If you think just because you’re a “night person” your best work is done at night is a logical thing to conclude, you’d be right, it does SEEM logical but it’s actually totally wrong. Same goes for you
annoying exuberant morning people.
Seemingly counter-intuitive results have been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. What it discovered was that people are more likely to undermine their performance at stressful tasks when they’re operating at “peak capacity” based on their preferred time of the day.
So morning people were more likely to “self sabotage” themselves in the morning, and likewise night owls would do the same in the evening. An example of self sabotage is creating conditions to protect your ego from having to take the brunt of failure. “Oh I failed the test cause I had no time to study because I was partying so hard.”
The study also found that people chronically prone to making excuses reported the same stress levels at “off-peak” hours as peers who do not engage in this behavior. Only at peak hours did these individuals report higher levels of stress as an excuse for poor performance.
“What this study tells us is that self-handicapping requires thought and planning,” said Ed Hirt, professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and an author on the study. “People who are feeling uncertain about themselves and start to fear that they might fail are more likely to identify potential excuses and self-handicap when they’re at their peak than when they’re not.”
The study involved 237 students, who were unaware that they were labelled into two groups of night owls and morning people. Over the course of two weeks they were given tests at either 8am or 8pm. The results were that people who scored higher in terms of risk for self-sabotage reported greater stress levels at hours of peak performance.
I would advise that working to avoid self-handicapping — through actions such as healthful practices, seeking help or counseling — is the best strategy.
“The results seem counterintuitive, but what they really show is clear evidence that self-handicapping is a resource-demanding strategy,” said Julie Eyink, a graduate student in Hirt’s lab and lead author on the study. . “Only people who had their peak cognitive resources were able to engage in self-handicapping.”
So what’s the takeaway from all this? Should you change when you do stressful tasks to a time of day you don’t consider your strong suit? Well. Not really.
“Ultimately,” Eyink said, “I would advise that working to avoid self-handicapping — through actions such as healthful practices, seeking help or counseling — is the best strategy.”