It’s Monday morning and you have hit the “snooze” button twice and now its finally time to get out of bed. Eyes still closed, your feet slide across the floor on your way to the bathroom as you think,
“4 more days until its Saturday again, I have two more months until my vacation, and there is another 37 years until I retire. “
How is it that some people can get out of bed early and start their day with a smile while others don’t speak in the morning until they get to work? I used to wonder about this all the time when I was a late sleeper. Now that I am an early riser and have been for years, I can’t imagine waking up late.
Years ago, I used to hate being awake before 11 a.m. The waking up process was always a slow one for me. A job that required me to wake up earlier forced me to become an early riser. I’ve been waking up early for many years now but I wondered if I could improve my productivity and overall lifestyle by waking up at an extremely early time.
The 3 A.M. Experiment
I decided to try to wake up at 3 am for a week without hating it. I wanted to track my productivity and how I felt throughout the day. I also wanted to find out if I had the discipline to do it. It was going to be hard but I felt that if I could develop a routine, it may go a little smoother.
I made the decision to do this challenge on Monday so I decided to start the very next morning. I knew that waiting until the following Monday allowed too much time for me to talk myself out of it. I don’t drink coffee and my morning tea is decaffeinated so I made sure to continue that practice so that I didn’t have a crutch for this experiment.
“Buzz, buuuzzz, beep beep beep beep!” Day one of my extreme early riser experiment and I’m already regretting the decision. Today’s task is to write and answer emails. I like writing and answering emails from visitors so the experience should be pleasant.
The day started slowly as my body was not used to waking up this early. But after a few minutes of “man, this was a bad idea” I worked my way to my pc and began answering emails. I was working on an article so I worked on that until about 4:45am. Then it was off to clear my head. I went back to my bedroom and sat at the edge of the bed and said my prayers and meditated for about 20 minutes.
I felt good and I wasn’t tempted to lay down for a quick 5 minute rest.
Then something strange happened when I went to the kitchen to grab some breakfast and prepare my lunch. As I stood in the kitchen staring at an open refrigerator, I notice it needed cleaning. Without even thinking, I started taking everything out of the fridge. Then I got down and scrubbed the inside until it was spotless. Something about being productive early helped me continue that productivity to everything I was doing that morning. That productivity carried over to work as I felt the need to create new spreadsheets for our process to track an internal customer.
In the evening when I tried to do some more writing, I was much less productive. From the moment I got off of work, the distractions came. Phone call after phone call and distraction after distraction, I got very little done in the evening.
Wednesday & Thursday
I repeated the same routine from Tuesday and I seem to be even more productive. Getting out of bed was getting easier. Besides a friend who recently moved to Japan sending me an IM at 3:30, I had no interruptions. It was amazing how much I got done! I’ve never realized how many times I’m interrupted when I write at night.
“I might have to make this a permanent change.” I thought.
On Thursday, my alarm interrupted a dream I was having. Apparently, an ex-girlfriend’s sister, my third grade teacher and I were in Greece when we got lost and had to rent an apartment there. “I wonder what the physiological meaning of that was”. I made a mental note to Google “dream interpretations” later.
I got even more work done and had an extra long prayer and meditation session that left me feeling energized. At work, I was one step ahead of myself as I realized some work that was due that day, was already done the day before. This is going well, maybe a little too well I found out.
Friday-Basketball at 3 A.M. Anyone?
I ran into a problem on Friday-I had nothing to do. I got so much work done in three days that I really didn’t have a reason to be up at 3am. I finished my post and did some maintenance on the website so Friday morning was sort of my free time. I killed some time on Facebook catching up on how my friends kept themselves busy the previous day.
“Oh look, someone got promoted to level 252 on Candy Crush. Is that good?”
After I realized that I was just wasting time I decided to clean my car. I chose to drive to a gas station and use the vacuum to clean the inside and to clean my trunk. I figured if I tried to clean my trunk at my place it may look to the neighbors like I was trying to get rid of a body.
