In my goal to becoming an Entrepreneur, I’ve found myself spending more time sketching out ideas and researching possible business opportunities. One side effect of this is I needed more time in the day – it gets tricky trying to juggle full time work, writing a blog and researching a new business venture. There are competing things constantly vying for my time and I need more of it.
As a remedy for this, I’ve decided to wake up at 5:30am each day and blocking out 90 mins in the morning before I start getting ready for work. Trying to wake up at this ungodly hour in winter so far has been quite challenging but rewarding too. I’m getting more done and because of this I feel less cranky too.
The following are techniques I have found to work for me:
- Have a reason to get up. The most important thing when doing something unpleasant is to have a reason to do it. Make it clear to yourself exactly why you want to get up and visualise the long term goals you wish to accomplish. Some people want to get up early to seek their life goals, others want to use that time to do exercise or prepare lunch to bring to work or to find quiet time to do the things that never get done. Whatever your reason, make it clear to your mind why you want to get up early.
- Write it down. It’s one thing to know why you want to get up early, it’s another to be committed to it. I’ve found that writing it down on paper helps because of two reasons. Firstly, it represents a positive affirmation – “Yes, this is what I will do”. Secondly, it consolidates my thinking – in my mind the reason for getting up early is crystal clear. I’ve also found it more useful to write down something that is actionable. For example, last night before going to bed, I wrote down the reason for waking up early is to finish this post. For you, you might write down your purpose as exercising for 30 mins or packing your peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch. Whatever your reason, make each thing you write down every night as actionable items. It helps also to read this statement before going to bed each night to reinforce the message.
- Ignore your first reaction. This is an odd one for me. Initially when I started this, I’ve found that I was making excuses to stay in bed – “I need the rest”, “It’s too early”, “It can wait”, “It’s nice and warm here” and so forth. During these initial weeks, I’ve found it useful to tell myself to ignore my first reaction and ask what is my second reaction. My second reaction always tends to be focused on my reason for getting up (which is why it’s useful to write it down and read it before going to bed). Once you start focusing on the reason and not the excuse, you’ll find it becomes easier to get up. However, in the last week, I’ve found my first reaction has been positive. I actually want to get up.
- Be productive with your time. For me, I’ve found that it was important to be productive with my extra time. It wasn’t enough to just wake up early, I needed to see results. If you commit to a reason for getting up early, you need to follow through. It is much easier to convince yourself the next morning when you know the time is going to be well spent based on the consistent results you have been achieving. For example, if you say you’re going to exercise for 30 mins, then do so. Do not just exercise for 15 mins or 20 mins. Never lie to yourself. It is a trust you cannot abuse. If your subconscious know that you won’t do what you say you want to do by getting up early, it’ll sabotage your efforts and dilute your commitment.
- Another 10 mins is a trap. If you find yourself thinking I’ll get up in just another 10 mins, stop! This is a trap. Sometimes another 10 mins would lead to another 10 mins and another. In the most likely scenario that initial 10 mins become 2 hours. Even if that 10 mins is only 10 mins, it is 10 mins less than what you committed yourself to. For me, if I have committed myself to 30 mins of exercise, that 10 min difference would mean I only have time for a 20 min workout and contravenes the previous guideline of being productive with my time.
- Wake up early even in the weekend. This one is a subtle one. Your reason to waking up early may not always apply to every day. For example, if my reason for waking up early is to make lunch for work, it won’t apply for weekends. However, I’ve found that it is essential to wake up at the same time consistently irrespective of whether you need to or not. I briefly discussed this in my previous post about developing positive patterns. We are all ultimately creatures of habit. Our bodies can be taught and trained to be early risers. If we establish a consistent pattern for waking up early and acknowledging to our body that this is an ongoing requirement, it will change its rhythm to accommodate this. If your original reason does not apply every day, you may need to find an additional reason for the other days. There is nothing to prevent you having multiple reasons for getting up early.
- Listen to your body. I’m not an expert with health and diet. However I do know that it is important to listen to your body. The important point to note here is that we intend to get up early to be more productive. If your body tells you that you are tired, you should listen to it. This should dictate what time you sleep but not what time you get up. Here’s why. I find that my time in the mornings tend to be more productive. I’m more alert, there are less distractions and I am committed to starting the day off doing things that are important to me. In the evenings, the opposite is true – I’m tired, there are distractions and I already feel I have gone through a long day and so am not as committed. There’s also another reason which is best explained with simple maths. If I am 50% productive because I’m tired, doing 1 hour of real work requires 2 hours of my time. I’d rather do that work in 1 hour the next morning when I’m 100% productive. The trick is to figure out and then recognise the sub-optimal productivity percentage for you.
At this stage, I’ve only experimented with being an early riser for 4 weeks. So far, I have consistently been able to get up somewhere within the 30 mins I’ve set as my goal irrespective of what day of the week it is, what time I went to bed the night before and how tired I was. Currently, I’m approaching this empirically – simple trial and error. I believe each of us is different. Some things which work for me may not work for you and vice versa. The most important thing to remember is to find the things that work for you.
There are several things I’d like to try out more:
- Would consistent exercise reduce my sleep requirements?
- Does caffeine help in the long run?
- How do I decide when is the best time for me to sleep?
- Are there tests that I can perform to determine my sub-optimal productivity percentage?
- What alternative sleep patterns are out there?
- Can I change my sleeping arrangement to make me more restful with less time?
Over the next few months, I’ll experiment with these options and hopefully gain some insights into their respective advantages and disadvantages. I’ll also report back on my productivity gains. Hopefully you can read about an emerging new business idea soon!
Note, a quick search on Google pointed me to an excellent blog run by Steve Pavlina. In his blog, he discusses his approach to being an early riser in two posts (part one and two) which are interesting reads. He has also tried Polyphasic sleep with some success. Polyphasic sleep deals with taking short sleep periods throughout the day at regular intervals instead of the big 8 hour chunk at the end of each day.
If you like my post or have suggestions on things I could try, please leave a comment. If you wish to become an early riser yourself, please try out the tips I’ve highlighted above. Any feedback you can provide based on your own experiences would be most welcomed.