Recently, I’ve been struggling to establish a healthy work-life balance.
As an entrepreneur, being a workaholic can be a blessing and a curse. In the beginning, it’s usually a blessing — but after a few months, it takes the form of the latter.
For me, this has proven to be true time and time again. I work 100% from home. I’m a part-time editor for a popular language learning company and a full-time CEO, sales manager, marketer, writer and manager of my freelance writing business.
Ultimately, my self-admitted workaholism led to an obsession with work. Just a few days ago, I felt like I could never step away from my laptop without continuing to think about whatever I was last doing. I was losing my ability to detach from work when I was supposed to be relaxing, spending time with friends and family, and taking care of myself.
I was convinced that the problem lay in the fact that I had no daily routine. After reading story after story and watching numerous videos about successful entrepreneurs, it seemed they all had two things in common:
- They had a daily routine they abided by religiously
- They woke up at the ass-crack of dawn
But despite having tried numerous routines — routines I designed specifically for myself — and trying to wake up at 7, 6 and even 5 AM, I still felt like there wasn’t enough time in the day.
It wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to do something completely out of the ordinary.
I’m going to take what “everyone else” seems to be doing (but doesn’t work for me), and completely reverse it.
By sleeping in hella late and staying up until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning (or however long I want).
And by intentionally not following a daily routine.
Why I Decided to Start Staying Up Until 3 AM
Before I get into the details of how I’m going about experimenting with this new lifestyle, I want to give a little background of me as a person and the “situation” that led to this decision.
I’m 18 years old. I skipped my sophomore year of high school and graduated early (thanks to being homeschooled until my freshman year) and started my first year of college at 17.
But after the first semester, I dropped out.
Not because I didn’t like the university. Not because college was too hard. Not because I missed my family too much.
But because my tiny little copywriting business of two years was beginning to grow exponentially.
I knew, without a doubt, that dropping out was my next step. I’d only been back to college for two days after winter break when I walked confidently to the registrar’s office, began the procedure for withdrawing, packed up my entire life in half an hour and then drove four hours back home to Texas the next day.
Even though I knew dropping out was what I needed (and wanted) to do, I also knew the living situation I was walking right into.
I’m one in a family of six — my two parents and three little sisters. We live in a three-bedroom house, and after I’d moved to college, my parents completely rearranged bedroom assignments, leaving me without a room. (I’ve been sharing a room and bed with my five-year-old sister since coming home.) On top of that, my two youngest sisters are eight and five— you know, the extremely noisy ages.
When I returned home after withdrawing, my parents welcomed me with open arms — and so did their couch.
Since I work completely online, I can work wherever I have my laptop. During winter break, I’d grown accustomed to sitting on the living room couch, laptop in hand, typing ferociously away as I sipped my green tea. And while that might sound like a pretty picture at first, throw in toys, home renovation projects, five other people coming in and out in the evenings and weekends, the TV on and two girls under the age of 10 chasing each other around.
Working any time my family is home is difficult, to say the least. It’s hard to focus, get creative and tune everyone else out.
So you can imagine my natural reaction when the governor of Texas announced all public schools will remain closed until at least April 3 due to the coronavirus. (Hint: I wasn’t very excited.)
Working During the Day was Hurting My Mental Health
Not only have my siblings been home all day every day, but I also started realizing that not having a quiet space of my own and not having time for my passions and hobbies was starting to take a toll on my mental health.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I cried into my boyfriend’s arms the past few weeks, after a long evening of escaping to his apartment for some peace and quiet to work, because I was so overwhelmed and felt like I was slowly depriving myself of joy and stability.
Last night was close to one of those nights.
I had enough of my workaholism getting in the way of pursuing other passions besides my business. Even though my fears were telling me that if I didn’t work 24/7 I’d somehow fail, I was determined to find a way to start prioritizing myself again.
As I finished work for the evening, I opened up YouTube and decided to see which new videos I hadn’t watched from one of my favorite content creators — Nathaniel Drew.
I soon stumbled across his “A Day in the Life: An American in Mexico” video. And it was one like no other.
He admitted to not being productive in the mornings, and that waking up before 8 AM was never sustainable or that beneficial for him. He also described how night time was his most creative and productive time, and that he simply can’t make himself go to bed before 10 just to get up early the next morning. Furthermore, he explained that trying to stick to a daily routine feels like he’s limiting himself.
I instantly related.
Evenings and nights are when I’m most creative and productive. It also just so happens to be the quietest time in my house, when everyone (well, except my night owl mom) is already asleep.
So I asked myself, why on earth would I try to change myself and force myself to be productive when I’m not?
