A Night Owl’s Guide to Getting up Early

A Night Owl’s Guide to Getting up Early

That ‘ol familiar chime bellows through my room.

“Not you again,” I think as I press snooze and cuddle up next to my cat. That groggy feeling overpowers, and I fall back into the dream world…for eight minutes until the alarm begins to chime.

I play the game of snooze every morning, waiting until the very last minute I can stay in bed. The result: I run around my apartment, washing my face, making my bed, brewing a cup of coffee (maybe changing out of my pajamas) and settling in at my office chair to start the day.

Mornings have always been reactionary and rushed. My desire to sleep robs me of precious time I could use to plan my day and set the stage for productivity and peace. I’ve always been a chronic night owl afraid of missing out in the evening but never afraid to miss the value in a morning well-started.

However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve developed an envy for morning people. I mean, heck, Aristotle said it best:

“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth and wisdom.”

I want health. I want wealth. I want wisdom.

So, in an attempt to turn my wishes and my dreams into reality, I decided to experiment with this whole, becoming a morning person thing. Maybe I’d experience a little health, wealth or wisdom of my own…

The Ground Rules

For anyone wanting to become a morning person, the rules to my experiment are simple. You must try the whole morning thing for at least two weeks. Try getting up at least one hour earlier than normal. You can even progressively push that wake up call earlier each morning to acclimate yourself.

When I completed the experiment, I tried to wake up somewhere between 6:30 to 7 a.m., which was about 3 hours earlier than normal. I know this isn’t “daybreak” as Aristotle described, but baby steps, people!

So how should you use these extra hours? HOWEVER YOU WANT TO! Use this time to do whatever feeds your soul and prepares you for a successful, happy day. The only two actions I’d suggest avoiding are (1) watching television and (2) falling back to sleep.

I used my extra morning hours to write, listen to music, design barre classes, practice gratitude, workout, read, play games on my phone, plan my day, and even clean. I experimented with a variety of activities hoping some would resonate more than others. Those that did would become my morning rituals.

The Experiment

Once I decided to embark on this journey, I didn’t do much to prepare. In fact, I didn’t even go to bed early the night before my first early morning. This is something I would not advise you try it for yourself. Nonetheless, the implementation of this experiment had its ups and downs, but overall, I’m proud of the results.

Week One

Week one was exciting.

I embarked on this new life change with determination to learn and grow. For seven whole days, I didn’t struggle with turning off my alarm and rising from bed.

Quite the contrary occurred.

I’d sneak out of bed, stay in my pjs (most mornings), make a cup of coffee and decide what activities I wanted to complete. The house was extra quiet, and I was alone with my thoughts.

Each morning was pregnant with opportunity, and I felt an immense sense of productivity. By the time 9:30 a.m. rolled around, I had already completed all the things I dreamed about doing when I was a late sleeper.

What did I do with my time during this first week? I spent a lot of it reading my new favorite (and newly completed) self-help book, You are a Badass and processing/journaling what I learned. I attended morning yoga classes with my best friend, sipped espresso from coffee shop windows, relaxed on the beach, stayed abreast of the news and completed chores around the house.

I was a productive machine, and most certainly gained wisdom. I think the quiet atmosphere of the morning easily lent itself to internal thought and analysis.

Surprised at how easily getting out of bed had become, I eagerly embraced week two.

Week Two

But oh week two. For how easy Week One was, Week Two was all the more difficult. I struggled to get out of bed between the experimental hours. The new was starting to wear off.

Most mornings started more at 7:30 a.m. or a little later, and every time it happened, a tinge of disappointment ensued. I told myself to maintain perspective: Hey Meghan, you still woke up TWO HOURS before normal. You’re progressing. Be patient!

I spent a lot of time this second week perusing social media; some of my time reading, journaling, and reorganizing my blog / working on posts for it; and none of it attending yoga or cleaning.

Week two was not great, it was NOT a bust, either. Even though I didn’t have those morning butterflies and my rose-colored glasses had begun to clear, I still enjoyed the mornings and their possibilities. I still made time most mornings to plan the day and week ahead. However, I spent too many mornings talking myself out of feeling guilty for failing to wake up in line with the experiment’s rules. It sometimes prevented me from attending to the day as quickly or with as much gusto.

