What I Learned from Waking Early

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In January I did my best to wake up earlier than I normally do. I did my best to wake up every single day (including weekends) at 6:00 AM. That was a huge stretch for me, but I was able to get out of bed with the alarm every morning until the last week when I got sick and decided I needed some more rest. Here are some things I learned about waking early:

  • Watch your stress and energy levels. I think that I got sick at the end of the month because my energy levels were low and my stress levels were high. I had a lot more homework: reading to get done and papers to write. I was trying to finish up some work projects as well. My energy levels were low and my stress was higher than normal. As a response, my body forced me to take a break. I couldn’t sustain the waking early habit anymore. I am now rebuilding this habit in my life with small steps to avoid the negative consequences of lower energy levels and higher stress. This brings me to the second thing I learned:
  • Start small. I jumped head first into this habit and set my alarm clock back by at least 45 minutes. This was a shock at first but I thought I was used to it. I found that a huge change in the time you wake up is not sustainable and not entirely healthy. If you want to wake up earlier, I would recommend two things:
    • First: start where you are. When you can wake up consistently at the same time (even on weekends) for a few weeks, then set your alarm clock 2 or 3 minutes earlier. Try that for a week or two and then set it back another 2 or 3 minutes. Do this until you reach the time you want and you can comfortably maintain your energy levels throughout the day. It might take 6 months to reach your target time, but you will be much happier and it will be a habit you can maintain for life.
    • Second: Don’t be afraid of failure or small progress. Failure is an opportunity to see what went wrong and small progress is still progress. Just keep going. If you sleep in one day, it’s not the end of the world. Just do better the next day and keep going!
  • Have something to do. Don’t wake up early without a plan. If you don’t have something planned out to do, your plan will quickly become to go lie down in bed or on the couch and fall asleep again. Make it simple, fun and easy to remember. For example, my morning routine is to drink a glass or juice, take a shower and write for 15-30 minutes. Sometimes I’ll shake it up or do more, but that’s my basic routine.
  • Be flexible. Just like with anything else, you won’t be perfect at first, or probably ever. You will miss days here and there. You’ll get sick, have late nights, go camping, go on vacation. Be flexible during these times. Remember, your happiness is more important than a streak with your goal.

I learned many personal lessons about myself through this habit. I know a lot more about what motivates me and what doesn’t. This was a great lesson in self-exploration. I would recommend waking early to anyone. If you don’t think that you can, give it a try. You may just surprise yourself and you might learn a lot about yourself along the way.

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