The Magic of Early Morning
Toward the end of August I became fed up. Months before I had set an ambitious goal for myself (to write my second book), but I had made little progress toward achieving it. The desire was strong, but the execution was non-existent. I had worked out the strategy of how I would accomplish the goal – in other words, I knew what I had to do – but I had not figured out the structure that would enable me to move forward. So I did nothing.
Every day after getting the kids off to school or to camp, I would create my daily to-do-list, and it would always include a line item indicating the importance of making progress toward my goal. And each day the line item would remain undisturbed, free of any check marks or strikethroughs.
I think everyone has a big objective that they want to accomplish that sits at the forefront, or at least the subconscious, of their mind. For some it’s starting a new business or freelance side-hustle. For others it’s a new skill, such as playing an instrument or learning a new language. It’s something that requires practice, deep concentration, undivided attention, and blocks of time to tackle.
The problem is, for most of us, all of these things are in short supply. For those with kids, days often start at a sprint, with teeth to be brushed, breakfasts to be prepared, and lunches to be packed. After getting the kids off to school, it’s time to get to work or begin running errands or other household tasks. After school a similarly busy process ensues, and by the time the day winds down, the prospect of diving into a new, high-concentration tasks seems impossible. If you’re like me, all you want to do is collapse on the couch with a beer or glass of wine and zone out with some Netflix. At some point that dream that seemed so present and held so much promise becomes a distant memory.
This leaves two options: Ditch your dream, or develop a framework to make it a reality.
The Need for Strategy and Structure
After giving serious consideration to ditching my own dream to write another book, I decided to give one last shot to getting back on track. We’re all faced with the same constraints of a 24-hour day, I figured, so if others could do it I should be able to as well.
I started by taking a big picture look at my day and considered a few alternatives. One was trying to block time during my workday, but I quickly dismissed this option. In order to write, I need long, uninterrupted periods of time, and these are hard to come by given all of the emails, phone calls, meetings, and other responsibilities and distractions that crop up during the day. Another option was to find time at night. But to write I need focus and energy, and as I noted earlier my mind and body are pretty fried by the time the kids go to bed.
This left one option: Early morning.
How and Why to Become an Early Riser
I began to get up at 5 a.m., Monday through Friday, and write for two hours. My goal was (and is) to write 1,000 words per day. If I could keep up this pace, that would mean that after 60 days of writing I would hit my target of 60,000 words for my book.
It wasn’t easy at first, and I haven’t been perfect, but more often than not I’ve gotten up and I now have over 42,000 words of my first draft written. Getting up early has made all the difference. No kids yelling, no balls bouncing, no cars, no television noise, no email pinging. The early morning hours are peaceful and quiet – and therefore productive.
I’m no expert on this stuff, but I put together a few benefits of waking early and tips to get started based on my own experience, and the best of what I could curate online from other early risers.
Start Slowly. If you wake up at 7 a.m. now, don’t immediately start setting the alarm for 5 a.m. Waking up early is a muscle you need to exercise. Just as you wouldn’t jump into a marathon if all you’ve ever run is three miles, gradually ease into your new morning routine as well. Every week wake up 15 minutes earlier than the last until you get to your target time.
Go to Bed at a Set Time. This sounds obvious, but in my experience it’s not waking up early that’s hard, it’s having the discipline to go to bed early (which enables you to wake early) that is the challenge. What does your nighttime routine look like? Are you staying up too late to get up early? Is there anything (T.V., Internet, etc.) that you can cut out of your routine so that you can more consistently get to bed, get up, and get closer to achieving your goal?
Ditch the Snooze. Put your alarm clock in your room, but far from your bed. This will require you to get up out of bed rather than just hitting snooze when the alarm goes off. Once you’re up, it’s far easier to stay up. If you use your phone as your alarm, this delivers an added benefit: your phone won’t be on your nightstand and within arms-length for late night surfing.
Reward Yourself. Have a pot of coffee, or delicious tea, ready to brew and enjoy as you make progress toward your goal in the wee hours of the morning.
Soak in the Psychic Benefits All Day Long. There’s no better way to supercharge your day then to start it with achievement. Even if the rest of the day doesn’t go as planned, if you get up early and make progress then you still have a “win” to fall back on. In fact, as you get more comfortable and acclimated with your early morning routine, you may find that you’re getting more done during this uninterrupted period of time than many people do the entire day!
The early morning is invigorating and inspirational. It’s a time for growth and reflection. And, if you have big dreams, it’s a time to actually make progress toward achieving them.
How you start your day determines the quality of your day, and how you spend your days determines the quality of your life. There’s magic in the early morning.