9 Things Every 20-something Should Know About Waking Up Early
The morning is by far and away my favourite time of the day. It’s quiet, peaceful and uninterrupted. The morning routine itself has become something to marvel at over the last few years. The number of articles and YouTube videos springing up around the world about different morning routines is quite interesting.
All of a sudden we’ve become obsessed with how people orchestrate their mornings.
Have a quick google and you’ll find a million and one articles on how uber successful people start their days. Queue the envy and not to mention the sheer confusion of how these people consistently get up every day 1. so early and 2. so productively.
We sit and wonder. How do you wake up at the crack of dawn, practice your headstand for 20 minutes and then hop into a freezing cold shower all the while chanting “I will be successful”.
Who has that level of energy in the morning?
Change the Story You Tell Yourself
The truth is it’s two-fold. Part of the answer to that question is that the key is to make the morning routine a habit. If you do anything for long enough and you will find yourself automatically carrying out activities that you once thought was impossible. If you find the idea of waking up at 5:30am impossible, the good news is that you only need to find the will power to do it about 90 times before you start doing it consistently. Mindlessly. It will become odd to not get up at 5:30am.
The second part to this is reframing your identity. As I go along in life I’m starting to figure out that you can become whoever you want to be. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are, are just fleeting stories that are current for the now. What I mean by that is, if you want to be someone that wakes up early, you can be. You just need to tell yourself that you are that person. Benjamin Hardy writes about this extensively, in fact I watched a TedTalk yesterday of him explaining this very concept. So, if you want to become someone that wakes up early, one of the quickest ways to do that, is to start identifying as someone who gets up early. Tell yourself you aresomeone who wakes up early. You’re a morning person. James Cleartalks about this extensively in habit formation. To successful form new habits we need to change the stories we tell ourselves.
So the short version of all this? If you want to wake up early, you need to form the habit of waking up early. To do that, you need to identify as someone that wakes up early. And to do that… you need to tell yourself, consistently, you are someone that wakes up early. A morning person.
So why bother? What’s so good about the morning routine anyway. Who cares about cold showers, doing so many push-ups your veins pop out your head and chanting the mantra “I am bold, brave and better”.
Wouldn’t you just prefer an extra hour in bed?
My morning routine doesn’t involve cold showers, push-ups or any mirror staring. Although, I wonder how many of the neighbours would start knocking on the door if they heard me chanting at 5am. Your morning routine doesn’t have to involve cold showers, strenuous exercise and meditating for 2 hours straight. It can be whatever you want it to be. Just because the above works for some self-proclaimed productivity gurus, it might not and hopefully will not, work for you.
You can however, have a wonderfully productive morning without cold showers and chanting. The productivity gurus won’t like this but you can, trust me.
So why start a morning routine?
1. It’s Quiet
There is nothing quite like the stillness of the morning. Just before the world properly wakes up there is this stillness about the place that is completely calming. It’s like you can feel everyone still tucked up in bed and you get the world to yourself for a few hours. There are no cars on the roads, no people walking around.
It’s just you and the world.
That kind of peace means that you can get into the flow state of work much more easily. There are no distractions, no phones going off, no emails coming through. It’s silent.
It means you can tackle your challenging tasks early on and make a big dent in the work you’ve got. I’m a big believer that 8 hours a day chained to a desk doesn’t work. People are different and have different energy levels. Depending on when you work best will determine your productivity and output. If you are someone that works best between the hours of 5:30am–9:30am, there is four solid hours you can work, uninterrupted. If you’ve managed to get into the flow state and gotten deep into work it won’t be surprising if you’ve finished work for the day.
2. Gives you time to think
The time in the morning is completely free of distraction. No incoming calls, texts or emails. No WhatsApp group going off. That means you have a clearness that you are unlikely to get in the middle of the day. It means you have a time where you can finally think. Time to think properly and deeply. Think about the most important things to you, what your goals and aspirations are. Time where you can think about what you want to achieve in your day and how you are going to go about doing that.
That time to think gives you the opportunity to think deeper than normal which is likely to result in some pretty decent outputs. It’s likely that you will produce your best work because you have the time to think clearly. It gives you time to think about the words you are writing or the content you are producing.
