Waking up early unlocks time
You'll have time for things you made excuses about
My alarm goes off at 6 am every day, Monday - Sunday, with no exceptions. I get out of bed, dress into gym clothes, refresh myself a bit, go into my kitchen for some morning prep, have some almond butter as a snack, grab my MacBook or iPad, and then head to my couch. This is when I either start to write or consume, depending on how I am feeling.
I spend one hour here, from roughly 6:30 to 7:30. This is when my wife comes out, dressed and ready to work out. I make us an electrolyte beverage and get to working out. Our workout varies in time, depending on our morning obligations – generally meetings. We work out from 30-90 minutes. These workouts can vary from HIIT, yoga, pilates, strength training, to cross training.
I then shower, make us breakfast, while she makes us coffee, then we eat and get to work. This might be 9 am exactly or a bit later, depending on the workout and obligations on any given morning.
In these hours, the hours that most people do not dare be awake, I have taken time to create or consume, time to work out, and time to spend quality time with my wife. The thing that enabled this was getting up early and consistently.
Anyone can get up early, but doing it consistently is vital to a schedule that you control. You don't need to catch up on sleep on the weekends, you need to wake and go to sleep at roughly the same time every day. I wake at 6-6:15 am and I sleep at 10:30-11:30. 11 pm is my sweet spot, leaving me the most rested feeling.
How do I do this so consistently? Planning and following through. The first key thing is to find out your optimal sleep duration. There is no algorithm or survey to help with this. You have to do it with trial and error. The easiest way is to sleep with no alarm for as many days in a row as you can, going to sleep at the same time each night. When you wake in the morning, check the time and get right out of bed. Most people need 6-9 hours of sleep. I need 7 hours. This is my perfect sleep cycle.
Next is having a routine before bed, specifically one away from your screens. I am not a digital hater. I love technology, but we have to be honest with ourselves. The blue light emitted from our most used tools is not great for our circadian rhythm. Most people think that our circadian rhythm is the time we sleep, but it is actually a running 24-hour clock. It is a series of events that happen to our minds and bodies that trigger changes in us throughout the day. Blue light plays a huge factor in this because it tricks our brains into thinking it is consuming sunlight, something to be awake for. So blue light triggers our minds to stay awake.
Sure, many of you are thinking, I fall asleep scrolling my favorite feed every night. While you might, your mind is not doing it effectively. You are likely just falling asleep from exhaustion.
I handle this by first using night shift on all my Apple devices. This shifts the color of my screens to a yellow hue. Turn it all the way up! Secondly, I do not use any of my devices for a long period of time hours before sleeping. Of course, I review my calendar and reply to any pressing messages, but I do this quickly and don't linger. The only exception is my Kindle. Since it is e-ink, I have no qualms about reading before bed. The key here is to turn off your backlight entirely. If it is too dark to read, turn on a light. Light a candle. Don't turn on your backlight.
If you follow all of these routines, you should sleep within the constraints of your sleep cycle. Sure, there are some exceptions, such as insomnia. But hear me out on this one, I was an insomniac from the age of 7-34. After a few weeks of sticking to a variation of this routine, my insomnia started to lessen. At this point, it is non-existent. I fall asleep within minutes of hitting my pillow every night.
You will also feel less tired in the middle of your day, having less of a crash. I used to depend heavily on coffee to keep me alive. Literally, I used to fall asleep at the wheel when driving back from my last in-person job. Another reason why I'll never work in an office again.
One last tip is to determine how caffeine affects you. Some people can drink shots of espresso and go to sleep, while others will be wide awake if they have any levels of caffeine for 8 hours before sleep. You might be in between. You could fall asleep, but not get any restful sleep, which is just as bad.
By setting a consistent routine and determining how your environment and stimulants affect you, you will find time that you never knew existed. You'll wake up ready to take the day on, not just fumble through it. You'll be more intentional about how you spend your time and where you put your energy. Things like that shitty TV show, the hour of TikTok scrolling, and your after-dinner diet coke will not be as enticing. You might even be able to stay consistent with your gym routine or write that book. Waking up early will unlock time you didn't think existed.