Rising early: a step-by-step guide
Very often, we feel that a 25th hour of the day would be more than welcome.
Unfortunately, no matter how many hours there are in a day, many of us would still fill up this extra hour with work and activities. However, the issue at hand isn’t about how many extra hours we should have. Rather, it’s about how we can take advantage of the existing ones.
Consider this important event in my life:
After running my first marathon, I realized that I wanted to become a better runner, so I had to find some extra time for this activity — even if it seemed like my day job was taking up the majority of my hours.
With some careful analysis of my day, I came to the conclusion that there were indeed some “surplus hours” to my day that I hadn’t realized before. With this acknowledgment, it was just a matter of aligning my life so that I was able to take advantage of this time.
The benefits of rising earlier
If you are new to early rising and you wonder whether or not you should give this strategy a try, consider the following benefits:
It helps you reach your goals. When you wake up before everyone else, you have the time to focus on the important things you’d like to achieve.
It helps you to improve your health. As an early riser, you now have some extra time available for exercising. Personally, I like to get up early enough so that I can hit the gym or go swimming before I start my work day. Not only does it free up my evenings and afternoon, but I also feel great throughout the day.
It helps you educate yourself. If you have always wanted to read a book, but you have felt as though you could never find the time, the morning is the time to do it. This part of the day provides a wonderful opportunity for you to dedicate yourself to education or perhaps to stimulate your mind through reading, since it can be done without distraction.
It gives you a chance to stop. In preparation for a busy day, your morning could be devoted to meditation. Studies show that meditation has a lot of wonderful benefits, such as reducing stress, developing self-discipline and increasing productivity.
You can get more things done. When you get up and start working earlier, the extra time allows you to accomplish more. Additionally, working without distractions is an excellent productivity enhancer.
You can spend more time doing what is important to you. If you go to the gym in the morning, you can now use your afternoon hours to do whatever you please. If you arrive earlier to work, you may be able to get back home sooner than expected. Waking up early can give you more time with your family, friends or even by yourself to spend however you’d like.
How should you do it?
Now that you know the benefits of waking up earlier, let’s consider the steps you should take in order to implement this new habit:
Pick your pace. Before you completely alter your schedule, you should decide whether to do this abruptly or gradually. I personally made the change at once, but I recognize that this may not be the best strategy for many people.
That is why I encourage you to start out slow. For example, make a decision that you want to wake up five to ten minutes earlier this week. Once you feel comfortable with this change, continue your progress and wake up yet another five to ten minutes earlier repeatedly, until you have reached your target.
Define your wake-up time. Pick the time at which you would like to eventually get up.
Please understand that you don’t have to get up at five in the morning if you don’t want to. Rather, pick a time you feel comfortable with. For some, this could be a mere 15 minutes earlier than usual. For others, this could be an hour or more.
Understand the amount of sleep you need. When I started to wake up earlier, I made a mistake in not recognizing how many hours of sleep a night my body required. While I adjusted my wake up time, I neglected to alter my bedtime as well.
This made me very sleepy in the afternoon, and trying to work in a productive manner became very difficult.
That’s why you should spend some time figuring out how much sleep you need each night. For example, you could try to understand your natural sleep pattern by doing the following:
a. Pick a time on your calendar when you will wake up without an alarm clock (for instance, during your vacation)
b. Wake up naturally for at least one week
c. Track your sleeping patterns in a sleep log (e.g. the time you went to bed, when you got up and how you felt when you woke up). Then, analyze the record and pay close attention to the mornings and nights when you slept well and woke up refreshed.
For instance, in my case, I understood that I needed approximately seven and a half hours of sleep to function well. This information now helps me to plan my days accordingly.
The amount of sleep required for one person to perform well in his or her daily tasks differs for each person. Although many people believe that eight hours each night is key, it is important to remember that this is just a myth and that every single person is different.
Don’t classify yourself. “But I’m not an early-riser,” I hear you saying, and I can definitely relate to that. I wasn’t an early riser myself a few years ago.
Interestingly enough, our genes define our chronotype. In other words, genetics play a part in whether we are a morning or an evening person.
However, according to Dr. W. Christopher Winter, Medical Director for the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Centre, your chronotype can be changed.
Yes, it takes some effort, but it is entirely doable if you stick at it.
Know the one-minute rule. Finally, to help you to stick with the new schedule, remember what Andy Traub, author of the famous book Early to Rise, has to say about getting up early.
In his book, he mentions that it takes one minute per day, within a range of 30 days, to change your life. In other words, it takes one minute to turn the alarm off, put your feet on the floor and walk out of the bedroom.
When you manage to do this for the next 30 days, getting up earlier becomes progressively easier.
Morning hours represent those “surplus hours” that everyone seems to need.
With some preparation and planning, you can utilize the morning hours much more effectively, thus getting closer to achieving the goals you have set.
Photo: Flickr / jinterwas CC BY 2.0