Why I Became an Early Riser

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.

Published by

James Michie

Husband, Educator, Writer, Runner...

9 thoughts on “Why I Became an Early Riser”

    1. It’s important to pick the right time to start. I decided to start with the beginning of term as I needed to be up reasonably early any way in order to be able to get to work. It made the goal of 5:30 manageable. 

      As for your partner… I’ll leave that one for you to figure out. 😉

  1. I have gone through a similar thing in the last few months. I had a time when I was so busy, but finding it hard to focus and get things done after a day in the classroom. Inspired by Doug Belshaw’s writing on productivity I started getting up an hour earlier to write, blog or read, and have found this incredibly productive.

    1. Yes, our jobs can be exceptionally draining, finding focus afterwards can be near impossible. As well as changing my morning routine I have also made it a habit to acknowledge when I am too tired to be able to find focus. During those times I don’t even try. I used to be one of those people who would muddle through but I find that if I take the time to rest, when I return to work the next day I am so much more productive that I get caught up quickly with anything that was pressing. It’s valuable to acknowledge one’s limits and adapt our routines to work within them (and sometimes around them).

  2. I think I need to do this – re: what my partner thinks – she said “the thing is Alex, what time does he go to bed!”. That will be my downfall – the candle can’t be burnt at both ends. I will require a great deal of discipline to get up in the morning but probably just as much to go to bed

    1. Your partner raises an important point. That was perhaps the most difficult habit to change, particularly as I’ll get sucked into stuff online. I had to be strict with myself. 

      1. I started to stay at work later more often. I wasn’t adverse to staying at work until 6:00 but I didn’t do it regularly and therefore would bring work home. Now I stay until 6:00 most days, get done what I need to get done and manage to bring very little school work home. 

      2. I have also set myself a curfew whereby I aim to turn the laptop off by 9:00; sometimes I don’t even turn it on. It just depends on the evening and what my wife and I have planned. Bring less work home impacted on this considerably.

      As a general rule I’m in bed by 10:00 most nights, sometimes 11:00. I used to read religiously when I got into bed, but I’ve found that stopping this has resulted in my being able to fall asleep quicker. I reserve reading for first thing in the morning, on the bus to work or when I have a quiet moment in my day, such as during lunch time.

      For me, I find that as long as I get 6-7 hours sleep I am generally in a good mood when I get up. Any less than 6 and my day is usually not as productive. More than 8 though and it can be the same, I find myself to be sluggish… like I’ve overslept.

      Ultimately, it’s about finding a balance; listening to your mind and body. The amount of rest/sleep you need will be particular to you.

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