“Discipline equals freedom”
I wake up at 5am almost every day. Whenever this comes up in conversation I am always aked ‘Why do you get up so early?’, which is then usually followed with ‘How do you do it?’. The answer is much simpler and far less crazy than you might think.
Allow me to break it down:
1) Carpe Diem
I’ve put in the effort to get up early, have formed the habit over that last 50 days and now have a fresh day to embrace. I don’t want to mess up my hard work. I’m going to handle whatever challenges lay before me today and I’m going to win my own race. I’m going to seize the day, Mr Keating.
2) Those few hours before the rest of the world is awake are the magic hours.
Put simply, there’s more space, it’s less busy and more peaceful. Watch the sunrise, hear the birds before the traffic, sip on the fresh brew of the day: there is a meditative quality to the small hours of the morning that I love.
3) Body clock
After a while the body clock readjusts naturally so it’s no big deal anyway. ‘Early’ no longer means what it once did and I don’t have to worry about a screeching alarm clock waking everyone else up.
4) Better sleep
So long as the mattress is comfy and the environment in general is conducive to a good rest then it’s very likely that you will have wound down from the day sooner and hit the hay earlier. If you’re the kind of person that has developed an appreciation of The Early Rise, then you’ll have built your routine around ensuring you get all the sleep you need.
5) More productivity
Getting up earlier than usual, until it becomes usual, has an effect on one’s mindset too. By getting up early I’ve set myself up to be productive (not ‘busy’ – those two words are quite the opposite).
6) More positivity
You’re not rushing, are you? You’re up and cracking on with the day so there’s no racing for the bus, or to get ready whilst the kids have to get ready too, or trying to beat the flatmates to the bathroom just to get a couple of extra minutes of hot water. I guarantee once you start waking up earlier, you won’t start feeling more pessimistic.
So, how do you become an early riser?
1) Don’t start by going all out. If you usually get up at 7am, trying to immediately shave off two hours to get up at 5am will be too much too soon. Spend a fortnight up to a month, dialling your wake up time back by 15-30 mins incrementally until you reach that new sweet spot. Just don’t forget that the aim isn’t to cut back on sleep! Whatever is removed in the morning, add it onto the night. It’ll just be a case of going to bed earlier.
2) Which is the second point. Recalibrate bedtime. You’ll find that if you’re up earlier you will naturally feel tired earlier anyway but the trick will be getting out of any bad, bedtime (badtime?) habits that could keep you up until your old, usual time. So, some practical advice:
3) No phones in the bedroom! Keep your mobile away from the bed. Ideally keep it on charge in the office/kitchen/wherever. The purpose is to remove the temptation to look at it whilst in bed. Not only is this incredibly unsocial and unsexy for whoever you share a bed with, but holding that bright light so close to your eyes at night will screw with your circadian rhythm and affect the quality of your sleep. If you fancy reading something, go Old School and use a book. And, if you absolutely must have the phone near you at night because you use it as the alarm, stick it on flight mode until the day has begun.
4) Cut the caffeine. If you love a hot drink, try to keep it decaffeinated after 3/4pm (ideally earlier). The half-life of caffeine in the body is anywhere between 4 and 6 hours.
5) Don’t eat heavy late in the evening. Your body will be put into gear to digest it all which, along with the energy the food releases, will make it more tricky to get some early shut eye.
6) Until your body clock is reset, you’ll likely be using a alarm clock to get up. But here’s the trick: keep that clock out of arm’s reach! This way, there’ll be no snoozing and to turn it off you’ll have to get out of bed so you may as well just stay out 😉
7) Once you are up, don’t dilly dally. Hit the shower, take a leak, wash your face. Whatever you need to do to wash that sleep away. It might be tough to get that going, but it will be come a routine and a familiar pattern before long.
8) Don’t give in to the self-talk. ‘Oh, it’s ok matey, you can sleep for another five‘; or ‘You know what, screw it. Let those other early birds catch the worms this morning, there’s always tomorrow for us ol’ sport.’. That inner voice is super quiet and not worth listening to. Don’t give them the speaker phone.
**Oh, one thing to note. You will know the difference between needing to stay in bed and simply wanting to. Your body is incredibly adept at giving you signs so don’t ignore them.
9) Getting up early is all well and good but you should have a reason that you’re doing it for. Even if it’s just because you realise how much you love the peace at that time of the day, find your reason! Without a reason there would literally be no point.
10) Is there a radio show you could catch after you hit the gym or spend an hour working on a project? Perhaps there’s a super sexy new coffee bean waiting to be ground, filtered and latte-ed up? Whatever it is that you enjoy, this is your reward for waking up.
11) Know too that if you’re getting up, and getting up, damn well make the most of it, soldier! Once you’re up you’re in command of the day. Boss it. Crush those tasks and make the first couple of hours of the day Your Time for Winning. By the time everyone else up, you’re already a champion. ‘Early’ will soon be description, rather than a dread.
Typically I get up five minutes before the alarm (which I now set simply as a safety net), whip out of bed to the kitchen to stick the kettle on and head for a wash. Get back to the kitchen where I’ve prepped the coffee kit the night before (along with the post-gym smoothie and porridge/eggs ingredients) and get dressed into the gym kit I laid out last night too. I’ll pour myself a small black coffee (I keep it small and relatively weak as coffee on an empty stomach can have adverse effects on the stomach and the circadian rhythm too) and be out the door for the gym within 15 minutes of getting up.
On the mornings that are not designated for gym work, I stretch at home and do a little bit of bodyweight exercise: press-ups, squats, planks, stationary holds etc. and then do something practical from the list of the day’s jobs.
By the time I get back/finished, I’ve still got enough time to wash and have a quick cuddle with the Good Lady as she wakes up. There’s usually also time to eat together. This is my reward: 2-2.5 hours of making the day mine.
This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry.