If you are one of those who tried it but for whatever reason did not stick with it, please share your experience in the comments 😉
It took me some time to transition from a night owl into an early bird but I love it! And if you are like I was, you cannot imagine the possibility of yourself being an early riser, read along.
My transition to an early was intuitive. I can say that it happened to me but when I look back, it was an inevitable step in the process of having control over my life, improving my health and performance, increasing my productivity, understanding the value of time, and all of that while honouring my priorities.
Over the next couple of paragraphs I will go over:
- How it doubled my productivity and what other benefits you can reap as well,
- How I transitioned from a night owl into an early bird,
- How you can determine if rising early is right for you,
- Tips on how to make it work for you.
How it doubled my productivity and what benefits can you reap from it
Ever since I started rising early I noticed I could do much more during the day but that is a direct consequence of all the other things going behind the scenes.
You have more willpower in the morning. If you ever tried to do something that requires an extended amount of focus, like writing a paper, diploma thesis or establishing a new habit, you might have noticed that giving it your time later in the day after work or school can be hard.
It is not only a matter of our perception but because you have less willpower at that time. One of the widely spread models of how our motivation works explains that we have a limited amount of willpower and we deplete it throughout the day by making decisions. If you are to “push yourself” to do something, morning is the best time as your pool of willpower is at its fullest at that time.
There is something magical about the mornings. It is the kind of peace, while everything is still calm and slow, most people sleep and it has a meditative quality to it. Of course, you can start your morning fast, depending on how much time you have but I prefer to have a slow start into a day – it is like a warm-up before exercise. Waking up, stretching, enjoying a morning cup of coffee while listening to my favourite podcast gets me going and think in a way, that is conducive to my goals – my health, coaching and life satisfaction.
There are no distractions. As I mentioned above, you are much less likely, if at all, to be interrupted at 5:30 a.m. than you are at 11:30 p.m. From my perspective, this is one of the two most important things that doubled my productivity. If there are no distractions, you will focus your mind on doing tasks that are beneficial to your goals. At the same time, I focus on gratitude when having my morning coffee and breakfast, and gratitude seems to be one of the practices that high-performing, happy people have in common.
You can argue that the same is true for midnight, but by being on the both sides of the spectrum, I can say that I have distracting thoughts in the night, thinking about things that happened during the day. In the morning, my mind is clear – the book is unwritten. I guess the following lyrics explain it accurately:
I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplannedStaring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find…
Here are two important implications of getting up early.
1) You build momentum. Not only you get an uninterrupted time for yourself in the morning, but by handling some tasks early, you will be happy about it and start your day on a high note.
I observed that when I get that excitement in the evening, it interferes with my sleeping schedule because I get too much energy from the hype. A lot of energy in the evening means going to bed later and waking up later. That is why I believe some people argue that they can get things done in the evening and that it works for them, but after a closer look at it, this specific pattern is not optimal.
The way it works for me is that by spending about two hours in the morning getting things done, I have free time after work – the time when most people stress out because they need to cook, work, go shopping, take care of kids and have a lot of catching up to do in general. If you experience this in your daily life, just imagine how it would feel to come from work and have meals cooked, the fridge full, house cleaned or any multitude of tasks done. You would have much less stress in your life, that is for sure!
The magical thing happens for me in the early evening hours. Since I have the free time, I feel relaxed and not pushed to work on my content – I could do anything. That typically leads me to work on my content and it feels great because it is a choice, not a task accompanied by an adrenaline rush. I experience what I call a state of relaxed productivity.
2) Getting up early improves self-esteem. This goes hand in hand with building momentum. When you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to do things that benefit you and your future. It is much easier to make the right decision when you are happy and fulfilled and have a full pool of willpower.
3) Improved health. Besides all of the aforementioned benefits, your hormone levels are also affected by your sleep/wake pattern and it has to do with sun exposure, specifically first two hours of being awake. Cortisol, the hormone which is associated with stress, muscle and brain atrophy, is at its peak after you wake up and declines as the day goes by.
Exposure to a bright light, like that from the Sun or 10k lux light-bulb for two hours (two hours is the minimal effective dose, ideally you want to be exposed to a bright light for seven or more hours) after you wake-up sets your inner clock (circadian rhythm) and can lower the peak cortisol levels by 25% and cortisol levels throughout the day by 15%.
