9 Reasons to Wake Up Early in The Morning

My life as a late riser In the past, I was consistently a late riser. In 17 Tips to Be On Time, ...

My life as a late riser

In the past, I was consistently a late riser. In 17 Tips to Be On Time, I mentioned one of the reasons that led me to be late last time was oversleeping. The only times I ever woke up early were when I absolutely have to: for school, appointments, work. Even then, I’d wake at the very last minute, scamper around the whole house to get ready, rush out in disarray, have to resort to taking a cab to cut down commuting time and barely make it in time. Mostly I would be 5~10 minutes late, to over 30 minutes or even an hour. On a work day, my sleeping hours would be about 2~9am (my previous workplace had flexible working hours). During the weekend, the waking hours would hover between 12pm to 2pm.

I never once thought of cultivating waking up early as a habit. Why should I wake up early for? I never understood why people would even want to do that. If there was anyone who voluntarily woke up early, I would look at them with a look of bewilderment. I saw waking up early as some act of deprivation. If we could sleep in late, shouldn’t we just let our body rest rather than obligate ourselves to wake up at a certain fixed timing? At worst, it seemed like a borderline masochistic act.

How I got interested in waking up early

Until I started coming across testimonials in favor of waking up early. Overwhelming testimonials, in fact, from all different places. I read self-help sites purporting the habit of waking up early. Then there were self-help books where the authors would proclaim waking up early is the best habit one can ever develop (alongside with meditation). Then I came cross interviews with very successful people who would mention they wake up early (5am types) and how it helped them become a lot more effective.
The first time I read that, I thought it was just specific to the person. The second time, it got my curiosity up, but I ignored it anyway. Third, forth, fifth, sixth time…….. It was clear there was a trend. There was some connection between waking up early and one’s own success. Personally, I’m passionate about achieving excellence in my life. If this was something that would enable me in my journey of betterment/improvement, I had to absolutely try it out.

I could have just brushed it off and say “Nah, waking up early doesn’t work for me. I’m not a morning type of person – I work better at night.” Or I could have said “It’s just all in the mind”. But until I really test this out for an extended period and give this its best shot, I couldn’t conclude anything for sure. I had to try it to know. Just because I hadn’t been able to voluntarily wake up early in the past or just because my previous attempts to wake up early failed miserably didn’t mean anything. Those attempts were always either non-voluntary in nature or done without a serious intent anyway, which largely explained their failure.

Trial to wake up early

So earlier in 2010, I did a trial to wake up early at 5am. I figured if it worked, I’d have cultivated an incredible habit which would aid me tremendously. If it didn’t, I could just easily discard it and revert to waking late.

The trial wasn’t easy. I realized waking up early is so difficult for many because it’s a holistic lifestyle change, beyond just changing your waking time. Many times, my attempts would be thwarted because I slept in late the day before, which happened because I was either doing my work, came home late, was on the phone with a friend, was exercising at night, etc. It was like trying to go up against a rushing current – I kept getting pushed back down every time.

But I never stopped trying. Whenever my plans to wake up early got shredded, it meant I needed to improvise them. I could have easily given up and reverted to my normal sleeping routine, but then I would never have known how things would be different taking early. I had to give this habit a fair chance. So each time, I would look into what led me to wake up late. Then I would make changes to my lifestyle accordingly. Gradually, waking early became easier and easier. It became a natural act.

Here are 9 reasons why I say this:

1. Get a head start

When you wake up at 5am, you start your day earlier than 99.9% of the world — hence giving you a head start in your day. This creates a feel-good factor, which, while psychological, creates a host of positive effects (especially for reasons #2 and #3 in the list). After all, a good start is half the battle won. It will motivate you to stay ahead so you can maintain or even widen the lead.

For example, my modus operandi when I wake up early is to work on the high-impact tasks right away, as opposed to the small, easy but unimportant tasks. I will also think and work effectively, and strive to end my day earlier so that I can have an early sleep, wake up early the next day, and continue my “head start.” On the whole, I’d say that I’m more forward thinking and proactive in managing my tasks — since I have a head start in my day, I naturally think about how I can be ahead in my work too.

On the other hand, when I wake up late, I usually prioritize the urgent but not-so-important tasks. Because I’ve woken up late, I will also have the mindset that I need to spend more time on work to make up for lost time, hence working till wee hours in the morning. My behavior throughout the day can be best described as “reactive” as I’m thinking about how to catch up on my tasks (which I’m behind time on since I woke up late) and how to meet my immediate deadlines.

