Six weeks ago, I set myself the challenge of rising at 5AM daily to find out whether life really is better for early risers. A life-long night owl, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but after years of being nagged to adjust, the time had come. Numerous studies have found early risers to be more productive, more successful, happier and healthier, and yet going into this, I still hoped it would be futile. That I would get up earlier, sure, but it would prove to have no more benefit than my beloved late nights and sleep-ins.
Well. Four of my most dreaded words are “I told you so”, so it pains me to say this, but here we are: Want to be better?
Get up earlier.
You were right. My friends were right. My boyfriend was right. Bloody everyone was right. Life really is better for disgusting morning people.
The main revelation? You get more shit done.
The math behind this statement never computed for me before putting it into practice, but it really is true: Getting up early leads to higher productivity. I used to roll my eyes when people said this – like, hello, I’m still getting the same amount of hours in my day as you; I just happen to get up a little later and be awake a couple hours longer. We have the same window of opportunity for productivity. Technically, that’s true. But in practice, that opportunity isn’t used the same way. At the start of the day one is fresh, rejuvenated, bright-eyed and clear of mind. I found myself using that extra couple of hours in the morning positively – to walk, stretch, eat breakfast, play with the dog, organise my things and set intentions for the day. Rather than dashing out the door in a mad panic with wet hair, I even had time to blow-dry. Come night, however, it’s far easier to pat oneself on the back for a hard day’s work already done, and use any spare time to watch junk TV, surf the net or any myriad of mindless time-wasters.
Did I get there right away? No. Not even close. In fact, the first week was a total flop. Turns out the Circadian rhythm isn’t something you can just shift with mindpower alone (or at least, I couldn’t). Slow and steady is the better way to win that race, and so I extended this experiment out to six weeks rather than three and let myself ease into it. Now, I am generally awake at 6AM (on week days) and feeling better for it. My house is cleaner, I’m in better shape, I rarely skip breakfast and my To Do list has a hell of a lot more ticked off by the end of the day (including a lot more study than I was squeezing in before). Curiously, I’ve noticed shifts to my work routine that feel subtle but have a solid impact: I’ve managed to squeeze in more early-morning meetings, and contribute to them rather than merely attend. My activity levels are higher, which has translated to better billings. I’m connecting with more people, faster.
Oh, and I’m nicer.
Here are my hot tips for any night owls wanting to get some of that sweet mōrena goodness for themselves:
- Use an intuitive alarm. The Sleep Cycle app was a goddamn lifesaver for this zombie. Any alarm will work, obviously, but an intuitive alarm like Sleep Cycle tracks your sleeping patterns and wakes you up during light sleep, meaning you wake softly, feeling rested and fresh. I set a regular alarm for a few mornings to feel the difference, and it was remarkable. Remarkably bad.
- Get up. Meditation is a good thing, but it turns out if you decide to meditate while still in bed, actually you’re just sleeping. It’s okay to hit snooze once or twice and ease yourself into the day, but to have a decent shot at this early morning lark you need to at least sit up once you’re awake. Bouncing out of bed and getting moving is the very best thing you can do, so graduate to that quickly. (Getting outdoors is even better.)
- Have a buddy. It’s very easy to let yourself down, but letting somebody else down feels awful. Pair up with an accountability buddy and know you’ll have them to answer to if you’re not stumbling over your own toes at dawn.
- Look outside. Once you’re past the initial shock and trauma of your early start, open the curtains. The world is beautiful when it’s waking up.
- Create a routine, and stick to it. This may not happen for the first week or two (hello, reality) but before long you’ll find a natural rhythm to your mornings and revel in the familiarity of it. There’s something very gentle and lovely about that time, and I wish I’d embraced it sooner.