t even notice.

Here’s how it can work for you, too.

When everyone else changes their clocks Halloween night (or, more likely, late Sunday morning, Nov. 1), leave yours alone. Go about your life exactly as you did the week before. Go to bed at the same time. Get up at the same time.

The Payoff

This means that come Monday morning, you’ll be getting up an hour before you previously did, at least according to your cell phone.

If you’ve been getting up at five, as I normally do, now you’re getting up at four. If you normally awaken at six, now you’re reaching for coffee (or, if you are Tom Brady, 20 ounces of water with electrolytes) at five. And so forth.

Voila! There’s your extra hour. You’ve suddenly become a morning person, or at least more of a morning person, with zero effort, no yawning.

Your body, after all, is nicely accustomed to Daylight Savings Time (unless you live in Hawaii or the parts of Arizona that don’t observe it). Your body doesn’t want to change to Standard Time. It will fight you over this.

Give in, ignore the time change, and do something amazing in that extra hour you gain every morning.

That’s an extra hour in which you can work out, write a novel, knit a scarf, split the atom, or do any of the other things that you wistfully say you would do if only you had more time. Get to it. You’ve now got seven extra hours a week for four months. It’s practically magic. And all it takes is a willingness to buck convention, to step outside of society’s norms.

There are just two little problems, easily solved.

Dealing with the Drawbacks

First, most everyone else in your state, and possibly your household, has dutifully changed their clocks for reasons no one can really explain. So, yes, you will have to adhere to Herd Time for the purposes of a school or business day.

Of course, even this can have its perks. For example, I live in Boston and sometimes travel to Salt Lake City for work. Between November and March, I don’t dread that 6 a.m. flight nearly as much as I do the rest of the year. It’s only 6 a.m. for Delta, after all. My body blithely believes it’s seven.

A bigger problem for those of you with pre-pandemic social lives is that to keep your body on the same schedule, to avoid the circadian rhythm train wreck that comes with the time change twice a year, you’ll need to go to bed an hour earlier than you usually do.

Maybe you will find this a negative. I think it’s pretty terrific, especially during the coldest, darkest weeks of the year.

Let’s just say that while my neighbors are still doing the dishes and taking the dog out one last time in the snow, my lights are off and I’m already snoring in my warm bed.

This is not necessarily a negative, folks.

True, to keep to my self-imposed schedule, I sometimes have to turn off an NFL game before the third quarter ends, and I’ve missed a couple of thrilling comebacks that aren’t nearly as exciting to watch the next day. I’ve left parties when others were still arriving.

I can party ’til the cows come home, so long as they’re home by 9 p.m.

But despite the occasional inconvenience and some good-natured ribbing from my night-owl friends, I now can’t imagine living any other way. I love my “extra” hour in the morning too much to do what some faceless “they” say I should do.

All it took was the willingness to say “no, thank you” to convention, which is something sorely needed in America today.

On Being a Dissident

I got my inspiration from a little girl I heard about, who happily went along with her First Communion, until she got to the part when the priest held out the consecrated wafer and said, “Body of Christ.”

At that, she reconsidered and said, ever so politely, “No, thank you.”

A brief discussion ensued, and after a few minutes, to the relief of her parents and everyone else gathered, the child acquiesced.

As for me, I’m not so compliant.

No, thank you, I will not change the sleeping schedule to which I rigidly adhere because health experts say we’re healthier when we establish a sleep routine and stick to it. (No Ambien for me, no thank you, not needed.)

No, thank you, I will not dutifully go around the house and change my clocks twice a year for reasons most people can’t even explain.

No, thank you, I will not participate in a scheme that most people loathe but persists because national lawmakers can’t bring themselves to enact change.

A Standard Time strike is a small, hopeful act of rebellion that actually has plenty of precedences. As David Prerau explained in his 2005 book Seize the Daylight, people have been ignoring state-ordered time changes for most of Daylight Saving Time history.

King Edward VII, for example, was a supporter of the first Daylight Saving Time act proposed in the UK because he was already observing his own version of it, having moved the clocks ahead 30 minutes at his castle and palaces.

And of course, the United States has a checkered history of observance, with many states and municipalities opting in or out at will, most comically in 1965 when St. Paul, Minnesota, and neighboring Minneapolis began Daylight Saving Time on different schedules, throwing the metropolis into dysfunction that required first responders to wear two watches in order to navigate the Twin Cities.

Benjamin Franklin was an early proponent of changing clocks to save money. He hated to see people asleep when it was light and later burning expensive candles and lamp oil in order so they could be awake and do things when it was dark.

Later, an English home builder by the name of William Willett campaigned for a national Daylight Saving Time plan because he believed being outside in light after the workday made people healthier in body and spirit. “While daylight surrounds us, cheerfulness reigns, anxieties press less heavily, and courage is bred for the struggle of life,” Willett wrote in 1907.

That remains true today, possibly even more now than then.

As someone who lives in New England, where it is fully and cursedly dark at 5 p.m. during winter, I’d be fine with changing our clocks every week if it meant that it was light until eight.

But that won’t happen, and our current system sucks and everyone hates it. The only benefit of having twice-annual time changes is that we have a national reminder to install new smoke alarm batteries. But we could do that on Arbor Day. The nation will one day abandon the madness, but until then, there’s nothing to stop us from doing it on our own. Go forth and ignore the time change. You’ll thank me in March, if not before.

There’s one more thing I should warn you about. You might still dread the day in March when the rest of America (save Hawaii and Arizona) “springs forward,” not because you are “losing” an hour of sleep, but because you are losing your productivity edge.

Yes, if you join me in a Standard Time strike, there will come the day, specifically March 14, 2021, when you will have to operate on the same clock as everyone one else again. You will have to re-join the herd. You will lose seven hours of productivity, not one hour of sleep.

This may be disappointing, as you likely will have enjoyed the sense of moral superiority that comes from getting up an hour earlier, not to mention all the wonderful things you’ve been accomplishing during it.

Fear not: November is coming. And I, for one, can’t wait.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most…

Jennifer Graham

Written by

Runner, writer, compulsive rescuer of wild things about to be run over by cars. Opining irregularly at Jennifergraham.com

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Jennifer Graham

Written by

Runner, writer, compulsive rescuer of wild things about to be run over by cars. Opining irregularly at Jennifergraham.com

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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