If the early bird catches the proverbial worm, I want to be the first one up.
4 am is the only way for me to start the day.
As a teenager, I definitely slept until 12 on Sundays, but during the week at boarding school, the only time I had alone was before class.
In Unversity, let’s face it, I was mostly into all-nighters and not going bed until after class, so who knows?
But as a worker, I have always risen early. From the time I start work until the end of the day, I am on conference calls, so if I want me time, 4 am – 6 am is my only shot at a meditative, pensive, quiet. For these 2-hours I can do nothing, or I can do something, but I get to choose.
It became my standard way before kids were even a consideration and it has stuck.
One of my fondest early-morning memories was living in Camden Town in London. I remember sitting in the corner of my apartment overlooking Camden Town where the nightlife was still pumping. By 6 am I was out running and passing drunks until I got to the park where I saw bums. It was enlighting, mindful, and crucial to the success of where I am today because it endlessly reminded me of what not to do with my life. So I ran harder, farther, and got up earlier.
I like waking up early because it gives me a jump on the day and offers me a chance to enjoy my green tea in peace, read the news, or just generally ‘unthink.’ With all the extra time, I am wildly accomplished and by the end of the 2-hours alone, I have graduated beyond my list to do ready to take on whatever the world throws at me.
What do you do in your morning ritual?
10 Benefits to Waking Up Early:
1. You Have Extra Head-Space ALL day
If you are like me you are a taskmaster. I have lists to do by the hundreds and I cross them out with a satisfying
STRIKE THROUGH. I get a list down before I go to bed, and in the morning, I pick one or two of the major things to get knocked out. While on conference calls I can then work on small, meaningless tasks throughout the day.
Having these extra 2-hours seems to free up every part of my brain to expand and have the freedom to explore. If I want to research something extra, I will. If I want to read an industry article and I didn’t have time for it yesterday, I will. I just get a chance to do my ‘thang.
2. The Moon and Stars Are Out and in a single Hour it Transitions to the Sunrise and the Birds Chirping
Sometimes when I first wake up, while I wait for my tea water to boil, I stand outside on my terrace and look out into the night. It is a perfect time when it is still pitch black and there are endless stars, but there is a little rustle of the birds starting.
Here in Guatemala, no matter what time of year, the sun comes up at 6 am on the dot, and by 5:30 am the birds are fully engaged in song. So if I intend to do nothing 1-morning a week except sit and watch, it is well worth it. Reminding me we are all so insignificant on the spectrum of life. The freakin’ birds are going to wake up and sing eventually, so today is just another day.
3. No One is Responding to Emails
I have a love/hate relationship with emails.
I love that I get to hide behind them and not have to actually pick up a phone and engage. I love that I can send them anytime and not expect a response so it is done for the moment and I can move onto something else and it is out of my head.
But I hate when I send an email and I get an immediate response back – it’s not Messenger… read, comprehend, and then write me back. I handle when email is used for a set of ‘to dos’ I am supposed to add to my already running list to do (see #1). But what I hate more than anything is a full inbox.
From 4 am-6 am it is the only time in the whole day that I have an empty inbox. CLEAR.
“Clear inbox, clear mind.”
Someone who has the ability to have bazillions of emails in their inbox and not be bothered by them – to ‘think them away’, is impressive. I am just not that person.
4. You Can be in Your PJ’s or in Bed and it is Totally Acceptable
Ahhh… back to the days when I didn’t do video chats. Since 2015 I have been on video chats – that’s 4 years without PJ’s at work. And because I like to actually fit the part, I don’t normally wear sweatpants. I mean, there is always the occasional pair of comfy slacks, but I like to be ready for the day – such a bummer, right? I guess it makes me feel more connected to the concept of work.
So, in the morning I give myself permission to be basically naked or wearing whatever I wore to bed. I don’t brush my teeth and I just relish in being comfy and simple. There is no pressure to do anything but be me.
5. The Air is Cool and Crisp – Which Makes for Better Learning
Do you know when it is 2 pm in the afternoon and it is a bit warm in your conference room and your eyes are starting to droop? This is a common moment for me, sadly. I just feel so cozy and the speaker is lulling me to sleep no matter what the subject matter. I want to just prop my feet up on the chair in front of me and… EYES SHUT.
Here, in my indoor/outdoor house in Antigua, I am able to FEEL the brisk morning on my fingers and nose. I am illuminated by the glow of my computer and it is just me, alone in a room with the crisp air falling around me. It makes me alert, open and energized to do something.
6. Quiet. It is so so so Quiet You Can Hear Yourself Think (or I Guess You Can Just Meditate)
Years ago I used to be sitting at the lake and looking out across the still water and relishing in the early morning calmness. I could hear everything in my head. It was like a tidal wave of ideas driving me to keep doing something. I wrote 200 essays in a year. I had two full-time jobs and I still managed to make a baby. I was driven by the quiet.
In today’s world, we are often not without noise. Our phone beep beeps, there is an endless stream of chatter, the tv is in the background, the tea kettle is going off, the fan is going in the laundry room, someone in the kitchen is cooking, cars are driving by, the door is opening and closing… it is so much and by the end of the day I am exhausted.
