If you ask my wife, one of my go to sayings for the past two or so years has been, “I wish the day was a few hours longer.” I found myself struggling to fit in everything I wanted to do, often having to make the decision of what to cut out or push off to a later date. This “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitude left me in a cycle where I wasn’t getting around to all the things I really wanted to get done in the day. Get up. Run. Go to work. Eat dinner. Sleep. Repeat. All the little things I said I wanted to do never even got started. That is, until I made one small yet powerful change in my routine.
I came upon the video at the link above from Business Insider on Facebook. It discusses why Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, former Navy SEAL commanders and authors of the book “Extreme Ownership”, still wake up at 4:30 am. The logic is simple: by waking up earlier, you have more time to get things done in the day. Few people are up this early, so you have less obligations and obstacles to cut into your day. The video goes on to say that the self-discipline and willpower you develop in waking up early sticks with you throughout the day. My favorite line by far is, “You don’t lose will throughout the day. You don’t say, ‘oh no it’s one o’clock in the afternoon. Where are the chocolate chip cookies?’ No actually you feel good, you feel mentally strong and you say, ‘No, I don’t need any chocolate chip cookies. WHERE’S THE BEEF JERKY? Because I’m going to get it!'”
So a few weeks ago, I begrudgingly set the alarm for 4:30 and told my wife that I needed her to be my training partner, not my wife, and kick me out of bed in the morning. The alarm went off and I felt surprisingly well rested. Most of my schedule started out as per usual. I got my normal run in, I showered, and then ate breakfast. But this is where the first noticeable change took place. I had an extra hour of free time to do whatever I wanted to do. I went grocery shopping, I wrote for the blog, I read a book, I fell into YouTube rabbit holes, I watched the news. Some of the things I did with this time were more productive than others, but the fact of the matter is that I had the time to do them. I had the time to do WHATEVER I chose to do with my time.
I started noticing other added benefits. I felt more energized when I got to work in the morning. I found myself whistling and cheerful on the walk from my car to the office. I was upbeat and wasn’t guzzling coffee at my desk. Better yet, when I got home from work, I found that I had more time to do even more things since I had already performed all the ancillary activities I would usually be doing in the afternoon. I had time to just spend with my wife. We could watch a movie, play a board game, or go out for a drink. We had more time for US.
Getting up earlier is a struggle at first and something many would scoff at or say they couldn’t do. Like most things though, all it takes is a few good repetitions to form a lasting habit. But one thing of importance to note is that I’m not advocating for less sleep. I’m suggesting getting the same sleep just at a different part of the day. Go to bed a little earlier and wake up earlier. Sure, that might mean I don’t get to stay up as late watching TV or the big game, but the tradeoff for me was getting to do many more of the things I wanted to do on a regular basis. This one was a no brainer for me when I stepped back and really looked at it.
I’m at the point where during the week I’m consistently getting up at 4:15 am, even on my off or recovery days from running. Admittedly I’m still sleeping in a bit on the weekends, but trying to get up relatively earlier to still fit more into the day. Setting the alarm at 4:15 am is what works for me, but everyone is different. Your move doesn’t have to be so drastic or extreme. Simply try waking up a little earlier and see how it can positively affect your day. Start with small changes to your routine at first. Try 15 minutes earlier, then 30 minutes. Eventually you will be up an hour earlier and before you know it you will realize how much more productive you can be in the day with only a very small lifestyle change.
So what will it be? When one o’clock in the afternoon rolls around will you be reaching for the chocolate-chip cookies or the beef jerky? When the alarm goes off, will you attack your day or crawl back under the covers?