Wake me up when I'm famous image
My personal mantra

Experiment Results

Overall, I feel like the experiment was easier for me to maintain than I expected. Even though week two wasn’t easy, I still managed to gain at least 14 more waking hours that week.

One of my regrets during this experiment was I did not make myself go to bed any earlier, even though I was waking up earlier. By week two, my body was forcing me to fall asleep even some nights around 8 p.m. For anyone trying this experiment at home, make sure you rest and make your bedtime a little bit earlier.

Throughout this challenge, I learned valuable lessons about myself and the benefits of early mornings:

  1. Encouraged relaxation. Before I started waking up early, I worked through the entire day without a defined purpose, jumping from one task to the next, trying to prove that my day was worth it. And without a clear path, I always felt a little restless, like I could have been doing more. Further, I work from home, so once my work tasks begin, I don’t leave the house sometimes for the rest of the day. By having time in the morning to either complete a task or get out of the house and explore, my antsy energy felt much calmer. I release my energy in the morning, relaxing into my tasks at home and at work throughout the day. One day I even took a nap, which is HUGE for me.
  2. Increased productivity throughout the day. You may be thinking, she just said it helps her relax. Now she’s saying it helps improve her productivity? And my response is wholeheartedly YES! Productivity increased because I actually had the time to think about what needed to be completed during the day. I made a plan and had a concrete understanding of my day. From here, I could relax and do whatever I wanted in the morning until I started work at 9:30 a.m. And when I actually started work, I had a plan. No more do I have to frantically start working, jumping from one task to another. Nope, by taking a few minutes in the morning to sip on some coffee, make a plan for my work and decide what would make me fulfilled during my morning hours, I am able to cultivate a more productive day.
  3. Improved overall mood. Because most mornings I spend at least a few minutes journaling and reflecting, I release a lot of feelings. I tried to think (and even journal) a few things for which I was thankful every morning. Some of these included the sun, my best friend, yoga in the park, time to reflect, learning about myself, my husband, my silly, little snuggly cats, COFFEE, my apartment and all its outdoor seating options, my comfy couch, hot water for a shower, and the list could go on. By creating space to reflect on gratitude and life’s little blessing, I noticed (for the most part…this woman isn’t perfect) that my mood improved most days.
  4. Strengthened my passion. More time in the morning means more time to focus on the things you love. For me, that’s writing. I rarely give myself time to sit down and spill out my thoughts. I talk about how much I love to write and how much it means to me, but actions speak louder than words. My actions said I loved to write small posts on social media or text my friends and family. That was about the extent of my writing practice. However, I discovered that a fresh mind in the morning is the best time for me to write. I don’t have as many daily distractions and usually wake up with something to say. These morning hours have proven so useful for pursuing my passion for writing.
  5. Enhanced nightly sleeps. This final lesson was the most unexpected. I’m someone who has a hard time falling asleep, unless you put a movie on and I get cozy on the couch, then I’m out cold. Otherwise, I suffer from intense FOMO and never really want the day to end. However, with two more hours of awake time in my system, falling asleep was so easy. By the time 10:30 p.m. rolled around (and sometimes earlier), I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my cozy bed and fall asleep.

Next Steps

The ultimate question from this experiment is this: Did I gain health, wealth and wisdom? Oh, and will I continue to cultivate a ritual of early mornings?

Because I was able to spend a lot of time reflecting / journaling as well as cultivating my passions for yoga and writing, I can totally understand how early mornings help people gain health, wealth and wisdom. In fact, the majority of the activities early mornings afforded me the time to do fell into one of these pillars. I guess my intuition naturally gravitated toward these categories.

It’s been a full week since my experiment. On the eve of my last night, I decided to continue waking up early and taking advantage of my mornings. In reality, I’ve only gotten out of bed before 7:30 a.m. twice in the last eight days.

But you know what?  I’m a work in progress and so are you! With each new day, we can reset and pursue our goals all over again. Therefore, I plan to return to early mornings. They had such a positive influence on my overall disposition that it would be criminal to rob myself of this opportunity.

I am excited to see how this continued productivity feeds into my goals in the coming year. Are you a morning person? What is your favorite thing about mornings?

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