Recently, McKnight’s Senior Living Editor Lois Bowers and I exchanged emails at 3:30 a.m. CT/4:30 a.m. ET.
“I know why I’m up,” I wrote Lois. My child has a casual relationship with sleeping through the night: Night is interested in going steady, while Morty wants to explore all his options. “But why are you awake?”
While Lois doesn’t always start her days before dawn, I thought of her when reading in the Economist a Bartleby column on work about Apple CEO Tim Cook, who wakes up at 3:45 am every day to deal with emails. As the columnist wrote, “Spare a thought for his underlings, whose iPhones buzz at 4 a.m. every morning … All this columnist would achieve if he rose at 3:45 a.m. every morning is a divorce from Mrs. Bartleby.”
One of the insightful parts of the column is noting that top executives have privilege in relationship to their schedules: No one is going to challenge a CEO such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos who has breakfast with his children and rolls into the office mid-morning. On the flip side, many long-term care administrators start their day at 7:30 a.m. so that they can pick up a child from soccer practice, help with homework or make dinner.
How we structure our days can often be tied directly back into our productivity. It’s one of the reasons I asked some of the American Health Care Association annual meeting attendees what they did first thing in the morning. About half of respondents said they immediately check email and read McKnight’s, which was not the original goal of asking the question (though we all surely appreciate it!). Many of the women my age said they immediately race to the shower to try to get ready before their children wake up, and one told me her first action was to start a load of laundry.
But one response I found most interesting was from Afrika Parks, RN, MSN, LNHA, the chief clinical officer at Windsor Healthcare in New Jersey.
She told me that at 6 a.m. she often starts her day by meditating.
“The stress of what we do, I need to start my day thinking of me,” she pointed out. “I am trying to stay focused and positive.” While she’s sometimes enlisted to help her children get out the door, she always takes five minutes to meditate before leaving the house.
Although it’s not as common for long-term care executives to talk to me about morning exercise, a few have discussed running at 5:30 a.m., rain or shine. Others take their dogs out for a walk — slightly less aerobic, depending on your dog, but still a way to get the blood pumping and brain focused.
If you look at a Forbes list on the morning habits of some top executives, though, you’ll find there is no right or wrong way. It is worthwhile, as Parks suggested, to take some time to center yourself. It’s hard to find research to back up the idea that writing emails at 4 a.m. will make you more effective, especially if that comes at the expense of sleep or eating breakfast.
Find your rhythm for what works for you with regards to productivity and happiness, and when you do, make sure to let me know. Personally, when I say goodbye to middle-of-the-night reading or writing, I suspect my brain and body will be better off.
Follow Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.