During the past academic year I have become an early riser. No mean feat for someone who loves the warmth and comfort offered by a well-constructed frame, firm mattress, cotton-fresh sheets and a plush duvet.
I have trained my body to rise at 5:30 every morning. What have I gained from this you might ask? In short: Time.
Time is perhaps the most important commodity that exists. I call it a commodity because in 2011 it is just that. Something that we can choose to value and savour or as with many things something we can easily waste and fritter away. The thing is, you can’t replace time like you can replace wasted food or damaged goods. When time has passed it is gone for good. People, say I’ll make time but that’s a fallacy, you can’t make time. The truth? You need to make the most of the time you’ve got.
I try to savour every moment. The time that I get to spend with my wife is precious; the time I have with my students when they enter my classroom is so important – why would I want to waste it? The hour I have gained in the morning is as precious as any other time I can define. It is my time… a time when I find focus.
My routine is simple. I pick one thing to do and use the hour to do only that. I drink a glass of water, make a cup of tea and sit down at my MacBook Air. I then decide what I want to achieve that morning and set to it. It could be to write; it could be to catch up with RSS/Instapaper; it could be to achieve Inbox Zero (or get as close as I can); it could be to read from whichever book I am reading at that moment; it could be to update my Calendar and sort my ToDo List.
It does not matter which activity I choose, as long as I dedicate the time and energy to doing that one thing. I know that I will do the task and do it well because I have the time… free from distractions, free from noise (I love the early morning quiet), free to focus my mind.
Using that hour in the morning has not only improved my productivity but it has made me a happier and healthier person. I start the day with far more oomph; not sluggish from over-sleeping. Having had that quiet time in the morning, I am ready and raring to go… ready to get on with the rest of my day knowing that I have already accomplished something and it’s only 6:30.
What I felt was going to be a tremendous struggle has become the most important feature of my day. Occasionally, I slip… those days where I didn’t manage to get up and out of bed, those are the days where I get little accomplished, where the ills of procrastination take over. I’ve learned to not beat myself up about it though. Those days serve as a reminder of how much I gain from all the other days where I did get up, where I did make the most of my time.
Getting to this point did not happen over night though. It took effort and still does, particularly during the holidays. I found this advice from Leo Babauta helpful as I strove to become an early riser.