But how do the most successful people spend their nights before surrendering
Some of these highly productive people are night owls, preferring to work
while the rest of the world sleeps, like President Obama. Others know how
important sleep is and force themselves to cool down, like media maven Arianna
Huffington and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg.
Here's a look at what the most successful people do during their last
President Barack Obama is a "night owl" and likes to work late.
Unlike Obama's predecessor George W. Bush who prefers to rise in the
early hours, the current president stays up late, reports Carrie Budoff Brown at Politco. He is said to
hold conference calls with senior staff as late as 11 p.m. and reads or writes
before heading to bed.
In an interview with Newsweek, Obama calls himself a "night owl" and describes
his typical evening:
"Have dinner with the family, hang out with the kids, and put them to
bed about 8:30 p.m. And then I'll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork
or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half hour
to read before I go to bed . . . about midnight, 12:30 a.m. — sometimes a
Inventor Benjamin Franklin asked himself the same
self-improvement question every night.
In his autobiography, Franklin outlined a
schedule that would lead him to "moral perfection." In this ideal schedule, Franklin asked himself the same self-improvement question every
night: "What good have I done today?"
He described his other rituals before bed as "put things in their
places, supper, music or diversion or conversation, and examination of the
day."Franklin tracked his progress on self-improvement daily.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg turns off her phone at
Sandberg might work for a tech company, but she knows when to unplug.
Sandberg tells Jefferson Graham at
USAToday that it's "painful," but she turns her phone off
at night so that she "won't get woken up."
"I check my e-mail the first thing in the
morning, and the last thing at night," says Sandberg.
Winston Churchill had an evening ritual that included a
short nap, bath, and drinks well past midnight.
The British prime minister kept to a similar daily routine no matter what
happened. In the book "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work,"
author Mason Currey recorded
At 5 p.m., the prime minister would drink another weak whisky and soda before
taking a nap for an hour and a half. Churchill said this siesta, or short nap,
allowed him to work for 1.5 days every 24 hours. When he woke, he bathed and got
ready for dinner.
At 8 p.m., Churchill would have dinner, which was often followed by drinks
and cigars well past midnight.
Due to his irregular sleep schedule, Churchill was said to hold War Cabinet meetings
in his bath.
Stephen King's nightly routine includes washing his
hands and making sure all the pillows face a certain way.
"It's not any different than a bedtime
routine," says King as recorded in Lisa Rogak's book "Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of
"I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why
would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the
pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the
pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I
don’t know why."
Arianna Huffington only reads "real books" before bed.
Sleep advocate Huffington recommends banning
iPads, Kindles, laptops, and any other electronic from the bedroom to unwind.
Instead, she likes to read the old-fashioned way, "real books."
Michael Lewis prefers to write between the hours of 7 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Author Robert Boynton asked Lewis about his ideal writing routine, as
recorded in the book "The New New Journalism":
"Left to my own devices, with no family, I'd start writing at 7 p.m.
and stop at 4 a.m.," says Lewis. "That is the way I used to write. I liked to
get ahead of everybody. I'd think to myself, 'I'm starting tomorrow's workday,
tonight!' Late nights are wonderfully tranquil. No phone calls, no
interruptions. I like the feeling of knowing that nobody is trying to reach
Former Googler Keval Desai works at night, so he can
Desai, a former Google product director and current partner at
InterWest Partners, says that staying up is a habit of his. Desai tells
Lydia Dishman at Fast Company that he likes to
pick one project per night and doesn't go to bed until the project is done.
"During the day most of my time is spent in meetings with
entrepreneurs, and the only time I can find alone to do work that requires some
concentration is when the rest of the household is asleep," he
Kate White, former Cosmo editor-in-chief, likes to write
while standing up in the kitchen.
As a magazine editor, White preferred to work on her fiction writing in
the early morning hours and switch to magazine editing and blogging at
"My craziest trick is that I regularly do my work standing up at a
rolling butcher block counter in my kitchen. If I were to work sitting down, I’d
fall asleep," White told Dishman at Fast Company. "I know it sounds
awful, but I think of it as if I’m tending bar in the evening — a bar of ideas.
And I always keep the kitchen TV on so it doesn’t seem too lonely. I drink
several espressos at night, which really helps."
Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne walks every evening right before bed.
Gascoigne takes a 20-minute walk every evening to allow
total disengagement from his work before turning off the
"This is a wind down period, and allows me to evaluate the day’s work,
think about the greater challenges, gradually stop thinking about work, and
reach a state of tiredness," he writes in a blog post.
Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, writes down
three things he wants to accomplish the next day.
At the end of his day, Chenault likes to write down the top three things he wants to
accomplish the next day. This helps him prioritize first thing the next morning.
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