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Early to Rise

I’m sure I’m about to alienate all my dear buddy night owls, but here goes. Turns out Ben Franklin was correct. Productive people of the world get out of bed early.  Studies have actually been done on this and the evidence comes down squarely on the side of the world’s early risers.

Now, I know there are those who would say their natural disposition is to stay up until 2 in the morning and then sleep until noon. Vampire hours. To them I would say: get over it. You can train yourself to get up as early as you need to. Have you ever had to get up very early to catch a plane for vacation? Take a bus to New York City? I bet it wasn’t hard. You knew there was no alternative if you wanted the pleasure of your planned event and then you made the decision to cooperate with that plan.

I love the word decision. It has the same root as incision and scissors. The literal meaning of the word decision is “to cut off.” Just as an incision is a surgical cut and scissors are tools for cutting, making a decision means you cut off the alternative choices.

When you make the decision to get up early as a matter of habit, you cut off the cycle of vampire hours. You redefine yourself among the people who accomplish much. It trains your mental discipline, which then makes you feel good about yourself. If you get up early, you are ahead of the chaos of the household, which will set the tone for your day as calm, organized and in command of yourself.  You will gain hours in your week that you are currently wasting. Here are a couple of practical tips if you are ready to make the decision to get up early.

1. If you currently get up at no particular time, but just sleep until whenever, then the first step for you is to decide to actually get up on purpose at a given time. If you currently go to bed beyond midnight on a regular basis, you probably should not decide to start going to bed at 10:30 pm. You will only lie there, not feeling tired, thereby “proving” to yourself that you are a night owl and this whole idea is a waste. If you start regularly getting up early, you will naturally soon begin to be tired earlier in the evening, so it works better to start moving your sleeping time back only after you are experiencing tiredness in the evening.

2. Decide on your goal wake-up hour and work back from your current wake-up hour gradually. So, if you now stay in bed until 8:00-ish, but you want to get up at 6:00, start getting up at 7:30 or 7:45 consistently for several days or a couple of weeks and then move back in small increments until you’re getting up at your desired time. Do this without first deciding to go to bed earlier; let the earlier sleeping time come about naturally.

3. Make a mental agreement with yourself before you go to bed. Tell yourself you have decided to get up at X:00 am. You can even visualize yourself having a board meeting where you’re announcing the new policy will be to get up at X:00 am. (Yes, I have actually done that.) Doing this mental exercise before bed not only makes it easier for me to carry out what I planned to do, but it is not rare that I naturally wake up within a couple of minutes of my alarm ringing. It’s like I’ve programmed myself on a subconscious level and my body responds automatically.

4. When your alarm clock rings, train yourself to respond right away. Push the covers off, sit to the side of the bed, open your eyes or whatever else it is that makes you tell yourself, “I am getting up now.” Do not beg yourself for five more minutes! Don’t “snooze.” If you need extra help making yourself get right up, train yourself like Pavlov’s dogs. You can run through it at a non-bedtime hour and actually practice responding to your alarm clock as soon as it rings.   Go through it ten times, tracing a route in your neural pathways that says, “Hear alarm, move to get out of bed.”

5. Lastly, do something enjoyable with your new-found time. You should reward yourself so that you aren’t sorry you got up early. I spend that time writing or reading. It is so calming and centering. You could spend it:

  • Exercising
  • Meditating/Praying
  • Enjoying a coffee/tea
  • Watching the sun rise
  • Stroking a pet
  • Going for a walk or run
  • Taking a bath
  • Listening to music
  • Playing an instrument
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Planning your day or week
  • Preparing food

Anything is valid if it is calming and centering. It will benefit your mental and spiritual health far more than another half-hour or hour of sleep.

Now – I will grant you, there are some people who should not be disciplining their wake-up time this much at their current life-stage. I am a mother. I raised three babies to something approximating civility.  I never had those insta-babies who can be laid in a crib at 7:00 pm and have to be roused up twelve hours later. There were years when I can’t be sure I got 5 whole hours of sleep a day , even if I count falling asleep in the car at a stoplight. So, if that’s you, or there’s another reason outside of your control that accounts for late-sleeping, vampire habits or poor self-discipline, well, then give yourself a break and keep this post in mind for sometime in the future when things are less crazy.

But you other folks – you know who you are. You really just need to train yourself to get your ass out of bed early and see what you’ve been missing. You might even come to like it.  Getting up and having even just a half-hour (but an hour or more is better) of time to get your head in the game before the frantic grab for shoes, keys, instruments, lunches, waffles, dog food or whatever else happens in your house – it’s very rewarding. You couldn’t pay me to stay in bed and miss my “me” time now.

See ya in the morning.