What Getting Up Early Can Do For You
I remember the day I stayed in bed until noon. I was so proud of myself. Here I was, a fifteen year old with nothing to do over the summer, doing exactly what fifteen year olds everywhere should be doing. I had achieved something that before I had only seen in movies.
I kept this sort of schedule for a while, staying up late watching stupid shows on TV, waking up at ten, and lazing around the house until something came up for me to do. And the thing about all of this was, I felt terrible.
It’s common sense that being lazy and unproductive tends to make people feel bad about themselves, or at the very least, dissatisfied with their day. But my new philosophy is not just as simple as getting out of bed earlier and getting more done in the day.
On a typical day now, I usually get up between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning. And I do this purely out of choice. I could stay in bed as late as 6:00 on some days, but I get up earlier for the very simple reason that it gives me a time in the day I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Getting up as early as I do usually means I have about a half hour to myself. And I fill that time with writing, one of my most favorite things to do. I write about anything. Sometimes I’ll record what dreams I had, especially if they were particularly strange. Other times I’ll write about a stressful situation I’m going through and I might manage to work something out about it. Or other times I’ll get a hit of early morning inspiration and put down on paper a thought or two I’ve had that’s made me think a little differently about the world around me.
You might not write like me. Your own personal time is filled with what makes you happy, and could be anything. But the point is that during this time in the early morning, when no one else is yet awake in the house, when it’s still dark outside, and before the day has had the chance to begin, this time is yours. When I get up early and write in the morning, it feels almost like I exist outside of time, and outside of the otherwise stressful and busy day I might have. After all, it’s very hard to get up that early and make yourself do any kind of work.
I went through a period where I stopped getting up early to write. I convinced myself that I had better things to do than waste my time with something so silly, and that I needed the extra sleep more than the mini therapy session. And once again, I was unhappy. The little things got to me easier. Stress built up faster. And I ended each day feeling like it was over faster than the last.
Eventually it got to be too much. So I got up a half hour earlier than I had been, sat down in bed in my pajamas, and pulled the notebook over. I couldn’t believe how good it made me feel to simply put pen to paper and write out the sentence, “It feels so good to be writing again.” I concluded my writing after a while longer and went about my day feeling more refreshed than I had in a long time.
Just like with your own personal hobby, it’s also up to you to decide at what time a day you prefer to do that sort of thing. But I can tell you that for myself, my willpower to get up in the dark every morning is ten times stronger than it is to convince myself to stop my work in the middle of the afternoon for a fifteen minute break. Plus, there’s something about being up early that makes it special. It’s unbelievably quiet at that time. There’s no distractions, no jarring thoughts about what needs to be done that day.
Says Richard Carlson, PH.D., in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff, “The phone never rings, no one is asking me to do anything for them, and there is nothing I absolutely have to do. It’s by far the most quiet time of the day.”
He goes on to say that people have told him how fulfilling this one simple practice is, that it “more than makes up for any sleep you miss out on.” It gives you a chance to realize your own time once again. And despite meaning a little less sleep, the feel of having your own time during your busy day can make up for it tremendously.
If you’re a night owl, it might be easier for you to take some time to yourself late at night, staying up half an hour later than normal. But as a former late-nighter myself, there’s a sense of control over yourself that you get early in the morning that I could never find late at night. To me, there’s nothing better than starting the day off with something I truly love doing, that brings me complete and total peace. It’s as if I get up for that reason, and not because I have school or work or so much else to do. Thinking to myself, as I lay in bed and listen to the alarm go off well before sunrise, “I’m going to get up to write,” puts me in a much better place than thinking, “I’m going to get up to begin the to-do list.”
I encourage you to understand for yourself what that feels like.