I have a genuine problem in waking up early in the morning. My advisor prefers to walk in my office whenever he wanted to. Lately, he started to complain to me about not showing up in the morning. Even the way to he used to come to my office has changed, he started to open the door without knocking and then the first thing he checks my computer screen.

I tried to tell him that about my difficulties and suggested scheduling meetings instead. He told me these are the rules of the institution and I have to follow them.

Long story short, I started to come early in the morning but I can barely get anything done.

Update 1: I reviewed the contract, it explicitly mentioned that working time starts no later than 9am. My contract is with an institution not the university directly.

Update 2 : I consulted a doctor and I have been diagnosed with depression. Besides the medication that was prescribed to me, I was asked to take a rest from the school. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your thoughts.

  • 3
    Use a screensaver with a password.
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 28, 2019 at 16:34
  • 4
    Arriving at a particular time is one of the rules of the institution? According to whom? Apr 28, 2019 at 16:55
  • 4
    @ASquare Sure, but are there really set times specified by the institution? If he gets to decide what your work hours are, why does he need you to come in mornings? Wouldn't he rather you were productive than sleep-deprived? Apr 28, 2019 at 19:36
  • 3
    What does your contract say about working hours? Full time job does not imply any fixed hours afaik... I have flexible working hours despite working a full time job, it's common here (at least in Germany)
    – J-Kun
    Apr 28, 2019 at 22:08
  • 4
    Can you please define "early attendance"? To me it seems like your advisor insists on working hours that would be considered normal outside academia. As a supervisor it is their duty to enforce regulations of the institution. Thus, you'll need to adjust.
    – user9482
    Apr 29, 2019 at 9:04

5 Answers 5


As a fellow night owl, I feel your pain. Normally I would suggest concisely explaining your difficulties and suggesting a work-around to your advisor, but it sounds like you've already done that. Sadly, your advisor does have the right to set working hours, so you have no real recourse other than finding a different advisor.

The situation might be different if you have a medical diagnosis/disability -- but I don't think "night owl" will qualify, since waking up early is not harmful to your health (not sure about French law though). What I've done in similar situations is to use melatonin to fall asleep early and caffeine pills to wake up -- probably not the healthiest solution long-term, but it does the trick for me.

  • Thank you, I never thought about taking sleep bills. May I ask about how do you feel when you wake up after taking melatonin?
    – A Square
    Apr 28, 2019 at 18:00
  • 1
    I can't tell any difference by morning, it's out of my system by then (so long as you sleep for more than a few hours). OTOH, even if I've had "enough" sleep, I'm still not wakeful in the morning (hence the caffeine pills).
    – cag51
    Apr 28, 2019 at 21:48
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    Taking medication to meet an advisor's expectations... What a time to be alive...
    – J-Kun
    Apr 28, 2019 at 22:06
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    I didn't recommend it, I said that's what I do....though "show up at 9 AM" is hardly an unreasonable or unusual expectation.
    – cag51
    Apr 28, 2019 at 22:37
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    It's the professor's lab and the professor's research funds, they can impose whatever rules they want, so long as it doesn't contradict the law or university policy. I seriously doubt "show up at 9 AM" would be overturned upon appeal to a dean or judge, even if the working hours could easily be shifted three hours later (could be different if OP has a medical diagnosis, or if they want him to show up at 3 AM and work 19-hour days, but no indication that is the case here).
    – cag51
    Apr 29, 2019 at 20:46

He told me these are the rules of the institution and I have to follow them.

I've done my PhD and two postdocs in three different universities in France and I've never heard of such rules. On the contrary, my experience is that the standard in academia working hours is whatever works for you.

The problem is to avoid a confrontation with your advisor, as you probably don't want to have a bad relation with them. You could try a slowdown strategy (grève du zèle): you abide by their rules but you follow all the rules, that is working no more than the legal 35 hours a week, not answering emails or doing anything outside working hours, etc. Hopefully after a few weeks of this your advisor will realize that it's better to let you decide yourself how to organize your working time.

