10 survival tips for non-morning people

Some people jump out of bed in the morning, hit the ground running, and leave a trail of creative thinking and focused accomplishment in their wake. And then there's the rest of us.

Not a morning person? Me neither. I can barely put two thoughts together before a triple-shot cappuccino and I've never had an insightful idea before noon. Ever.

I've always wondered what's wrong with me, like maybe my mom dropped me on my head when I was little or something like that.

For decades I've felt like a pariah in a morning-centric business world where everybody else seems to get a half day's work done before my brain even begins to engage.

So when I read author Laura Vanderkam's What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, it just reinforced what I've always known: In the working world, the deck's stacked against people who don't do mornings well.

Luckily, I'm a pretty resourceful guy, and over the years, I've learned what works, what doesn't work, and plenty of helpful tips on how to survive in a morning-centric world.

Note: This article is based on an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog.

1: Cultivate that sort of all-knowing Zen-like image

Most people appear to be way smarter than they really are before they open their mouths. Depending on the meeting, less can definitely be more. If people don't expect you to talk much, they won't know you're a zombie before noon.

2: Block off early mornings on your calendar

Seriously, make up a whole routine you do every morning and tell people you do it religiously — such as get up at 6, watch CNBC while you exercise, shower, eat, then stroll into work at 9. If you prefer individual excuses, come up with a dozen or so and pull them out whenever you need them.

3: Don't go to bed early; it doesn't help

I've tried it, so don't bother. It has nothing to do with how much sleep you get. It's just how you're wired. So use your evening time to catch up; that's what I do.

4: Get up early and give yourself a big time buffer before a big meeting

If you must be "on" for an important morning meeting, get up really early and eat a decent breakfast. With any luck, you'll fool your brain into thinking it's later than it is.

5: Capitalize on stress

The only thing that really changes the equation is stress and anxiety. I'm not saying you should cultivate it; that's plain silly. But if you're stressed out, you'll find that once the adrenaline wears off, your mind is more engaged than usual.

6: Be productive with brain-dead tasks

Here I describe 11 Ways to Be Productive When You're Brain Dead, like doing expense reports, letting your mind wander, cleaning off your desk, or holding one-on-one meetings with your staff. Amazing what you can get done even without a brain.

7: Enjoy a glass of wine while catching up at night

You need to get critical thinking done sometime, right? I do most of my inspirational thinking late in the day or in the evening, and I've found that a glass or two of wine helps open up those creative pores. Don't go overboard, though, or it'll have the reverse effect. Don't send emails then, either.

8: Don't super-caffeinate

For years I used super-caffeinating as a band-aid, but that only made things worse by making me hyper  — so I wasn't just brain-dead but brain-dead and nervous. It also kills your stamina by making you crash early.

9: Play the geek card

Everybody expects geeks to be eccentric and "off" because, well, they're generally thought to be a different species. Since nobody expects them to behave normally, they get an enormous amount of latitude.

10: Don't even try to BS anyone or yourself

Stop trying to be like them. Instead, do what I do in the morning: leisurely catch up on what's going on in the world, respond to emails, schmooze a little, do some social networking, whatever works. Own up to it, be straight with people, and above all, take heart. Non-morning people can make it in a morning-person world.

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