Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too.
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Catch the sun: change your sleep habits
I’m not a morning person but I constantly felt I was losing valuable time during my day if I slept later in the morning. I would sleep in as long as possible, jump up and get ready for work. There was no time for myself and there was so much lost time and nothing to show for it. I was tired of waking up and going right to work without any time for myself during the weekdays. I wanted my mornings back.
So, I made a goal of waking up early (6 AM). I created a routine by joining a gym, reading, and thinking about my day. It was tough at first but having a routine (working out, reading, planning my day) allows me to have extra valuable time in the morning.
Morning brings back the heroic ages. There was something cosmical about it; a standing advertisement, till forbidden, of the everlasting vigor and fertility of the world. The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Why wake up early
There are many benefits to waking up early. For me, I get more of my own time back during the day instead of relying on after work time. Studies have shown, and I have experienced, there is an increase in productivity when waking up early. It’s a nice experience to sit outside with a cup of coffee, reading a book, while the sun breaks the horizon. The world is just waking up and you’ve already been taking on your day. This is a great time to start planning your days activities, checking emails (writing blog content), and getting ready for the day.
Ernest Hemingway was a drinker with a writing problem but he did write a lot of his work in the early morning hours. There is something with waking up early that helps with creativity (mixed research on this). I find it easier to read and think about complex topics when I am “fresh” in the morning than after a long day of work monotony.
Time is the longest distance between two places.
― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
Benefits of waking early
You get more time for yourself. For me, this is a great benefit. I wake up early, I feel like I get more done during the day. I’m not talking about doing things around the house, I’m talking about reading, writing, working out, and planning. When I work out in the morning, I feel energized for the day versus working out in the evening.
I noticed a decrease in stress because there is time in the morning to think about what I want to get done that day. I recommend using this time for self-evaluation and improvement. To think about what you’re doing or not doing and plan a way to adjust yourself.
How do you start
I started my wake-up routine in the spring/summer months because of the early sunrise times. Doing this in winter will be harder because the sun rises later and sunlight helps trigger your brain to wake up.
You’ll need to figure out how much sleep you need; I typically need 7 hours per night, 6 hours minimum, but not more than 8 hours. Make sure you have time away from screens (laptops, cell phones) before you go to bed, this will allow you to fall asleep faster.
Next, I recommend changing your sleep cycle incrementally. I started incrementally by waking up 20 minutes earlier every week. Setting an alarm away from the bed so I would have to get up helped get me out of bed helps. Placing a bottle of water by the alarm so I can hydrate helped me wake up. Hydrating can increase alertness, you were just sleeping for hours without drinking so dehydration can slow you down.
As you wake up earlier each week, have a routine. This routine doesn’t have to be complicated. The morning routine can be something as simple as drinking a cup of water as you go outside to get fresh air. Or, you can make coffee by grinding beans and using a press. This connects your mind and body by giving you a physical trigger acton to associate around your sleep cycle.
The most important factor
Finally, and most importantly, you’ll need to be consistent. Sleeping in on weekends can alter your sleep habits, if you think you can handle it then go for it. It would be helpful to have the same sleep schedule for weekdays and weekends while you’re transitioning to your new sleep cycle. You can try alterations for 1 weekend day and work your way to 2 weekend days. This is a commitment that will pay off.