The Early Riser Experiment

I’ve been getting up at 5 am during the weekdays since last Monday, so it’s 9 days and counting. Rather than stay up until 1 am every night, I’ve been turning in at 10 pm Sunday through Thursday. On the weekends, I “sleep in” until 8:15 am and stay up until midnight — that way I can still keep up appearances on the weekend.
I can say with the utmost confidence that the transition from chronic “night owl” to “early riser” is going better than expected. The fact I’ve stuck with it for close to two weeks is a testament to its success; I normally bail on something that just isn’t “me” after a couple of days.1 But this new path I’ve headed down is froth with benefits that I can see clearly now. The wisdom of age, perhaps? Whatever it is, I’m happy that it has opened my eyes — both figuratively and literally.

In order to set myself up for success in this experiment, I’ve made sure to put rituals in place before hitting the hay every night. This is so I can wake up without a sense of urgency, but with more of a sense of the knowledge that I can focus on important tasks from the get-go.

Here’s what I do before I go to bed every night to make sure I can start my day on the right foot:

  1. Pack my daughter’s lunch.2
  2. Prep coffee materials for the morning (i.e. grind beans, set up programmable coffeemaker for my wife’s 7 am coffee, have everything on the counter and ready to go).
  3. Put out cereal choice, bowl and spoon for morning breakfast and have vitamins on the counter alongside them.3

Sure, some may call that excessive (maybe even anal), but doing this creates less noise at the early hour of 5 am — and just because I’m up at that time doesn’t mean anyone else has to be.

And here’s what I’ve been doing upon getting up at that (formerly ungodly) hour:

  1. Making coffee with my Aeropress.4
  2. Prepare bowl of cereal and take vitamins.
  3. Feed the cat.
  4. Grab iPad and begin giving OmniFocus a once-over to see what my day is going to shape up like..5
  5. Read my RSS feed.
  6. Start writing.

I switch between writing and doing other simple tasks (I like to take little breaks here and there during the morning writing process so I can do things like tweets scheduled throughout the day and other actionable items out of the way; I love Hootsuite for that very reason) up until my family wakes between 7 and 7:15 am. Once they’re up, my morning shifts to “parenting mode” until 8:30 (if my wife walks my daughter to school) or 9 am (if I do the walking) and then I get back to writing and other important projects.

What I’ve noticed since starting to wake at 5 am is that I fee less stressed about getting stuff done in the day. As a night owl, I ended up working into the wee hours of the night playing catch up; getting posts up and going through action items that went from important to urgent as well. My sleep was more restless as well, because I’d go to bed with the sense that I was either missing something or was still wound up from getting things done in the later hours.

As I finish this up, everyone is still in bed. It’s quiet. The sun is coming up and hitting the snow-covered ground in such a way that it epitomizes peacefulness. I feel great.

I can’t believe how many of these awesome mornings I’ve missed. I don’t plan on missing any more of them.

1 I’ve also stuck to my workout program so far. I’m already noticing a difference.
2 More of a project than a task, based on my daughter’s finicky palate.
3 This week’s choice: Raisin Bran.
4 Much thanks to Brett Kelly for the recommendation.
.5 I absolutely love OmniFocus. I’ll get into my thoughts on this excellent piece of software further down the road, but in the interim you should look here (and here) for thoughts from other trusted sources. For other measured insights into OmniFocus, check out this article at Practically Efficient. Some alternative food for thought.