How I transitioned from a night owl into an early bird
The way I got into waking up earlier was unintentional for me. But as I have been implementing it into my life, I discovered how I like it and prefer it to staying up late. This came to me as a shocker because I have always thought of myself as a night owl. In retrospective, it was simply a habit from my school days, when I was leaving everything to the last moment and had to study and write till the late night hours.
In retrospective, it was simply a habit from my school days, when I was leaving everything to the last moment and had to study and write till the late night hours. Maybe you too associate your productivity induced by pressing deadline with your identity. What I mean is that if you have a habit of waiting until the very last moment, which is typically the night before the deadline, you will have no choice but to produce. In that state, you produce adrenalin which gives you a high and possibly even sense of accomplishment after overcoming the struggle – which was self-imposed.
I was exactly like that and after I started waking up early, I fell in love with it. The first trigger was to cook in the morning for the day instead of the night before. That meant having the whole kitchen all for myself, while my roommates are fast-asleep. After that, I added listening to my favourite podcasts while cooking, which is now the part of my routine that keeps me motivated and kick-starts my productivity.
What happened next was adding more things, like morning run, going to a grocery store and writing – when it comes to creating content I feel most relaxed during my morning coffee, already happy about myself, having my meals prepared with the added sense of no hurries nor worries.
As you can see, the transition was gradual, from waking up at eight to six in the morning.
How you can determine if rising early is right for you
The important thing is what schedule works for you! Maybe it is not right for you, which is perfectly fine, as long as you have tried it. Don’t let me or anybody else impose the idea on you that it is the only way to get things done effectively.
One of the important factors to determine if waking up early can work for you is obvious – your schedule. If you work night shifts, it will not work for you. In that case I would suggest to mimic day/night cycle by getting exposed to the sunlight or a bright light as soon as possible as you wake up. If you live in a country where the Sun sets too soon and rises too late, you might want to use an artificial lightning. The bigger problem is if you work shifts. There is no workaround that I know about and it is very stresful to your body.
You don’t need to wake up at 5 a.m. to reap the benefits of early risers. Take it in context of your life and work schedule. You can benefit from it as long as you wake up few hours before work and maybe you can really be productive during the night and sleep till lunch. From my perspective and understanding, however, no matter if you are a night owl or early bird, humans being are not that different. Our metabolism works faster during day and slows down during night -we have that in common. The early birds will have a tendency to wake up two or three hours earlier.
If you stay up late, you can experiment by going into nature and you wil see a dramatic change in your sleeping schedule, which is connected to the sunrise and sunset. There is a major influence the artificial lightning has on our sleeping schedule!
Tips on how to make it work for you
- The best tip I can give you for waking up early is to plan your morning the night before. Most people who fail to stick to their morning routines and waking up early simply do not prepare for it. It goes like this. In the evening you are all excited to wake up and for all the stuff you want to do and the idea of how amazing it will make you feel about yourself. But in the morning, the alarm goes off and you are a different person. You don’t want to get up, because you are in a different emotional state. You know that from your experience already. The best thing you can do is to plan your morning the night before. Having an agenda in mind, will make it MUCH easier for you to go out of the bed. GUARANTEED!
- If you have decided to change your sleeping schedule, start slow by 15 minute increments. You don’t want to suddenly start waking up three hours earlier, you would have a jet-lag experience.
- Having your lights turned off an hour before going to bed prepares you for sleep. You also want to reduce light from your computer or phone screen prior to going to bed, I myself use Gunnar glasses and can feel the difference.
- Prioritize getting to bed in certain time. People who have difficulty waking up early typically stay up after their bed time. Make it your priority and set a time in stone when you get to bed no matter what. “But what about…?” NO MATTER WHAT!
- Stay away from books, film and games that make you think too much, i.e. stimulate your brain. Creative thinking will bump your energy up and you will have hard time falling asleep.
- Calm music and meditation can helpo you fall asleep as both of these processes will calm you down, which is a great preparation for sleep. Meditation can be especially helpful if you are thinking in the evening about events that happened during the day, like a break-up.
- Get up right away. Put your alarm clock away from your reach so you need to move across the room to turn it off. You have roomates and you are worried about waking them up this way? Perfect, you have more accountability and motivation to turn it of A.S.A.P.!
- Adjust the room temperature. Something as simple as the roo temperature can make it easier or harder to get out of the bed. How? Cozy, warm under the sheets versus cold out of the bed… it will be harder for you to get out of the bed. You might want to set your rooms temperature in the morning so you can get out of bed easily.
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