Isn’t it frustrating when you are winding down from the day and you get that burst of motivation out of nowhere? Why doesn’t the motivation happen during the day when you are recharged and ready to be productive? I’ll explain why this happens and what you can do to take advantage of this.
I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you and it doesn’t make sense at first. Your brain decides to suddenly turn on the motivation when it should be letting you relax and get ready for bed. And even worse, what are you supposed to do with this unexpected motivation? It’s too late to work on anything or you will stay up too late and disrupt your morning the next day.
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Why do I feel motivated at night?
First off, why does this happen at all? It happens because you are in a relaxed state at night. Your mind isn’t bombarded with all the stresses of the morning when you are already occupied with work and other chores. Since your brain isn’t preoccupied with all the daily work it can decompress.
When your mind relaxes, it can think less rigidly. This is also a reason why have more creative thinking at night or while in the shower. During the day you probably have a constant stream of stimulation. Either work tasks, phone calls, texts, conversations, even music. All of these require your brain to stay focused. It has to be ready to respond to all these forms of input that happen during the day.
Since your brain is in active mode, it prioritizes dealing with these immediate types of stimulation. This prevents it (or makes it less likely) from spending energy and focusing on things like making you feel motivated or creative.
I noticed this when I was working long hours at a day job. I was working 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Even though I had a side project that I wanted to work on, I didn’t feel much drive during the day. I had to keep my mind on the job.
Then when I got home, even though I was exhausted from the stress of a long day, I would feel that inspirational drive while relaxing. It made me start wondering why am I only motivated at night when I didn’t have the energy levels to work on my personal project. Then I realized that my analysis wasn’t completely correct.
Why am I MORE motivated at night?
It wasn’t that I was completely unmotivated during the day. I still would have my side project pop into my head sometimes while at work. But it was usually during the downtime when I didn’t have to stay focused on work.
So it wasn’t that I lost all motivation during the workday. It was just a repressed kind of motivation. Since I was unable to use my most energetic and productive time during the day to work on my project, the motivation faded to the background and laziness took over. It was only after work, once my brain was able to relax and destress, that the nighttime motivation revealed itself.
You are probably in a similar situation if you have been noticing more frequent night time motivation than normal. This is because you have to push your main motivation to the background during the day while you are required to handle your duties at your job.
No motivation in the morning
The annoying part of this is that this powerful late-night motivation doesn’t linger until morning. When you wake up, you get back into your daily routine. You realize that you don’t have time to work on whatever was on your mind at night because you have to deal with your day job first.
Even if you do wake up inspired, this mood quickly fades if you have to go to work first thing in the morning. If only there was a way to use this fleeting motivation instead of letting it fade away without being of any benefit to you. There are a few ways that you can do this. One option is to start your day earlier.
Use your early morning motivation to get things done
You can always start your day earlier so you can take care of your most important tasks (the tasks that are inspiring you) before you handle the morning routine tasks at your job. Waking up extra early is not a fun thing to do, especially if you aren’t a morning person, but it will prove extremely valuable if you put your early morning time to good use.
This is the time of the day when you will be at your most effective. You are just ending your rest and your brain is operating at its peak efficiency for the day. Or it will after a cup of coffee or two. Why not use this time for yourself instead of giving it away to an employer?
Whether your goal is to work on a side business, do some writing, or go to the gym to exercise, these first hours of your day are ideal. These are your best hours for productivity so treasure them and keep them for yourself instead of selling them to a job. They can have your less productive hours but your best hours should be reserved for yourself.
Waking up an hour or two before your normal wakeup time will take a little bit of adjustment but you will adjust quickly. Either set an earlier bedtime or be willing to reduce your sleep. If your goals are important enough to you, it will be worth it. And feeling the motivation from knowing that you are putting yourself and your goals first will inspire you to get out of bed early and work for yourself first. Stop letting the snooze button postpone your success. Get up and do your work.
You’ll be doing your most important work while the average unmotivated person is still sleeping. This is how you get ahead in life and accomplish what you desire. It isn’t glamourous or comfortable but this is what winners do. They do what other people are unwilling to do. But if this isn’t possible, there is still another way to reach your set goals.
Productive things to do at night
If you can’t or won’t wake up early and work on your goals, then you can set aside your evening to work on them instead. This has its own set of challenges but it is a viable way to get your important tasks done. This was how I was able to quit my day job while working those 84 hour work weeks.
Working on your side project in the evening after a long day of work isn’t ideal but it can still work. It worked for me after all. You won’t be at your very best like if you woke up early as I mentioned in the previous section, but you can still be productive.
Since you are getting nighttime motivation anyway, why ignore it? Most people do ignore it because they are already tired or they want to prioritize recreation over their work. This is what makes being productive at night so difficult. You rationalize that you have already been productive today at your job so why shouldn’t you relax and unwind at night.
The problem is that your production when to your job instead of toward your project. Your job cannot scale up like your side business can. Your job will only pay you once for each hour worked. Your side business can pay you over and over for your work once it reaches a certain point.
If you can force down the excuses that your brain makes to you, then you can be productive at night even though you are tired. Make yourself do something productive for your side business. It doesn’t have to be huge. Work on a small goal and get in the habit of doing something useful for your business every day.
Once you are used to building your business every day, it becomes a habit and you can scale up the amount of work you require from yourself. Consistency is important here. Have a night routine that you can meet consistently and you will make forward progress on your goal.
If you are exceptionally motivated then you can combine both methods but be careful that you don’t burn out. Waking up early every day to do your personal work and then doing more personal work after the day job will get you to your goal faster but if you burn yourself out, you will accomplish nothing.
If you take this extreme approach, take it slow and make sure you are getting enough rest. Take some time for relaxation and to decompress. Being productive is great but it can be overdone if you don’t keep healthy habits such as eating well taking time to workout and getting regular exercise. If you are going for the combination of early rising to work and evening work then you need to take one day off a week or you risk overworking yourself. Sleep deprivation will grind your progress to a halt so make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too hard. If frequent sleepiness is becoming a normal part of your day, you need to add more sleep to your schedule.
Working hard for yourself is great but remember to take some time off and take care of yourself physically and mentally too.