Becoming an Early Riser

I’m not a huge fan of “New Years Resolutions”. To me, NOW is the best time to start something new and waiting until New Years is stupid (side note: I’ve most likely developed my hatred for New Years resolutions due to the fact that I’ve had trouble getting a good workout in January or February at any packed gym I’ve been a member at for the last 10 years because everyone and their mother decides to get in shape on 1/1 and quits by Valentines day….quite frankly, it drives me nuts and I’m dreading my trip to the gym tomorrow morning).

Of course, this is the part where I become a hypocrite and go against everything I just said. Yesterday I saw a post on Lifehacker about the How to Wake Up Early site, which got me thinking about my sleep habits. Hard core blog readers will remember a time when I wrote a lot about my crappy sleeping habits (see Does it matter when I get my 8 hours of sleep, Making a bold move, Here we go again, and Sleep – my productivity killer). I stopped not because the problem was solved, but because I figured I’d piss people off if I made sleep the main topic of a young entrepreneur blog.

For my physical (and to some extent mental) health, there are three key components I’ve always focused on: eating healthy, working out, and getting plenty of sleep. The crazy thing is, I’ve got #1 and #2 down to the point where they are habits that I don’t need to worry about anymore. I’ve been lifting and working out continuously since high school, and for about the past five years I’ve eaten an extremely healthy and balanced diet. That stuff is easy for me. It’s probably not for some, but it is for me.

However, I can never get the sleep thing down. I don’t really have trouble sleeping, I just don’t have a set schedule so I tend to just do whatever I feel like whenever I want. Every time I get into a good groove for a week or two, I let it get out of hand and I convince myself I should just sleep when I’m tired and stop worrying about getting up early. However, a recurring theme in my head is always “I could be so much more efficient if I got on a better sleep schedule”. When your weekly number of hours of sleep looks something like 5-7-10-5-8-6-9 and you sleep and wake at all sorts of crazy hours it puts an added stress on you mentally and physically, and also impacts your diet and exercise.

I’ve come to the conclusion that on 95% of nights I’m not out past 10 PM, so I really don’t need to be up late. Thanks to digital cable, I can record any show or sporting event I’d normally watch and watch it the next morning. That was my largest hurdle. The next hurdle in my head was WHY? I’ve come to the conclusion that almost every successful person I know wakes up early. Don’t know why for sure, but I’m guessing because it’s a lot easier to waste time away at night than it is in the early morning.

Even more important, I feel like I’m starting my day in a productivity deficit and I’m always trying to catch up. I’d say I average waking up at 8 AM. Not bad…but after grabbing some food, going to the gym, eating again, and showering, I don’t get my start until around 10 or 10:30 on a lot of days. After sifting through emails, many days I look up and see lunch time without accomplishing any work. That stresses the shit out of me, and it’s time to change. I want to jump out ahead on my day and feel like I’m on top of things. By instituting a routine I’ll be healthier and I’ll worry less about sleep, which will make me happier and more efficient. All at the cost of….well, I suppose at the cost of my prior laziness and inability to commit.

So, starting this morning – armed with some good tips from the site – I got up at 6 (side note #2: did anyone else know you can use your iPod as an alarm? Me neither…what a great way to aid my new waking up process….). I’m going to try to stay on a ~10PM – 6AM schedule. I made a note to do a follow-up post on 2/1, although if this works I’m guessing I’ll comment on it more frequently because it’s kind of a big deal for me.

8 comments on Becoming an Early Riser

  1. Adam says:

    Adam,

    The best trick to getting in a solid sleep schedule is to make sure you wake up the same time every day or close to it on weekends.

    This is very important. If you sleep late, then you’ll go to sleep later and the vicious cycle continues.

    Set your alarm for 6AM. No matter what, you have to get up. If you have to miss a few workouts because you’re so tired from waking up then do it.

    Eventually, you’ll start to get exhausted by a certain time and want to fall asleep and also make yourself go to sleep because you’ll want to have enough energy to workout the next day.

    -Adam

  2. Y.Graf says:

    Good luck with your early rising experiments 🙂

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks guys. It’s really just a matter of self discipline – in getting myself to sleep and in making myself wake up – until it’s a habit. Where I’ve failed before is I keep going to bed later and later saying “I’ll still get up at 6” but eventually am so tired I sleep till noon. This time I’m committing to the lifestyle change at night as well, which I think will make the difference. 2 days in I feel better than I have other times, so it’s a good start with a long way to go. We’ll see….

  4. […] and simple (essentially – spend less time working and find a better living situation…and sleep better), but that first business goal is the one that really caught my eye. Have at least 1 month this […]

  5. […] 1 I wrote about how I hate New Years Resolutions and then proceeded to make one myself:  to improve my sleep schedule.  Throughout college and my early professional life I’ve always been an erratic sleeper to […]

  6. […] now been seven full months since I decided to finally gain control of my sleep schedule and rise every day at 6 AM.  Clearly […]

  7. […] back I’ve been able to experiment with what makes me operate at my best.   On 1/1/2008 I became an early riser.  It wasn’t easy, but I’ve become much more productive hitting the ground running at 6 […]

  8. […] January of 2008 when I became an early riser through early 2010 I had my morning alarm set for 6 AM and almost every day that was when I got up. […]

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