Morning Person vs. Night Person: Who's More Likely to Succeed?

Instead of hating those cheery morning people who get up singing at the crack of dawn, you should be thanking them for the inspiration.

If you're a night person, you will be less than excited to hear about a recent study that reveals that people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success because they're more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening.

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That's according to Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. He surveyed 367 university students, asking what time of day they were most energetic and how willing and able they were to take action to change a situation to their advantage. A higher percentage of the morning people agreed with statements that indicate proactivity, such as "I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself" and "I feel in charge of making things happen."

But all is not lost for night people. "Though evening people do have some advantages -- other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humor, and are more outgoing -- they're out of sync with the typical corporate schedule," he told the Harvard Business Review. "When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards."

Randler says that morning people tend to get better grades in school, which helps them get into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities. "Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them," he adds. "They're proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, proactivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages."

So how easy would it be to change from a night person to a morning person? You have about a 50/50 chance of that, according to Randler. He says about half a person's "chronotype" is genetic, and in the studies he's conducted where participants try to change, only about 50 percent were successful. One of the most useful ways to change involved going outside earlier in the morning light. If you go outside only in evening light, you will become more of a night person.

It also changes with age. "Children show a marked increase in eveningness from around age 13 to late adolescence, and, on balance, more people under 30 are evening types. From 30 to 50, the population is about evenly split, but after age 50, most people are morning types," Randler said in his HBR interview. He also says that it has less to do with the amount of sleep you get, and more to do with the time you go to bed. Go to bed earlier, get up earlier: It can be as simple as that.

For more information about Randler's studies, see the Harvard Business Review website. But if you really want to ingest his information and make it work for you, you'll read it in the morning.

Next: Shift Work Got You Feeling Sleepy? >>

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell


Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on

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I am definitely an owl, always have been. My boss thought I was lazy, because I'd stumble in at 8:30 with my eyes half-open. Then came the night we had a rush project, and I was still going strong at 2 AM. He had to admit that I had been more productive than he was, I'd worked 18 hours to his 10. He apologized profusely for his assumptions.

Decades of trying to change my body clock taught me to wake up at 6:30, but did nothing to get me to fall asleep before 2 AM, so I was constantly exhausted. I now work at home, in a job where the clients love getting finished product in their e-mail when they wake up. I work till I'm sleepy, and then sleep a full 8 hours, for the first time in my life.

September 18 2010 at 12:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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