I naturally consider myself a late-night person, yet, I prefer waking up early to staying up late. Why? Because I've experienced incredible results from working early in the morning - results that make working late at night look like a joke.
In 2016, I worked a day job from 7:30am-4:30pm. The routine was simply to roll out of bed, prep, and head straight to work. The best hours of the morning were spent working for someone else.
There were two options I considered:
1. Find time to write and create before 7:30am
2. Find time to write and create after 4:30pm
Which option sounds more feasible to you? Mhm, I hear ya. Option 2 seems to be a no-brainer. I mean, how would you find time to work before working??
So, I attempted Option 2. At first, it felt like I was progressing. Over time, however, I became frustrated with sifting through the leftovers of my thoughts. I couldn't write and create with the same level of energy I'd had earlier that day.
When I saw how few projects were actually getting finished, I finally decided to try going to bed super early and waking up super early, just to see what would happen.
At first, it didn't work well at all. I usually had no idea what I wanted to work on first. Indecision had me rushing to get out the door and off to the day job with no significant creative progress.
You don't have to waste the time I did. I want to help you jumpstart your day by sharing what I've learned.
The Case for Waking Early
1. More energy
Things happen throughout the day and the brain is forced to make a plethora of decisions. By the end of the day, you're just tired and ready to chill. The new morning is a clean slate to start again. Take advantage and extend that energy-filled time frame as long as you can.
2. Boosted metabolism (solid breakfast)
You now have time to craft a solid breakfast, which jumpstarts your body's metabolism for the day. You'll also be less likely to overeat or grab unhealthy foods later.
3. Focused attention
Early morning is free from distractions. As a result, your mind is laser-sharp and ready for action.
4. Getting more done in less time
Because you've had time to mull over experiences and thoughts from the previous day, your thoughts have greater clarity. This clarity allows you to focus on knocking out the hardest stuff first. Combine working smarter with an enhanced ability to articulate your thoughts, and you become a powerful force.
5. Ending the day with a profound sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Enough said.
You got up early, didn't waste time, and got stuff done. No matter what the rest of the day holds, no matter what else happens, you will have something to show for it when your head hits the pillow. That is a joyous prospect.
How to Set Yourself Up for Success
The most productive mornings start with prepping the night before. Why? Because you want to eliminate as many unnecessary decisions as possible upon waking. Think of your brain like a fuel reservoir. Every decision you make taxes your brain, expending that fuel. In the morning, your fuel tank is filled to the brim. It's better to expend the fuel on the largest, most pressing things first instead of wasting it on smaller things.
Here are five things you can do to set up for an optimal morning:
1. Lay out your clothes (this way you don't have to stop and think about what you want to wear, you just throw it on)
2. Get plenty of sleep (6-7 hours is my sweet spot, so I try to be in bed before 10pm. Establish a wind-down routine)
3. Determine the top 3 things you want to work on and write it down.
4. Make requests of your subconscious the night before and write them down (This step was inspired by productivity-writer Benjamin Hardy. Check out the full article here!)
5. Buy a $5 alarm clock at Walmart!
Mini-story time: I'll be honest here. I don’t have the willpower to simply turn off my phone alarm without scrolling through social media and glancing at emails too.
You don't need to prove anything to anyone about your willpower on this. Just get that alarm clock.
Bonus tip: Place the alarm as far away from your bed as possible (staying within the room of course), preferably along the route you would take to the bathroom. This ideal setup keeps you walking, which encourages your body to wake up more instead of stumbling back to bed again.
I have a day job where I work from 11am-6pm, therefore, I set up a routine that has me going to bed before 10pm and waking at 5:00am or earlier. This routine gives me 6 hours of precious morning time to work with.
Wash face or Shower, then wash face
Eat breakfast (usually consists of a bowl of rice and two scrambled eggs)
Read and meditate
Write (I’ll either stay at my desk or travel to a coffee shop. Getting out of the house is a nice change of pace and improves my focus)
Go to work @ 10:45
Brush teeth + wash face
Clean desk area and charge devices
Read (if possible, a physical book) until bedtime
Don't reward yourself for waking up early. This routine should become a habit, like brushing your teeth. It should be like the Geico commercial tagline: "It's what you do." To reward yourself is like a bribe. In the end, you wouldn't do it if it wasn't for the reward. Take away the reward and what are you left with? The disdain for waking up early. It will be hard at first, but the results will cultivate a "want to" later. Just make yourself do it for the first 10-15 minutes, then watch your mind and body align with the routine. When I start working on art, I try not to think about the hours it will take to finish, I just think about working for 10-15 minutes. What do you know, but 10-15 minutes later, I've gotten into the flow and am off and running!
Call to Action
1. Take 10-15 minutes and write your waking and wind-down routines. Don't worry if you come across issues the first couple of days. Simply course-correct as you go. Through experimenting and observing, you will be able to strategize your ideal sleep and wake times.
2. Invest in that alarm clock! Do it today, if possible! The sooner you start the habit, the better.
3. Please let me know what you're struggling with. I'd love to help you optimize your day.
You're doing better than you think. Keep going!