Yes, I am still in my twenties and I live in a city where a night out starts around midnight. But by midnight on a Friday, after a standard week of the sunrise doubling as my alarm clock, I’m tired. Here are a few reasons why “early to bed, early to rise” works best for me.
1) Waking up with the sun doesn’t feel early to me.
Waking up before the sun would be waking up early. Only occasionally do I like to wake up when it’s still dark. I prefer to leap out of bed as soon as the sun begins to cut through the last bits of nighttime navy.
2) The time I wake up seems very natural — both on a social level and on a personal level, even though it may seem early to some.
If I wake up at 7 a.m., I don’t feel like I woke up early. If I go outside for a run then, there will be other people on the sidewalks — and I don’t wonder why they’re awake.
The best time is when I am the only person on the sidewalk. It provides much-needed me-time and mental respite, which is necessary for both creativity and top-notch execution of my work for the day. And if I accomplish something — a workout, foreign language practice, writing — before the sun has a chance to fully rise, it makes for a great start to my day.
3) I feel more rested when I wake up early and need less sleep overall.
Whenever I go to sleep very late, no matter how long I sleep the next day, I don’t feel rested. It could be that if I wake up at 10am, I’m interrupting my sleep in the wrong place. It could be that because I’ve stayed up later, I grew even more tired, and need even more sleep to recover.
4) I am more productive in the morning.
I like to wake up and start the day immediately, which allows me to get a lot done in a few hours before the workday begins. My standard workday is very long, but after a full and fruitful day I can wind down in the evenings, as opposed to winding up before bed to finish what’s on my plate and then struggling to shut off my mind and get to sleep.
5) Waking up early in the morning sets me on the right path.
If I wake up late, I feel like I’ve lost the day. Especially if emails have already started coming in. Yes, I get emails overnight, but unless they’re urgent, I reply to them with the batch of emails that starts rolling in at 9 a.m. And as soon as emails start, my workday starts — which means it will be hard to find time to break away from my responsibilities to workout or do any of my usual early-morning tasks.
I feel ready and excited to start the day when I’m up early — I suspect partially because watching the sun come up motivates me. The other day I replied to my overnight emails first thing in the morning — which I usually don’t do — and thought, “What are you doing? You’re missing the sunrise!” This small inconsistency in my schedule threw me off, and I felt like I was running behind for the rest of the day.
6) There are less interruptions.
I am sure you’ve read this one before. In my case, there are less interruptions partly because others aren’t around in the early morning to distract me, and partly because I give myself permission to ignore non-urgent responsibilities until 8 a.m. — and after 11 p.m.
I need to implement boundaries in order to prevent myself from being consumed with my work. I also try to respect other people’s boundaries, and not call too early on a Monday morning (I know it’s prime settling-in time) or send emails late on a Sunday evening.
I may be alone in my thinking, but I can be just as efficient and productive if I remember that the people with whom I am communicating are people with lives, families, and hobbies.
Yes we are all busier these days, and some things simply can’t be avoided (work comes first!). But my brand is not just about what I can produce — it’s about respecting those around me and their need for down time in order to rev up (indeed, improving their quality of work); and simple, old-fashioned consideration (I still actively avoid making dinnertime calls — only for about an hour — even though I know most people are still in the office at dinnertime and not actually having dinner with their families).
And guess what? My work doesn’t suffer for it. Where the lines cross between a healthy sense of immediacy and respecting other people’s time is the apex of efficiency.
7) I enjoy the daylight.
I tend to enjoy daytime activities more than nighttime activities, so I don’t feel like I miss out on things that happen at night. I like to be active all day and then quiet down at night. Once it starts to get dark, I shift gears. And it’s not as if I never go out at night. I’ll just go to the 8 p.m. show instead of the 10 p.m. show.
This is only true for my day-to-day work, and does not apply to special events, occasions, bookings, performances, etc. I am always eager to participate in those at any time of the day or night, because I am in a different mindset when those things are happening (I suppose it’s inertia).
But if there is a week during which I am scheduled to be mostly in my apartment writing or working on a new product, my schedule is much more strict — it’s more “corporate” in a way because of the type of work I’m required to do that week — and I certainly don’t want to be writing at 11 p.m. if I can be writing at 11 a.m. instead.
8) I eat better.
Getting out of bed early in the morning means that I’ve started my day accomplishing something that I wanted to accomplish. My next accomplishment is eating a healthy breakfast. Quickly these little accomplishments add up, and soon I start to see it as a running streak of positive things that I don’t want to break.
Does this mean I never eat chocolate? No. But it does mean that I eat more vegetables and don’t eat right before bed — and if I do eat that chocolate, I eat a reasonably-sized portion instead of a double. All these things combined, and their physical and mental impact, contributes to my effectiveness during work hours.
None of this means that I never stay out late. I’ve worked straight through the night and into the next day plenty of times. It happens, things come up. Last year I was working with an illustrator based in New Zealand and a newspaper in England. I would be awake very early in the morning for England and up very late at night for New Zealand. It was an odd schedule for me, but it was necessary, and I adapted.
However, I won’t often choose to stay out until 1 a.m. doing something I am only half interested in, because it takes a lot for my body to get back on track. I suppose I’m in the habit of waking up early. It’s hard to make a habit, but so cruelly easy to break one — and snowball into breaking two.
Whenever the situation allows I wake up early, and get to bed early (not single-digits early, but early enough). Friends have expressed how they see it as unusual for me to head home at 11 p.m. when they’re just about to head out — but I don’t. To me it seems perfectly natural. And really — it’s not as though I’m waking up at 4 a.m. everyday. That would be early.
Originally published on The Huffington Post.