Want better control over your time? You have to get up early!

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

I wasn’t always an early riser. I could get up early when I absolutely needed to, but it wasn’t part of my regular routine. I’d often make poor choices the night before, stay up later than expected, and convince myself I didn’t need to get up early because I had enough time elsewhere in my day to accomplish all I needed. But embracing an early morning routine is about so much more than simply “getting it all done in a day.” There is a unique peace that those early morning hours bring. The centeredness gained from an early morning simply can’t be replicated by anything other than the self-discipline and consistency it takes to wake up early and do something meaningful in those hours.

About nine months ago, I found consistency in rising early at 5am every weekday. With two school-age children who have to get up around 6:20am on those days, and who often naturally wake up closer to 6am, this extra 60-90 minutes became a sanctuary for me. At first, it was just nice to have a moment to think and sip on a cup of (still hot!) coffee before the onslaught of parental responsibilities was thrust upon me. I use this time to wake up peacefully, mentally and physically prepare for the day, check-in on work emails, knock off a few key tasks, and map out my plan for the rest of the day. I truly couldn’t imagine going back to the life where I was awoken by a screaming alarm (or screaming kid) telling me I was already “behind” on what was needed from me that day. It was chaos and I was not the best version of myself.

As I reflect on this new morning routine, I recognize that it took time to adjust to being an early riser. But as with all good habits, once the adjustment started to take place it became easier and easier. Now I would have a hard time missing out on these “golden hours” in my day! Better yet was the transformation that took place in my work-life balance and stress level. Both immediately and over time, waking up early has improved virtually every aspect of my life. And I want everyone to experience this as well! Not convinced you can do it or that the benefits are really that great? Allow me to share my first-hand experience with learning to embrace the “early bird”…and how you can too.

It gives you a peaceful start to the day – on your terms!

When you’re learning to make an early wake-up time part of your routine, it’s important to always view this as your choice and on your terms. Sure, you have an alarm that’s pulling you out of a slumber and telling you to get moving, but you ultimately choose to get out of bed and respond. Many people will hit snooze and never realize the benefits of even just 30 extra minutes of time in their morning. Furthermore, that bit of extra sleep that may be gained from not getting up early rarely makes a difference in your day. On the weekends when I do allow myself to wake up to my natural sleep cycle (and this is naturally becoming earlier too!), I still feel basically the same level of rest as the days I wake up early – maybe even less so!

You begin the day with purpose and productivity.

What motivates you to get up in the morning? Really think about this! No matter what stage of life you’re in, we all need something that inspires us to wake up and get moving. If you’re in the working stage of your life, you should strive to have a career that offers such motivation. If it doesn’t, there are bigger problems brewing that should be addressed immediately.

You should also think through the night before the “right-sized” tasks you plan to tackle during those early morning hours. You may not be mentally ready or have enough time to dive right into your hardest project, so start with something softer. Organize your inbox, respond to emails that have come in during the evening and night that require a quick response or acknowledgment. I can blaze through my whole inbox during my morning routine, giving me clear bandwidth to enjoy getting my kids off to school and then re-enter my workspace during “normal business hours” ready to dive into real work. It also helps me prioritize my day and week. When my extra time in the morning is spent with purpose and productivity, I don’t mind and never regret getting up early!

With consistency, the body adjusts quickly.

If you want any habit to stick, you have to do it consistently. This works both ways. Maybe you can relate to poor eating choices or a lack of exercise. When you fall off the wagon, it’s easy to stay off the wagon than jump back on. But what you do on a regular basis becomes your baseline. Make an early morning routine your new baseline. If that first week feels like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill, please know I’ve been there. Even now as a “certified early riser” I still have mornings where I take a little longer to mentally accept that I’ll respond to my alarm and get moving. But more often than not, I’m naturally starting to pull from sleep right before my alarm goes off. All good things take time! Commit to giving yourself at least one month of an honest effort of waking up early. Write a quick note each day to assess how you feel, and look for trends where it gets easier and the benefits start to be realized. Once you master this good habit, you’ll be inspired to try other good ones. And it will spiral (in a great way) from there! I know it has for me.

The world is awake whether you are or not.

Do you suffer from FOMO? If so, this might be the motivator you need to get moving earlier in the morning. There are other early risers out there who will be pounding the keyboard in the early morning whether you’re ready for them or not. Yes, these are those “annoying” people who are blazing through their to-do list before 6am, organizing their life, and preparing for a productive day. And you are capable of emulating some of these good habits too! I don’t advocate for anyone to work out of panic, but rather work out of passion because you enjoy what you do and those you serve. Again, if you can’t relate to this statement, it may be time for a deeper evaluation of where you’re spending your time. 

My final point here is that if you’re not getting up early, you will fall behind. You don’t have to use your early morning hours for work. You can exercise, journal, meditate, catch up on personal tasks. No matter how you use this time, it’s time you don’t have to use elsewhere in your day for these same tasks. Therefore, you will grow your bandwidth for basically everything! It could be sooner, or it could be later, but if you don’t embrace the early bird within you, you will ultimately fall short of the goals you have for your day, feel disorganized and out of control, and ultimately look to those people who appear to get it all done in a day and wonder how. The answer…they likely wake up early!

A note to parents of young children.

My children consistently woke up throughout the night for the first years of their life (years!). And even now, they are still up in the 6am hour. They have no concept of weekends or vacation time. So as a family, sleep was a precious commodity – a luxury. The concept of sleeping in felt like such an indulgence, it’s all I wanted for a very long time. I should have never elevated it on this pedestal. Sure it’s fun from time to time to see how late your body will sleep, but it’s not necessary and rarely makes your day noticeably better. My own lesson here was to instead prioritize getting to bed earlier and doing what needs to be done to ensure quality sleep. With a solid 6-8 hours under my belt each night, the time I wake up in the morning becomes less important. Now I willingly wake up at 5am (the version of me with a newborn and toddler would be shocked at this comment) and enjoy it!

So if you feel like you’re in a chapter in life where someone in your house is *always* awake and no one is sleeping well, I feel you. I spent the majority of my parental life there, and even now with my children (ages 6 and 8), we still find ourselves awoken in the night from time to time or with an early morning visitor we didn’t plan on. Give yourself time to get through this hurdle, but also don’t view sleep as the ultimate luxury and currency. Look for other elements of your day where you can find joy through relaxation and connection. You may not be getting the length of sleep you want, so focus on quality and consistency where you can find it!

Understanding that everyone thrives on different sleep routines, I’m curious to learn what’s worked best for you and why. It’s all relative after all, and if it works, it works! Join the conversation by commenting below.

Comments are encouraged!

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