Let’s debunk a myth.
It’s not that early risers doesn’t like to sleep.
They appreciate a full eight hours night of sleep like everyone else. The reason why they get up early to get stuff done is not some masochistic game, it’s just that: they want to get stuff done. And they know they’re more productive early in the morning.
If you are like me and you’re so useless after dinner that you can’t complete the simplest of the tasks, then it may be a good idea to train your morning productivity.
If you’re like Andrea, my boyfriend, and need as much sleep as possible to be alert and awake at work, then keep sleeping till the last possible minute and stay awake at night to do what you need. However, if you haven’t tried yet, you should give the early rising method a try, just to see if it works.
How I became an early riser
I already knew from my student days that I’m far more productive in the mornings: an hour study at 6 am counted for four at 10 pm. However somehow I never really had the habit to regularly wake up early with a plan or a list of things to do before starting the day.
If you are a little into the blogsphere, you have surely run into one or more blog posts which talks about creating a writing habit for the first hours of the day. So I decided to give it a try.
I have to be at work at 8 am. I have to get on my car at 7.15 am, therefore I used to wake up at 6.30 am. I just had time enough for a shower and some breakfast before I had to leave (I’m slow, ok?). I couldn’t squeeze a single word in. So I started trying to waking up at 6 am.
It was just thirty minutes earlier than usual but what a difference they made! I had a whole half an hour in which I could read, write or translate. This little change in my habits made a huge difference.
It was the perfect way to start each morning doing something I love and this way, when I arrived at work, I didn’t think “oh, I wonder when I’ll have time to write” but “oh, I have already written 500 words”. This is good for motivation, for creating momentum and for creating those important writing habits you so often hear talking about.
After weeks of this simple shift in my schedule, I started wondering how much more I could accomplish with even more time. So I started waking earlier and earlier, a quarter of an hour at a time, giving myself at least a week to adjust to the change.
At present I wake up at 5.15 am and write from 5.40 am to 7.00 am every morning, which means form 1500 to 2000 words written or translated every morning before work. Can you imagine how good it feels?
How can you become and early riser
Go to bed earlier: simple as that. There’s no way you can reduce your sleeping hours for a long time without being crushed. It can work for a short time, like during NaNoWriMo, but it’s not going to last. As Tim Grahl says in his incredibly useful and motivating post you need to “assume you have no willpower, and plan accordingly.” If you’re like me and use to go to bed late at night, this may be difficult to accomplish. I find that deciding early what I want to watch on TV and turn it off in the moment it ends helps me in this. I sit at the chair near the table (no couch nap) and when the show is over I go to bed. Don’t worry… there are so much replays of every show that the chance you miss something it’s tiny.
Do it gradually: big sudden changes probably are not the smartest idea to create a habit. You can’t step from waking up at 7 am to 5 am in one day. It will kill your resolution. Try a quarter of an hour at the time and take some time to adjust to the change, find your own rate. At a certain point you’ll reach the breaking point, the one you know you can’t push further. Don’t go too far, that’s enough. For now.
Oversleep happens: don’t be too hard on yourself. But be careful, self-indulgence is behind the corner. Don’t fell in the trap.
Plan in the evening: take a few minutes each evening to decide what you’re going to do the following morning. This way you’ll know what to do the moment you wake up and you won’t waste precious time.
Open the window: watching the world waking up with you helps you connect with the fact that it’s actually morning, even if it still feels like night time.
Getting up vs. being awake: these are two different things. Getting up is hard, it makes you feel like you’re not going to make it to the bathroom, let alone do something productive. But it doesn’t last, it’s just a moment or two. Once you’re up and you have washed your face or made your first cup of coffee, you’re going to feel better. I promise.
Consider you’ll be hungry later: waking up earlier means you’ll have breakfast earlier (at least this is true for me, I can’t do anything unless I had breakfast first). This means you may get hungry before lunch time. Remember to bring a snack with you!
I won’t fool you. It’s not easy at first, it requires discipline and motivation. You must be willing to commit yourself to creating a habit in order to have more time for yourself and your passion. After some time however it becomes easier and easier. And there’s no better energiser than knowing you’ve already accomplished a lot when you leave home to go to work.