Working till the week hours of the morning then inadvertently causes me to sleep late and wake up late the next day. This cycle of waking up late and sleeping late will then continue the next day, creating a long-term negative pattern where I work late into the night, sacrifice my bedtime, and wake up late the next day. Needless to say, such a sleeping pattern when stretched over the long run isn’t good for my health.
Of course, one can argue that this is all subjective — and very psychological — at the end of the day. It doesn’t mean that waking up early will guarantee an increased productivity! It also doesn’t mean that waking up late will result in reduced productivity.

True and true. However, I believe that this psychological effect of having a head start has more far-reaching effects than people give it credit for. I’ve definitely experienced it for myself; not to mention that late rising often results in late sleeping and reduced sleep as you catch up on work, which isn’t really good for health.

2. Increased productivity

My productivity soars on days where I wake up early. It’s a benefit that comes from getting a head start (see Reason #1). The head start creates a motivation to continue your lead ahead, resulting in (a) more things getting completed (b) things getting completed faster. This applies even if I’m awake for the same number of hours during days I wake up early and days I don’t. If I were to wake up late, I typically spend more time getting the same stuff done. This becomes a lot more apparent when you have your to-do lists laid out for the day. It’s something you have to try to experience for yourself to know what I’m talking about.
In addition, the morning creates the perfect environment to work due to the peace and quiet (see reason #5).

3. Timeliness

Ever woken up late before and have to make a mad rush out of the house for your appointments? Being on time is important to create a good impression and as a form of respect to the other party. In cases like work, being timely is essential. Rather than rush around every morning which can be a tiring activity, waking up early gives you more time to prepare and lets you be timely.
Putting a cap on your sleeping and waking time also gives structure to your days and makes you more sensitive of the how you spend your time. This goes a long way in improving your timeliness.

4. Self-mastery

Waking up early is about self-mastery. As I mentioned above, there were many reasons which would thwart my waking early plans in the past. Reasons such as working late, being out late, delaying my exercise routine till late at night, being on the phone… these reasons were a function of the lack of mastery I was having over myself. If I wanted to wake up early, I had to learn to take a hold over those activities, which would mean being more organized and disciplined.

Let’s take working late as an example. If you often work late, have you ever wondered why that keeps happening? On first sight you might think it’s because you had too much work in the day or there were a lot of firefighting activities which prevented you from getting your work done. If you look into it, it’s because you are unable to manage your activities. Rather than being a master of your activities, you are letting your activities run over you. Looking into it one level deeper, the reason why you let your activities run over you is because you lack self-mastery. Being disciplined, organized, on top of your tasks, having clear stewardship – these are all elements of strong self-mastery.

5. Peace and quiet

The morning tranquility is indescribable. This tranquility comes about on two levels. First, there’s the physical quietness. You are alone with no disturbances. No one’s out on the streets, no traffic on the roads and the birds have not even broken into song yet! No smses or phone calls either to take away your attention.
Then there’s quietness on the mental level. Ever walked into an exam hall or an interview waiting room, where you can immediately feel the tension? Even though no one is speaking, you can feel the tension from the energy vibes around you. The same principle applies here. In the early hours of the morning when everyone is still at rest, you are free from the chatter in their minds. Not only that, because sleeping processes mental clutter, the chatter in your own mind is also lesser when you wake up. While physical peace is something you get by sleeping late, the mental peace only comes from waking up early.
The tranquility on both levels gives you the free space to get a fast start on whatever you want to do.

6. Faster commute

If you have to travel to work/school, you can now travel during non-peak hours and skip the traffic jams. This cuts down on the time spent in commuting.

7. Breakfast

It’s common for people to skip breakfast because they woke up late and didn’t have time. However as they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having spent some 5-8 hours without eating, it’s important to have your breakfast. One of my friends used this interesting analogy to describe the importance of breakfast – “Eating breakfast is like starting your engine. If you don’t have breakfast, your engine has not started.”. When I wake up early, I get time to prepare my breakfast (fruit salads, fruit and veggie smoothies, bread with peanut butter and the like) and enjoy it too.

8. Exercise

Do you defer your exercise to the end of the day? Does your exercise plan get carried through or does it get rescheduled at times due to last minute changes? Waking up early gives you time to exercise in the morning, giving lesser chance for it to be shifted out. There’s nothing like a great workout to boost your day, too.

9. Seeing the world wake up

I totally enjoy my morning jogs where I literally see the whole city wake up before me. I start off with at 6ish in the morning, where the sky is dark, there’s minimal people on the streets and few cars on the road. As I jog through the morning (I usually jog anywhere between 6 to 11km which lasts about 1-2 hours), I witness the whole place coming alive. The human traffic increases and the traffic becomes heavier, steadily. The sky starts to lit up in different shades – first dark blue, then in gradients of purple, red, orange, yellow, and finally sunshine starts enveloping the whole place. It’s a very beautiful experience. It’s an amazing experience being an observer to the whole scene.

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