Getting up at 5:30am means you can think clearer than any other time in the day. That the benefit of having the world to yourself.
3. You Become Productive
I’m not sure if it’s the quietness that does it or maybe it’s the time to really think and properly get your brain moving. Whatever it is, most likely the big coffee has something to do with it but I find I’m the most productive in the morning.
The combination of quiet and no distractions means there is little else to do other than work. There is nothing but time and you in front of the computer to produce. It comes back to how set ourselves up for creating good habits. Your environment is primed for success.
Quiet, still, no distraction. So you are much more likely to produce. To work.
It amazes me that we still look at time spent behind a desk over actual output as a determinate for success. The likelihood is that if you manage to get deep into your work you could have written an article, formatted another and done some research for a third all by 9am. That is a great output for an entire day’s work. Continue on that streak and you’ll have written 365 well written, well researched articles in a year. If you average 1,500–2,000 words per article that equates to 730,000 words in a year. A single 200 page book is 55,000 words. That’s 13 books. A pretty productive year.
Waking up early and having the world to yourself at 5:30am, at least for me, means my output has quadruapled.
4. Get a Head Start On Your Day
One thing that breads productivity is momentum. It’s the reason why I will go and do a small mundane task if I’m struggling to muster up the will power to tackle my most challenging tasks. Doing anything, even the smallest things, will give you the momentum to keep going. That momentum will spur you on to continue being productive throughout the day.
Starting your day successfully means you will have the momentum and that will have a big impact on the rest of your day. Getting a head start on the day gives you more confidence, more ambition and more faith in your abilities.
5. Gives You More Time
Working 9–5 is fine. Good even. There are a whole host of good things happening in 9–5s and there are a whole host of reasons to have a 9–5. Above and beyond the obvious, one of the things a 9–5 is brilliant for is routine. It gives us structure and structure is a good thing. Structure and systems are the sure fire way to getting whatever you want.
Let’s say for arguments sake you wake up at 5:30am. You get out of bed, do your thing for a bit and then get in front of the computer before 6am. That means you, in theory could have 2 solid hours before you start work to get cracking with your side hustle. If you are lucky enough to work from home full-time or have complete control of your hours then working solidly for 2 hours in the morning, is a complete game changer.
There is a rule that states that the time taken to do a task expands to the amount of time allocated. It’s the reason that we can write 4,000 words in an all nighter before an essay is due and the same reason that same task would have taken 7 weeks if we let it. This law is Parkinson’s law. Back in 1955, a funny chap called Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote an essay called ‘The Economist’ and the first sentence read:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
What Parkinson was saying here is that you will be amazed at what you can achieve if you ask the simple question: “if I had to finish this tomorrow, how would I go about it?” That thinking leads us to come up with methods and techniques to attack our problem in the most efficient way possible. Parkinson isn’t saying that you can build a skyscraper in a day or create a million dollar business in 4 hours. What he is saying is that if you ask the question you will be amazed at the ways you come up with to meet the deadline.
Two hours of uninterrupted time in the morning is plenty of time to get your day’s worth of work done. Uninterrupted time is worth twice if not three times as much as interrupted time. Completely focusing for two hours mean you have, potentially, the rest of the day to do with as you please. Or do more.
6. Less Waste
In lean manufacturing the idea is to look at the system and strip out the waste. The time spent doing things that are adding no value are stripped out.
Why do we never apply this idea to our own life?
How much time do we waste? How much time do we spend in unnecessary meetings, on calls that we don’t need to be on, on emailing back and forth when a simple text would suffice. We waste time because we have lots of it. That time could be channelled into much more productive means if we wanted it to be.
We waste time on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. Over and above feeling connected and engaged we get to the point where we are wasting our lives scrolling through and looking at other people’s lives. We feel dissatisfied when our screen time report comes through and we realise that we spend a whopping 4 hours a day on our phones. Doing what? Can you really remember why you were obsessing over Kim Karadashian’s Instagram feed? Do you care what she had for dinner or are you just bored?
