Does It Really Matter If You're Not A Morning Person?

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HappinessZone_interiorIllustrated by Emily Turner.
I needed to set a meeting time with someone, and she said, “I know my zone. Let’s meet at 11 a.m.” I was instantly intrigued by this phrase, “know my zone,” and I asked, “Why 11? Why is that ‘your zone?’”

She responded: “I know from experience that if something’s important, I should schedule for 11 a.m. Any earlier, and I might be late or feel rushed. I have to drop off my sons at school, commute into the city, all that. I need a big margin. Plus, by 11 a.m. I’m wide awake and in the swing of my day. If I schedule something after lunch, I’m more tired and distracted. I get a lot of work done, but I use the 11 a.m. slot for what’s most important.”

By chance, I was talking to a writer friend about his habits, and he told me, “I never write before noon.” Now, this is interesting, because one of the most popular pieces of advice about good habits — and specifically about the habit of writing — is to write first thing in the day because your mind is clearer, you have more energy, etc. This is certainly true for me. So, I asked him why he doesn’t write before noon.

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“I’m foggy,” he said. “It takes me a while to get going. By noon, I’m ready.” These exchanges reminded me of one of the most important things I’ve learned about habits, as I’ve been writing my new book: There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all solution. (Want to hear when this masterpiece goes on sale? Sign up here.)

Some people — maybe most people — do better when they schedule important habits in the morning, but that’s not true for everyone. Along the same lines, some people do better when they start small; others when they start big. Some people like a lot of activity and stimulation; others prefer quiet and simplicity.

We don’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits; we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best. nEach of us needs to figure out our zone. Self-knowledge! Everything in habits and happiness comes down to self-knowledge.

Do you know your zone? I’m a morning person, and I know that very well about myself.

NEXT: The 6 Things You Need To Know About Battling Unhealthy Habits
Gretchen Rubin, author of two New York Times bestsellers, is our go-to gal for the best get-it-together know-how. Every week, she'll be dishing up her wisdom straight from her popular blog, The Happiness Project, to get you on the road to a more productive, healthier you. Here's to a 2014 resolution that sticks!