After the cleaning, I still had an hour and a half before I needed to get ready for work. So what does a person do when he is awake at 3:45 and has nothing to do? He plays basketball, of course. I had a problem trying to think of a place where I could play without being arrested for trespassing. I ended up at my old middle school where they recently put bright lights on the side of the gym where the basketball courts were. I did a few drills and shot around for about an hour.
How to Wake Up Without Hating It
As I was out there shooting in absolute silence, I thought about my week of waking up early. I thought about how having that extra time had helped me. I thought about accomplishing something that I didn’t think I could do. I thought about how accomplishing goals is about doing the extra things that others are not willing to do. I thought about how my days at work were more productive and enjoyable. I thought about how, if I wanted to succeed as a writer, businessman, human being, I had to do things that aren’t easy. Things that most people aren’t willing to do. Waking up and working early is one of those things.
“I’ve got to share this”, I thought.
So here are the things that I felt helped me to wake up, get more done, feel better throughout my day, and improve my physical and spiritual life.
Plan Your Morning the Night Before–Having a plan laid out the day before made things much easier for me. The first two days were a bit of a blur for the first 10 minutes. Then I realized that I wrote exactly what I was supposed to be doing on a whiteboard. I had the tasks numbered in order or importance so that, just in case I was less productive, the most important task would be completed.
Try to organize your morning so that the vital things are taken care of first. Depending on how you operate, you may want to exercise first. Or perhaps your prayer and meditation time should come first if that will be the most effective way to get you going. For me, if I try to pray and meditate as soon as I get up, my thoughts tend to drift. That is why I like to get up and be active first so that I am focused when I pray and meditate.
Have Something to Look Forward To-Writing in the mornings was an exciting change for me. Before, when I would wake up later, I would have a good idea and then make a note of it so that I can go back to it. But when I made writing a morning activity, that good idea was captured in its entirety.
If there is something that you enjoy doing or experiencing, move it to your morning routine. For example, if you enjoy taking a bubble bath after work, take that bath in the morning. It will add the same type of satisfaction that will be carried out throughout the day.
No Snooze, Ever–One of the rules I put into place for my experiment was the rule that I could not use the snooze button, ever! When you hit the snooze on your alarm you are allowing your mind to wake up gradually. This may slow down your productivity and energy.
As soon as you alarm goes off, take a deep breath, sit up straight and plant your feet on the floor. Do this even if your eyes are not open yet. I found that the best thing to do in the morning is to get moving before your mind even realizes how early it is.
Change Alarm Sounds–To keep from getting used to waking up the same way, I suggest changing alarm sounds. I use my Blackberry alarm and there are several different ringtones available. I have a backup alarm that is set to wake me up 15 minutes after my Blackberry alarm goes off. The sound of that alarm is much louder and more annoying. This gives me another reason to get up as soon as the first alarm goes off because I know if I don’t, the second alarm that sounds like an ambulance is driving through my bedroom will do it.
Hard to Reach Alarm–If you really have a problem getting out of bed in the morning I suggest placing your alarm away from your bed. The sound will force you to get out of bed to manually turn off the alarm. You are more likely to stay awake after getting up and taking action.
Routines Create a Habit–Create a habit of getting going by establishing a routine. I found that morning routines are fairly easy to establish. After Wednesday, I found that I was already beginning to create habits such as not hitting the snooze button and looking at my white board as soon as my eyes were open. This routine should begin the night before and should include things that will make it easier for you to wake up such as going to bed at a certain time.
Know Your Body–Some people need 8 hours of sleep a night while others can do fine with 6. During my week, I realized that I could do very well on 6 ½ hours of sleep. Any less than that and I would need a power nap in the afternoon. Find out how much sleep you really need to be effective. Make sure that you are enough sleep so that you are not groggy and tired all day.
The Next Step
I plan on continuing this challenge for another week and will be posting my results. Subscribe to our feed for updates. How do you get out of bed early?