I’d always been a night person before, usually going to bed at 10:00PM or later and preferring to sleep as late as possible (6:45AM or so), and much later on the weekends. What I realized, though, after some introspection was that the late evening wasn’t really the time when I was at my best. Sure, sometimes I could really get the groove on and get some excellent work done. But a lot of my nocturnal activities were not worthwhile. For example, blogs are interesting and I hope you’ll read mine from time to time, but when I’d look back at an evening of blog reading, I’d feel like I wasted the time.
I have two kids and a busy household, so I had a hard time finding time to do things for my personal development. I exercised only haphazardly and rarely even picked up the guitar I’d been trying to learn how to play for years. So I had some incentive to find a way to work these things into my life.
I read Steve Pavlina’s, “How to Become an Early Riser” and, quite profoundly, it changed my life. (Also see his additional post on the subject, How to Become an Early Riser, Part II)
After reading Steve’s article, I decided I wanted to get up at 5:00AM. It seemed impossible, but it was worth a try. The two key things that made the change possible for me were:
1. Set a fixed time to wake up, but vary the time I go to bed. That time should be when I’m tired enough to go to sleep in less than 15 minutes
2. Get up at the same time every day (I’ll talk about “Every Day” in a subsequent post.)
The fixed time to get up helped a lot. It meant no negotiations. I get up at 5AM, no matter what. I don’t have to think about what day it is, or what the day will be like, or what the night before was like. As soon as the alarm goes off, I get up. Immediately! It’s important to have the discipline to just get up and not hit snooze or bargain with yourself. Sure, my mind tried to do that in the beginning, but after only a few days of ignoring that voice that said “just a little more sleep”, now there isn’t even a pause when the alarm goes off. Often I wake up about 5 minutes before the alarm goes off (which I’m sure my wife, who sleeps later, prefers). If the alarm does go off and I’m groggy, I do some deep breathing and that wakes me up quickly. (I’ll talk about breath exercises in a subsequent post.)
And what time to I go to bed? “It depends.” Really, it’s different every day. I go to bed when I’m tired. Not so tired that I’m falling over, but tired enough that whatever I might be doing won’t be worthwhile. Now that I’ve been doing this for many months, I can just tell when I’m tired enough to go to sleep.
Sometimes that’s 9:00PM, sometimes that’s 11:30 PM. It has been as late as 1:30AM, and as early as 8:00PM. Generally, though, I go to bed between 9:30 and 10:30 each night. So that means that I’m getting around 7 hours of sleep on an average night, when I used to be an 8 hour plus, person. And it also means that since I go to bed (on average) at the same time I used to, that I’ve added almost 2 hours to my waking day. I use that time for some of the worthwhile things I’d previously never been able to get to.
My morning schedule goes something like:
5:05-5:25: Exercise: The Peaceful Warrior Workout and other exercises
5:25-5:55: Meditate, zazen style
5:55-6:00 make tea, green
6:00-6:40 practice guitar, classical
The schedule is not really this rigid: sometimes I’ll meditate for longer and shorten my guitar practice, or I’ll exercise longer and adjust the other things accordingly. The key, for me, is that I do each of them every day. I’ll write about the activities in subsequent posts.
Has it been worthwhile for me to turn my sleeping schedule upside-down like this? For me, very much so. An extra hour and forty minutes every day, filled with worthwhile things has made big changes in my life. Maybe it would for you too?