Waking Up Early: An Experiment in Productivity

For years, my morning routine has been an afterthought, a groggy welcome to a new day and a prolonged transition to a wakeful state. Not to mention, remote work makes it incredibly easy to sleep until the very last minute. Waking up at 8:55 am was not unusual for me, and neither was the guilt of wasting so much time. I’ve always been a late riser, but not a proud one. In an attempt at self-improvement, increased productivity and general curiosity, I decided to change one major habit in my life: my alarm time.

Benefits for Early Risers

In my circle of friends, early rising is the new rage. Waking up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning is the new performance-enhancing habit: “all the successful people are doing it!” People rave about their ability to accomplish more tasks in those few hours than the rest of the day. And multiple articles proclaim that the early bird really does get the worm.

Time to Unwind

Waking up earlier provides a cushion between your relaxed sleep state and your hurried awake state. Having a substantial amount of time before you begin work allows you to gradually transition into the workday. You’re able to sip on your coffee, sit, meditate, and just enjoy the morning. This ramp-up period is thought to help reduce stress, allowing you to start your day on a positive note rather than a stressed one.

Preparation

People who wake up early have the time to prepare for their days. Early risers have been shown to use their extra time for organization, goal setting, and planning for their days and weeks ahead. Here at UpBuild, we often talk about our core company values; purpose, betterment, pride, transparency, integrity and focus. What better way to live these values than giving myself the time I need to prepare and function best for my clients? It’s truly a win-win.

Additionally, early risers are able to anticipate problems and minimize them efficiently. This is hugely beneficial for your work life or the business world.

Exercise

For many, going to the gym after a long work day is just not feasible. People have kids to pick up from daycare or school, social obligations, or a date with Netflix. However, the early morning provides a time in the day where your kids are still asleep (hopefully), and there are no other obligations to attend. Exercising before work frees up your whole day to accomplish other tasks, and it also provides an array of health benefits which can help boost your mood, productivity, and focus.

Losing Sleep

The idea of waking up early to get ahead does not seem intuitive. Don’t I need my sleep? In fact, doesn’t the lack of sleep reduce one’s ability to focus, be productive, and succeed? How does this work?

Waking up early doesn’t just give you more time in the morning, but it can help create big changes in one’s mental health, daily habits, and yes, even promote better sleep.

Better Sleep

Going to bed and waking up earlier encourages a regular sleep schedule, which reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle. But that’s not all. It’s also been found that morning types have better quality sleep and feel more satisfied when they wake up.

Mental Health

Research has concluded that waking up earlier can help reduce stress and positively contribute to mental health. One study concluded that early risers had improved overall well-being, and morning people are more stable. And another study found that those who considered themselves to be late risers were more likely to become depressed than those who woke up earlier each day.

Waking Up is Hard to Do

With an impressive number of reasons, I decided to try this new routine myself. I began this experiment two months ago and had a goal of a 6:00 am wake time, five days per week. I did not have a plan or any method as to how I would spend my extra three hours per day, but coffee was always mandatory. How did I do?

Productivity

For me, productivity shot through the roof. Working in the morning not only allows me to begin work earlier, but the work is more efficient. The morning provides fewer distractions. There isn’t a constant stream of news alerts from my phone, no friends or family texting me, no emails to respond to, and no meetings to attend. The time is purely my own. Once 9:00 am rolls around, I’ll have around one to two hours of work under my belt, ahead of schedule, and a more relaxed attitude.

Stress

Waking up at 6:00 am gives me three extra hours of time before I would normally begin work. These hours allow me to start the day the way I want: meditate, read the news, and drink my coffee, slowly and in silence. My days begin stress-free, and the feeling surprisingly remains throughout most of the day.

I also have extra time to prepare. For me, preparation has always been the antidote for a stressful day, and having the time to do so gives me peace of mind.

Exercise

My intent to exercise was, unfortunately, a distant dream. I wish I could gloat and say I do yoga every morning, but this would be blatantly untrue. Going to the gym every morning still seems like a pipe dream, but one day I hope to break a sweat before the day begins.

Sleep

As someone who doesn’t sleep well under the best of circumstances, I was hesitant to lose a potential three hours of sleep per night. How would this affect my mental state throughout the day, and would this experiment actually backfire and reduce my ability to concentrate and be productive?

As it turns out, becoming an early riser forced me to be more aware of my bedtime. Going to bed after midnight on weeknights just isn’t feasible anymore. And in the beginning, yes, I was more tired throughout the day. However, I found myself crawling into bed earlier, and sleeping better. Sleep schedules work!

Snooze

I’m not going to lie, waking up is still extremely hard. At the beginning of my experiment, I was able to enthusiastically jump out of bed at 6:00, but have since slid back into old habits. Two months later, I hit the snooze button at least once (and sometimes more like 20 times) every morning. In fact, I overslept my alarm by 90 minutes today! Even then, though, a 7:30 am start time is still better than 8:55.

As with every new goal or habit you want to integrate into your life, there will be plenty of missteps. And that’s okay. No matter how many times I hit snooze in the morning, I know I’m working toward a permanent change in my habits.

Will waking up early fix all your problems? Probably not. But as Lindsay Buckingham once said, “I’m never going back again.” I no longer believe that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Giving myself extra time has not only improved my ability to get work done and be focused, but it’s also played a key role in my self-care.

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