Welcome to Thank Whatever It’s Monday: Early Bird Edition.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote Thank The Worm It’s Monday where I mentioned that I got up at 5am every morning. This got quite a response in comments, e-mails etc and so I decided to expand on that and write a whole article about it.
To quickly summarize it – I am an early bird. I get up at 5am every morning. I wasn’t always like this – is anyone? However it’s something I’ve slowly gravitated to over the past few years and I’m at the point now where I can’t even fathom “sleeping in”. Sometimes my teenage nieces come to stay, and I’m absolutely shocked when it’s 11am and they’re still in bed.
Now I should warn you – waking up early isn’t for everyone. It fits perfectly into my life schedule, but for others it may be quite tough. I’ll touch on that as I go though and along with the positives will cover the negatives.
Let’s break this one up….
Why I Wake Up At 5am:
There are many reasons, but the primary one is motivation. Everyone needs motivation. Everyone. We all get it in different places. Quotes, stories, videos, life experiences. Something that works one week may not work the other. I’ve written on here before about how my “kids are my motivation” – but it’s hard to be motivated when one of the little bastards has just spilt rootbeer over your keyboard!
One thing that never fails for me is early morning. I get up at 5am and immediately head outside. Sometimes it’s just walking with my dog, and in the summer I’ll usually go for a jog. It’s such an amazing feeling being up at this time – the world is still completely quiet. The streets are empty. It’s a fantastic feeling, and allows you to really relax and plan out your day. It also feels like you have an advantage – all of your lazy competitors are still in bed, and you’re up and ready to rock!
To me, it’s not enough just getting up at 5am – it’s also getting up at 5am and going outside. Breathing in the fresh air, and experiencing the silence of a usually busy world. You get some real moments of clarity, and it allows you to really think about what you are going to achieve that day.
Of course, there’s practical reasons for doing it too. I have 2 kids. During the day, the only time I get to work is 9am-5pm when they are at school, and the after-school program. I also have to take care of the house etc. Having those extra few hours in the morning is vitally important for me. It means that when 5pm rolls around I can completely switch off from work, and focus 100% on my kids and my family.
It also means I’m not rushing in the morning. Come 7:30am it’s time to wake my kids up, get them ready for school, make them breakfast, make them lunch, then take them to school. Waking up at 5am allows me to be better prepared for that.
It also helps in regard to sleep. I used to be a “night owl” – I’d work late because I thought I was more productive then. But that would really mess up my sleep cycle. If you’re working late and it doesn’t matter when you go to bed – well you can stay up till 1am or 4am – but with no set schedule, it messes with your body and keeps you from being fully alert.
I’m a big fan of regularity and structure, and having a set schedule like this really helps. I also found that I would often have trouble sleeping. Ever been in your bed at night, brought out your smartphone and googled “insomnia symptoms/cures”? Yeah, been there, done that. But waking up at 5am totally changes that.
Is Waking Up Early Right For You?
Waking up at 5am is right for me – but it might not be for you.
Practically, it works out for me. it also means I need to go to bed at approximately 9pm every night. I’m sure a lot of people are balking at that one. Everyone is different. I personally need 8 hours sleep to fully function the next morning. An alternative that I sometimes do is go to bed at 11pm and get 6 hours sleep – then I have a 2 hour nap during the day. Maybe you’re someone that can function on 6 hours sleep or whatever – it really depends on you.
Sacrifices have to be made if you’re going to bed early. For example, I can’t stay up to watch the late football games. I rarely get to see the end of an NBA game etc. However I work around that. I PVR the games, and watch them in the background in the morning. Right now I’m watching the 2nd half of Ravens vs Steelers as I type this.
If you go out partying a lot or if your whole life is pretty topsy-turvy – then yeah, most likely not for you. I go out to the pub maybe 4-5 times a month. But when I do, I make sure I’m home by about 10pm. The odd time I end up getting silly and not coming home till 3am – I just make sure to get back into the routine immediately.
Really, it all depends on your own life. I take my kids up to bed at 7:30pm, and I read them books. That actually gets me into a sleepy mood, so it works out for me.
How To Wake Up Early:
There is a ZILLION articles on this topic, so I won’t get into it too much.
Waking up early is something that didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t just decide “Okay, I’m going to start waking up at 5am” and then actually started doing it. It took months of work and even them sometimes I fall off the rails for a couple of weeks.
The first thing I learned was to embrace sleep. I used to hate sleep. “Sleeping is for wimps!”. Now I think back and laugh at myself for thinking that. Sleep is a wonderful thing that is vital to your physical and mental health, and well-being. It’s also a time where you get to RELAX and DREAM. How can you not love that? And if you get enough sleep, you actually feel REFRESHED. Why would anyone ever hate sleep?
The next thing, was to figure out a method to get to sleep. I’ve tried many things over the years. I’ve tried putting on Classical music, sitcoms that I’ve seen a million times as background noise, counting sheep, counting backwards from 50, sleeping masks – so many things. Some work, some don’t. You just need to keep trying until you can find a sure-proof method that works for you. Although if you start getting up at 5am on a regular basis, you’ll find come 8pm your body and mind are already getting into sleep mode anyway. That’s the great thing about routine.
Right now my technique – as silly as this is – is to “fantasy book” sporting events in my head. Be it WWE, UFC, NFL or whatever – I’ll think of a scenario and then act it out, and all repercussions of that scenario, in my head. It distracts my conscious mind as I start thinking about what if Bonnar beat Silva, or what if Kobe went to the Raptors – and next thing I know, it’s morning.
Probably the most important one though – was what I would do when I would wake up at 5am. Pull yourself out of bed, and work out! Do some exercise! It doesn’t have to be a huge workout – just get that blood going. It really helps you wake up and feel better about yourself – and I found my body would get used to that, and it made waking up so much easier. These days I don’t even bother with an alarm clock – I just wake up at 5am on the dot. And my body is so used to it that even if I end up not getting to bed till 11pm or 12am I still wake up at 5am, drag myself up and just nap a bit during the day.
Whew. is this Dealer Dan or Dr. Freaking Phil? As you can tell it’s a subject I am passionate about. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below as I don’t want to rattle on too much – although I could talk about this for hours.
As I’ve said numerous times – waking up at 5am, or even early in the morning – it isn’t for everyone. For some people it may be practically impossible.
But if it’s something that interests you – give it a try.
The complete silence as you walk around the dark, quiet streets at 5am just taking it all in is euphoric.