I’ve now lived in all four continental US time zones. Where I wake up impacts my routine.
Central Time has been driving this week’s zen. Easy to wake up at 6:30am, easy to take a mid-day break, easy to hit all my daily process goals.
Here’s how each time zone feels, ranked worst to best:
Eastern Time, “The Hangover”
The first morning in NYC is a gift. I get to choose when to start my day. I can read or write or relax until the rest of America brews its coffee. But I don’t get to choose when to end my day. Happy hour slips past 5pm. Everyone’s checking their email during dinner. I end up staying late to get that support ticket from the west coast done before finally getting in bed by 1am.
At 7am, I snooze the alarm. I don’t get moving until 8am or 9am. My first-to-wake-up advantage is gone. And I’m hungover!
Pacific Time, “The Anxiety”
There is no escaping the existential dread of morning email when waking up in San Francisco. There is no quiet moment of solitude between the first sip of coffee and the first swipe-to-refresh-email. NYC is already firing away!
I used to buffer this anxiety by walking to work every morning. It’s even harder when the office is the cafe and the cafe is the living room.
At least by 2pm there’s time for a guilt-free Barry’s. The ability to enjoy dinner without constantly checking my phone is what makes Pacific Time slightly better than Eastern Time, but I can’t seem to shake the nagging feeling of being hopelessly behind.
Central Time: “Wholesome”
I’ve spent the bulk of my life in Birmingham, Nashville, and Chicago. Central Time. It’s the “just-right” porridge of time zones. As long as I’m up by 7am, I feel like I have time to sit down and think before diving into the day. By dinner time, most things are wrapped up.
But while there’s space at the margins, there isn’t quite enough freedom in either the morning or the evening to feel like there’s time to really back away from the desk.
Mountain Time: “Reckless In A Good Way”
Getting out of bed at 6am in Idaho is perfect.
There’s a full hour before NYC starts going Full Send. And since people know you’re “somewhere in the mountains,” nobody will miss you until 8am.
Work, read, write, whatever. The best part comes at 2pm. NYC knows the work day is supposed to be over. And because you woke up before San Francisco, people on the west coast think you might as well by in NYC.
Go ski a few runs. Go for a hike. Go for a run. Nobody is going to miss you from 2pm-dinner, when you can pick up and answer any remaining questions in your inbox.