Why I started waking up early and why you should too

I wake up early every single day. You should too.

I wake up most days at 6am. Some people are stunned by this. Some people are not. I’d like to say there’s a clear correlation between the people who are stunned and those who aren’t, with the people who are not stunned being the driven, calm, mindful people. That isn’t quite the case, and I’ve been pretty surprised myself at who also wakes up very early to get things done. Either way, it’s something I really recommend. I started waking up at 6am, even on weekends, a few months ago. It has honestly changed my life.

I wake up, meditate, exercise, and get some work done before most people have even woken up. It’s all related to establishing routine: it’s difficult to form positive habits when your sleep is all messed up and you wake up at different times every day. I’ve written before about how important it is to be mindful every single day and how to do it, and waking up early and at the same time every day has been a huge factor in establishing that routine and gaining the habit of being mindful each day.

When I did some of my university exams, I was still in the habit of waking up at pretty random times. I’d go to bed at 5am and wake up at 2pm, and then sometimes I’d try and reset my internal clock by doing an all-nighter filled with work and then going to bed at 8pm the next day. Did it work? Not really. Was it healthy? Certainly not. If I could go back in time to myself then I would just scream: “Start going to bed at a sensible hour! Wake up early enough to actually be productive, don’t just bank on doing ridiculous, caffeine-fuelled all-nighters!”

Old me would have been aghast at the prospect of waking up at 6am every day. New me is aghast that I’ve ever woken up at 2pm in my life. The difference is, well, night and day. I feel healthier, I get more work done, I’m able to establish a genuinely beneficial routine. It’s also worth noting that I don’t have a 9 to 5 job that requires me to wake up early, I haven’t been forced into this through coercion, I’ve chosen to do it. I could still be waking up in the afternoon, and I could still be an unproductive mess.

I really, really recommend waking up early. If you’re not sure how, I’ve written an article that includes a great tip on how to wake up early. You can find it here. But this article is about why I wake up so early, and the reason is pretty simple. I wake up early because it makes me feel better. It makes me happier. It makes me more productive. When you establish a routine of waking up at 6am, you get things done. You read more. You write more. You’re more creative. It might sound slightly ridiculous to claim that waking up early will provide all of these benefits, but it’s the truth. To say that waking up early hasn’t changed my life immensely, and exclusively for the better, for the sake of seeming truthful, would be a lie. So this is me being honest: waking up early will change your life. Try it for just a week and if you don’t see any benefits (you will), comment here telling me how wrong I am.

How I improved my sleep and became more productive

Sleep is so important for improving productivity

I know it has been said in every lifestyle blog from here to Alpha Centauri, but sleep is so, so important for productivity. Getting 8 hours each night boosts your productivity just as much as your daily meditation schedule or completely optimising Microsoft OneNote or getting the best tablet on the market and the best productivity apps to go with it. A friend of mine who is familiar with the latest studies recently told me an incredible fact: for every hour of sleep you miss, your workday will be roughly 15% less productive. Fifteen percent! That is the kind of loss that most of us simply cannot afford to take.

So, there are several ways I’ve improved my sleep schedule, made sure I get the right amount of sleep, and made sure that waking up in the morning is pleasant and that I feel refreshed.

Practicing meditation before going to sleep.

This is such a big one. Practicing meditation every day just makes your sleep higher quality and ensures that you’re fresh and productive the next day. Even just ten minutes before you rest is great for improving the quality of your sleep. There are a number of apps and websites that include specific meditations to improve your rest quality and make falling asleep easier through mindfulness.

Sleep Oils

This is the kind of thing I’ve always been sceptical of. Sleep oils always seemed suspiciously too close to snake oil to be worth pursuing. That changed after a close friend of mine said they’d changed his life totally. I bought one on Amazon and it really did make a big difference: I felt much more rested the next day and also felt like I got much more work done. Now I’m a sleep oil user every night, too.

Stretching before sleep

This seems counterintuitive. Exercise, before sleep? Well, a lot of stretches really do relax your body and make it easier for your mind to shut down when your head hits the pillow. Using this list of stretches before I went to sleep increased the quality of my rest, as well as being healthy generally and improving my flexibility.

A Wake-Up Light

This is the big one for me. I got a Phillips wake-up light about six months ago and it has absolutely changed my life. Instead of waking up feeling groggy and lethargic, I now feel fresh. This was a huge upgrade from the sleep cycle alarm app I’d downloaded a few months earlier (which is still great, if you can’t afford the wake-up light).  The light gradually wakes you up over the course of a half hour so it feels like you’re being eased into waking up rather than an abrupt jolt awake. If I had to give one recommendation as to how to improve your sleep (or, in this case, your wake up) so that you’re more productive the next day, this is it.