Is Being an Early Bird a Recipe for Burnout?

Early birds—the people who get more done before 5 a.m. than you or I could dream of, literally, often have a reputation for being smarter, more motivated, and more likely to succeed than their night-owl counterparts. However, a scientific study by Satoshi Kanazawa and colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science provides evidence to the contrary. Their study found that “people with higher IQs are more likely to be night owls.” The study also showed that “eveningness” is “an evolutionary novel preference” of individuals who demonstrate a “higher level of cognitive complexity.” In laymen’s terms, the study proves that night owls are often more intelligent than early birds.

Being an early bird, especially if it’s not your natural disposition, can catapult you into burnout mode. Sure, it’s swell when you can rise before everyone else and have the time, space, and silence to crank out work without any distractions. But oftentimes, society forces those of us whose brains aren’t wired to start functioning before 8 a.m. to adapt to an early-bird schedule. Burnout inevitably ensues.

We think it’s about time to acknowledge that there are some major downsides to being (or at least trying to be) an early bird. Below, we shed some light on the pitfalls of being an early bird and how to avoid total mental meltdown if you are obliged to keep strict morning hours.