Be more productive before the rest of the world even wakes up
Ever feel like time is playing a trick on you? You set big goals but they always seem to become a last priority. No matter how you rearrange your day, you never seem to have enough time for all of your commitments, least of all time for yourself.
I felt this way for years, but I’ve found a way to slow down the clock, get more done and also have a more enjoyable day. All by changing when I sleep.
Late in 2011, my business partner and I officially launched Spike. Naturally I fell into the routine of working 9 to 5 without questioning the logic behind it. I’d wake up at around 8 am or 7:30 on good days and began my sluggish morning routine.
One night, I didn’t sleep very well. I was up around 5 am and by 5:30, I decided I might as well get up because I wasn’t going to fall back asleep. That morning, I got all of my laundry done, took the dogs for a nice long walk, cleaned the kitchen, enjoyed a relaxing coffee outside and still made it to work for 9 am.
The difference between that day and the day before? I got more “me” time to start my day. I did the things I enjoyed first (and some things that are just nice to get out of the way). I felt so productive that I did it again the next day and the next day until eventually I started waking up at 4:30 am.
No matter whom I tell that I wake up at 4:30, the reaction is similar. They feel like they would be robbed of sleep and that I’m crazy. So I did some research. I found numerous studies that prove the benefits of early rising. Some things were a surprise even to me.
Here is a short list of benefits from getting up early:
- Better grades in school
- More proactive/able to anticipate problems
- Better planning/organizing
- Time to exercise/in better shape
- Better sleep
- More optimism
- Easier commutes
- Better focus
- More family time
In case you think I skimp on sleep, I don’t. I parctice the art of napping daily.
Change is never easy but here are a few tricks I used to make the habit stick:
- Start slow. I set my clock earlier by half an hour the first time. Once I was used to that, I’d go back another half hour. Typically it was a few weeks before I’d move the alarm again.
- Jump out of bed. I put my alarm clock across the room and make sure I get out of bed to turn it off. After that, I make my bed and don’t let going back to sleep become an option.
- Get going. A lot of people ask me what I do at that time of day and the answer is everything. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, exercise, meditate, answer emails. Make good use of your time and you’ll quickly see the benefits of getting up early.
- Plan things. Set goals. Dream. Look at the big picture. I take the time in the morning to look at my life. I absorb what’s going on around me and decide where I want to go. I breakdown my goals into daily actions I do each morning. It’s so simple, but trust me it has a big effect over time.
- Enjoy the evenings. The old me would spend my evenings working, running errands and attending networking events. I decided to enjoy my new found freedom and do things completely unrelated to work, including spending time with my family and friends. Not only does this make my life more fulfilling, it also motivates me to get up the next day and do it all over again.
- Go to bed excited. I make a list of what I want to accomplish in the morning. It makes it easier to fall asleep without those things on my mind, and also gives me a good reason to jump out of bed in the morning.
- Plan a good breakfast. I have the time, so I eat much better than I used to. I’m not grabbing an unhealthy breakfast on my way out the door anymore. Some days I’ll even bake cookies or a pie. It’s a little effort, but you’ll be so happy when you come home to a freshly baked pie at night – trust me.
As with most things, perspective is everything. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time, it’s that my time was all wrong. I didn’t prioritize what’s important to me, because I believed other things came first. I started by taking control of my day.
One step at a time, I’m now the early bird that gets the worm.
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