7. It’s like You Grow Armor – Any Bad Client Moments Just Cast Aside
I used to have a really hard time with criticism. In University I went to a Design School and in the first year (foundation Freshman year) was like ‘How to be Tortured and Cut Down 101.’ I didn’t create a piece of work in my first year I was proud of or that survived the teachers ripping it off the wall. The goal was to make you tougher, but what I took away from it was to NEVER EVER feel rejected again. So sadly, the concept backfired and now I truly loathe negativity in all sense of the word. Now, I do hit criticism head on and with pride, but I still don’t enjoy it. Who really does?
When I wake up early, I feel like I OWN my own destiny and my day is mine. You can’t fuck with me and what I need to do for me goes first. Energy to rule.
8. You Can Tackle One Project WELL
Do you ever get to the end of the day and realize the #1 thing on your list still didn’t get done? That used to happen to me. Now, I just know if it is at the top of my list, it is it the only project I focus on in the morning. I have to get it done, or at least a jump start so it gets done. Then I am free from the emotion of it holding over me.
I am a procrastinator just like the best of them, so this tactic has worked for me fairly well. I dive in and FORCE myself to just get it down and miraculously my mind releases from the obligation.
9. You are Fresh and Full of Ideas
Did you ever have a dream and you wake up and remember every single detail? Well, when you start waking 4 am, it is like you are waking up ready to recount your last 8 hours of brain stimulation. I am filled with ideas and somehow the way that things just start to connect opens me up for a beautiful world of creation.
It is the only time in the day that I feel creative, alive and open to possibilities. I can write, design or just search around aimlessly. It is like my free-time, fun-time for me.
10. You have a Routine Which Releases You From Obligation
Did you know lots of successful people wake up early? It’s not really about the time so much as the routine ready-ing them for their day. Each of us is different and requires a different code and guideline to function. But what I like most about how we are different, is when we fall into a pattern that becomes our routine, it releases ourselves fully from the ability to make decisions.
Because I wake up at 4 am:
- It means I go to bed early during the week
- Which means I rarely make evening plans
- Which means I am home in bed with my children every night
- It means I can wake up refreshed
- And I get creative with breakfast time
- I get to spend an extra hour with my hubby
- It means I am not stressed on conference calls wondering when I am going to find an extra hour to get that project done
- And I feel released from the pressure of my own mind
- It means, I try to never stay at work late, because I don’t need to – I already got that project done
- But mostly it means I am in control of my life and destiny and I found something that works for me.
Now for the How To Guide: 5 Ways to Prepare Yourself for a Successful 4 am Start
Now, let’s face it, I am not always an early riser. I will do 2 or 3 weeks in a row and then something stops me in my tracks for a week.
I will have a trip to a different time zone and I am crashing at 12 am and waking up at 8 am. I totally allow myself freedom and play it by ear. I give myself PERMISSION, to be honest with myself and what I need to be successful with my life.
Or I will get back home for a trip and the kids for the first 3 days will come in at 1 am to snuggle and I will give into the moment. Why not? We only get these little babe snuggles for a moment and then they are gone!
Sometimes I just sleep in because it feels good.
I embrace it.
But I do choose to use some of these special tactics for waking up early:
1. Go to Bed at 8:30 pm
Well, you don’t have to go to sleep exactly at 8:30, but sit in your bed, relax and watch a movie. Believe me, you will want to be in bed by that time anyway. It’s not so bad the day after if you stay out late, but by Thursday you will be CRUSHED. Pace yourself, it is going to be a long week.
2. Turn Your Phone to Sleep Mode
This is essential – DO NOT keep your phone on. You need your beauty sleep and having the blinking light from an Instagram like or a WhatsApp from a friend is freakin’ distracting.
3. Prepare Your Set Up for the Morning
I don’t want to make extra noise and start to disrupt the household, but also it is nice to be able to be a bit mindful. I like to think of it like Shabbat – I overprepare so I can just be free in the ritual. I always get the water ready with my teacup and bag next to it. I make sure I have my slippers next to the bed. Since it has been a bit chilly as of late, I keep a scarf next to my computer just in case I need it. There’s not a lot that I need except my notebook, my mouse and my computer.
4. Do Not Look at Your Phone 1st Thing
Don’t make this mistake – it has ruined my entire morning, so now I don’t look at my phone unless I absolutely have to. Everyone has different working behaviors, and some are late at night, so for me, I opt to not overwhelm my thoughts or my list to do with fresh information until at least 5:30 am. I like to get through whatever I need to do first and then I dive into all the new stuff.
5. Embrace a New Location – A Sacred Spot
In the past, I used to work at my desk at 4 am, but then I realized that I never left my workspace. It meant my creative juices were forced to be surrounded by my analytical workspace which didn’t feel right. Now I sit at the dining room table or the couch in the morning and just ‘jam’ in a different space. It feels good to mix it up and I realize just how space has given me a new perspective.
And there you go – All my secrets to a successful start to my day are down on paper.
So curious to see what you are going to try, please share!
I also found this great article from a woman in Sri Lanka with 7 great reasons to wake up early.