The thing is, if you’re super happy with your life then there is no point reading this. I mean that in the nicest way possible. All this article will do, if you are at optimum happiness is reduce your happiness. This article is for the people unhappy with their current output and want to do more with their days.
Waste is only waste if you define it as such. For example, it could be really important to you to know what Kim Karadashian had for lunch. That could make you happy. I doubt it. But who am I to judge? The point is that wastage is personal, however, generally I would consider the follow to be wasting time:
- Time in meetings you don’t need to be in but feel too awkward to leave.
- Scrolling through social media, envying people you don’t know.
- Emailing back and forth when a phone call would solve the problem.
We probably waste, on average, 3/5ths of our day. If we were being honest with ourselves. Hacking our morning routine and waking up at 5:30am is one way to not waste time and get the stuff done you want to.
7. You Will Become a More Positive Person
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
Picture this. You’ve just spent the last three hours completing your hardest tasks. You’ve got a belly full of breakfast and enough caffeine to last you three more hours. So far you’ve written 2,000 words, you’ve formatted an article, you’ve gone through your inbox and answered all the most important emails. And it’s not even 9:30am. By the time everyone is just getting into work you’ve practically finished everything you need to do today. Now you’ve got time to do the bonus stuff.
If you’ve done three solid hours of work by the time other people are just getting into work, one thing you will be is fairly confident and fairly positive.
We all feel better when we are on top of things. We feel a sense of authority and power when we are ticking through our to-do list and know we what’s going on. We start to feel like we can conquer anything we want if we set our minds to it — which of course we can.
If you wake up consistently at 5:30am, no snooze, no falling back to sleep, you will have nothing but time to create. By doing things early, before everyone else, we create a dialogue between ourselves. We create this identity. We are the type of person that gets up early and gets shit done.
These small wins everyday create a system that allows us to succeed. And success breads positivity.
8. You Become Happier
How many times do you beat yourself up for not achieving the things you want. For years you’ve been saying you want to lose weight, write more, start that business. For years you’ve been feeding yourself the same excuse over and over. You don’t have enough time. Which in other words means you don’t make enough time.
The time in the morning is the easiest to hack. It’s untapped potential.
When you start executing on what you say you will you start to build a reputation with yourself. You are the type of person that says they will do something and actually does it.
For years I used to beat myself up that I couldn’t commit to what I said I was going to. I wanted to start something on the side. I wanted to create things.
However, my actions never met my thoughts. It was frustrating to continuously go through the loop of ambition to no action. I would beat myself up continuously that I was never going to get anywhere and continue around the same loop over and over. That was until I started hacking my mornings (this sounds like interlude into a course of morning routines, it’s not, I’m not trying to sell you anything I promise).
Once you start delivering on the things you say you were going to life becomes much more abundant. Your expectations of yourself become higher. There is so much satisfaction in saying you will do something and actually do it. When you wake up at 5:30am you have a handful of hours, uninterrupted, to do exactly what you said you were going to. It’s the perfect time to work on whatever you want. When you finally start doing as you say you will you become happier.
“A single breath is all that separates life from death.”
― Marty Rubin
It’s the little things that add up to the big things.
9. Become the Person You Want to Become
We all have visions of the life we want to live. It involves getting up early, getting a head start on the day, fuelling our bodies, getting some exercise. I used to think about it all the time. I had a view of the person I wanted to become. I wanted to be that person that got up early, downed a smoothie, went for a walk and hammered out a load of work all before I started my day job.
At the time I just couldn’t understand how people managed it. It was stuck between dreaming and my actions. I wanted to become that person, I just didn’t think I actually could. I thought these people existed in the movies. Nobody really gets up early to get a jump start on the day. Nobody cares that much do they? The answer is yes. Yes they do.
As soon as I started to get up earlier I found that I was happier because I was finally becoming the person I wanted to become. And then you realise you are in complete control. If you want to become an author you can. If you want to become a marathon runner. You can.
Waking up at 5:30am has added so much value to my life. I feel happier, I’m executing on the stuff I want to master, I’m much more confident. There are many things that can have a positive impact on your life — waking up earlier is one.