I'd say that's the French way to deal with it... sorry for the stereotype ;)

  • 3
    Or, you will create an even worse relationship between you and your advisor, who may then proceed to not let you graduate.
    – penelope
    Apr 29, 2019 at 15:43
  • I don't see why, somebody who insists on you applying the rules can't honestly blame you later for doing so.
    – Erwan
    Apr 29, 2019 at 19:04
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    @Erwan You're using logic, but this isn't a question of logic (even in France). This is an issue of control, which is fundamentally emotional.
    – JeffE
    Apr 29, 2019 at 19:18
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    @MassimoOrtolano But in those situations, the boss wouldn't just say "Show up early because those are the rules", but rather "Key steps in the the experiment need to be done a certain schedule." or "Critical tasks like [examples] require everyone on the team to have the same schedule." Riiight? I'm well aware that such circumstances exist, but my default association with "my way or the highway" is not "they have a good reason" but "they're a control freak".
    – JeffE
    Apr 30, 2019 at 19:28
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    @ASquare I've been suffering from insomnia my whole life and even though I can manage the lack of sleep well, I know what it means to work sleep-deprived. For your advisor to have such a reaction, I think that there's more to the story than what's told in your post. For instance, he may get in trouble with the institution if he allows you to arrive late; or he may think that you've not been productive enough anyway even when you were arriving late. I think that at this point, you should have a very frank conversation with your advisor to understand where the core problem is. May 1, 2019 at 14:28

There are lots of jobs where you have designated hours. One of the nice things about grad school is a bit more freedom on hours (at the cost of drastically lower pay). But my advice is to just start working normal hours.

You CAN do this. Start going to be bed earlier (take a hot bath to help). Also start exercising in the late afternoon, early evening (before dinner, before getting diverted to TV or Internet). A little bit of physical tiredness helps with making it easier to get to sleep.

  • 1
    It's not that easy. Most of us owls, I'm fairly sure, are not just larks with a shifted schedule. We need the night hours to get things done that we are unable to force ourselves to do during the day (e.g., because they are painful and anti-rewarding and we procrastinate them whenever we believe we have enough time left). If you take our night hours away, these things will just not get done, even if it will probably be better for our health. This holds for exercise in particular: I leave the hardest stuff to be done after exercising; but after exercising I'm so tired that I just drop to bed. Apr 29, 2019 at 22:16
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    I say this as an owl myself. However, if you were in the military standing a watch or doing some high paid shift work job, you would make the hours work. So adapt and overcome. No rest for the wicked.
    – guest
    Apr 29, 2019 at 22:39
  • 1
    People adapt at the cost of effectiveness (ask the students in my 9AM class). Standing a watch doesn't count, as 98% of the work is idling (and for the remaining 2%, humans have probably evolved for short-notice short-term mobilization). Apr 29, 2019 at 23:28
  • @darijgrinberg, Let's be honest, the students who aren't paying attention in your 9 AM class have probably just been up half the night... I was a student and a night owl too during my studies, but that simply had to change when I started my first proper job. Not saying that the change is fun or easy, but doable.
    – fgysin
    Apr 30, 2019 at 6:08
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    @fgysin: I wasn't talking about the students being half asleep (though many of them are, too...). People in academia inhabit very different places on the tradeoff space between self-discipline and creativity. Apr 30, 2019 at 6:19

I'm currently working at my third postdoc, which is a collaboration between a company and a university, and I am based at the company.

I am required to keep the company's hours; they do have flexi-time, but considering the core hours are between 9am and 4pm, it's not that handy. When I started, I decided to work 8am to 4pm, to avoid a busy and stressful commute.

This was a bit of a change from my previous postdoc, and I've found the best way to implement it is by sticking to a schedule - wake up at the same time, catch the same bus to and from work, leave at the same time. Not massively exciting, perhaps, but it's working for now.

I do feel this sort of schedule is, to some extent, a detriment to creativity and efficiency, but thems the rules.


The advisor of my first postdoc also demanded this... The point is, if he doesn't respect your needs and instills this torture from you just because he can, he is probably unhappy about something else, thinks you are lazy, or just is a dick. And you torturing yourself is just not worth it. Better leave. I so much wish I left that first postdoc boss ...

  • I am not sure that leaving now is the best course of action
    – A Square
    Apr 30, 2019 at 5:40

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