Why not take advantage of the times I already feel most creative?
A Day in the Life Staying Up Until 3 AM
Today is the first day I’ve started implementing this experiment. And as I write, it’s currently 1:48 AM.
I’ve already gotten 3 hours of editing work done. I wrote a 1,200+ word article for one of my writing clients. I took two 30-minute breaks and read an interesting article.
And I started at 8:40 PM.
In other words, I’ve already achieved what usually would take me an entire day (9 AM to 5 PM or beyond) in a five-hour period.
Simple. I took inventory of what I already know about myself — when I’m feeling most productive, motivated, inspired and creative — and took advantage of it.
Now, I’m not telling you to stay up until 2 or 3 AM, especially if you also get up at the wee hours of the morning (or even 9 AM).
What I’m telling you to do, is to take inventory of what you know about yourself — when you work your best — and then adapt your “routine” to it.
It’s still important to get the right amount of sleep and maintain proper health.
This morning, I made myself sleep in until 10 AM (which is actually pretty late for me). I had gone to bed at 12:30–1 AM the night before though, so it was hard to sleep any later.
Since I’m not working during the day (from the time I wake up until 8 or 9 PM), I use this time to pursue my hobbies. I took my time waking up, made a cup of green tea, did an intense cardio workout from Beachbody On Demand, showered, and tried a new Asian tofu recipe for lunch.
I then dedicated the afternoon to studying Spanish and completing Day 3 of a language challenge I started on Saturday.
The rest of the day, I watched YouTube videos that weren’t related to my business and browsed Netflix — things I hadn’t done without guilt ever since coming home.
I had dinner at 6 PM and then at 7, turned out the light and took a one-hour nap so I could stay up until 2 or 3 AM.
I woke up naturally around 8:15 PM and took my time to enjoy the last half-hour of my evening before starting to work.
Originally, I planned to start working at 9 PM, but I was already feeling in my productive and creative zone, so I started work around 8:40 PM instead.
Before I started though, I wrote down the goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the night/early morning in a new note on my iPhone:
- 9 PM — 10:30 PM: Edit
- 10:30 PM — 11 PM: Break
- 11 PM — 12 AM: Write (an article for a client)
- 12 AM — 12:30 AM: Break
- 12:30 AM — 2:00 AM: Edit
- 2 AM — 3 AM: Write (this blog post 😃)
Of course, this wasn’t a “set in stone” schedule, and it’s definitely not something I’ll be abiding by religiously every night. It all depends on what my goals are for that particular day, what needs to get done, how fast I go and how early I get started.
As I mentioned before, I started around 8:40 PM instead of 9 today, so I finished my first goal at around 10:00 instead of 10:30.
After finishing my first 1.5 hours editing, I didn’t feel like taking a 30-minute break and instead turned it into a 15-minute break, pushing me even further ahead. The article I wrote for my client also took relatively less time than usual (probably because I wrote it in my most productive time period), so I got ahead again.
Ultimately, the whole point of this plan is to work in my most creative and productive time of the day and to do so without limits. So if I feel like taking a break, I’ll take a break. If I don’t, I won’t!
How Long I Sleep and When I Wake Up
One final thing I want to talk about is what time I’m waking up.
Like I said before, I’m not recommending you stay up until 2 or 3 AM — I’m recommending you adjust your daily tasks to when you’re naturally going to perform them best.
And if that means staying up super late like me or getting up insanely early, that also means adjusting your sleep schedule.
Getting enough sleep should still be a goal and is vital to your health, wellbeing and productivity. But I’m not here to lecture you on that. Most likely, you already know you need about eight of sleep per night.
For me, this means waking up later.
It’s 2:12 AM right now. Since I’m almost finished with this article and all I need to do before bed is brush my teeth, I’ll probably be in bed around 2:30 AM.
To get eight hours of sleep, this means I need to sleep until at least 10:30 AM tomorrow (well technically, today).
Whatever your new “schedule” looks like, be sure eight hours of sleep are included.
Whether you’re a self-employed entrepreneur working from home or have a 9–5 job, making time for yourself, to pursue your passions and hobbies, and to relax and socialize with friends and family is vital to your mental, emotional and eventually, physical health.
This could very well mean adjusting your current day to better suit you.
For me, it meant not forcing myself to work in a setting that was disruptive to my creativity or during a time I didn’t feel creative or inspired.
It’s now 2:18 AM. In the last 6 hours, I’ve edited for three, wrote an article for a client and wrote this 2,000+ word post.
This goes to show that when you allow yourself to be in your element, you thrive. No two people are the same, so why should we live like we are?