This morning I got up at 5am.
…and I liked it.
It was cold and dark but there’s a kind of magic to feeling like you’re the only person awake in the world. Plus, once you’ve turned on the central heating and made yourself a cup of tea, pretty much anything is bearable.
But why am I getting up so early? And why do I keep doing it?
The reason behind all of this craziness is simple: I have so many plans and ideas and things I want to do and I never do them. I spend all day at work thinking of the blog posts I’m going to write or the photos I’m going to edit or the work I’m going to do on my latest sewing project.
Then I get home at night and I’m too tired to bother with any of it.
Half-way through the year, I got sick of it.
“If I can’t do it after work, then why don’t I try before work instead?” I asked a couple of disinterested cats, who, in all likelihood, approved of my coming home and heading straight for my chair as it gave them something warm to sleep on.
So I set my alarm for 5:00am instead of 5:30am to see what I could do with an extra half hour each morning. (It’s actually a bit more than half an hour because while my alarm was set for 5:30am, I never got up until I’d tapped snooze at least twice.)
I’m still not sure why I started doing this in the middle of Winter, but I guess it was a good way to test my commitment. If I could drag myself out of bed at stupid o’ clock on a cold Winter’s morning, then I should be fine when the days are longer and warmer!
Is it working? Well. So far, I have finished sewing a dress, edited a batch of 105 photos in Lightroom, and published my first blog post in a while.
On my third morning, I wondered if I should try getting up at 4:30am instead.
It’s addictive! I look forward to getting out of bed at too-early o’ clock because I know I’m going to achieve something; I’m going to make progress on those goals and dreams that get me through the working day.
Are you thinking of trying it yourself yet? Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve discovered so far.
I’m more focussed
I thought I’d be wrung out and tired by the end of the working day but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Somehow, I’m less prone to distractions and I simply get on with my work. I even think I’m less bothered by the idiots you encounter on the road during every peak hour trip.
There’s probably some serious psychological explanation for all of this; all I know is that it’s easier to stay on track after an early-morning session of Doing Stuff.
It makes me happier somehow
When I set my alarm for 5:00am for the first time, I honestly didn’t think I’d even get out of bed. I certainly didn’t think I’d feel so irritatingly good about it all. At best, I thought it might go like this:
- Snooze alarm for several times.
- Wake up at 5:20am
- Edit a couple of photos
- Wish I was still in bed
- Re-consider the whole plan
Instead, it went like this:
- Get out of bed at 5:05am (much to the kitten’s delight)
- Make a cup of tea (and give the kitten an early breakfast)
- Import a batch of photos into Lightroom (with the assistance of a kitten on my desk)
- Create new preset for said photos
- Edit about half a dozen photos
- Reluctantly call an end to the session at 5:45am
And far from wanting to cancel the plan, I tweeted about how stupidly good I was feeling while contemplating what I’d work on during the next morning’s session.
5am & I was crawling out of bed towards tea & my laptop. I'm making time to work on those projects I want to do but I'm too tired to focus on after work. I now feel so chipper about my early morning achievements that I could probably irritate people at fifty paces.
— Katie Gatward, Writer of Words (@KTwritesstuff) June 17, 2019
The only worry has been what I’m going to do when I run out of my current projects. Luckily, I’ve since acquired a whole new batch of projects such as more photos that need to be edited, a brand new sewing project, a commitment to keep this blog updated and a possibly ambitious plan to complete another roadtrip photobook before my next adventure with the Failboats in September.
It’s not as hard as I thought it would be
It’s much easier to get up when the early morning alarm is for you instead of work. In fact, I keep looking forward to getting up early (and that’s not a phrase I ever thought I’d utter). I’m not saying I spring out of bed (probably unwise, given I’m more likely to land on a cat than the floor), but I haven’t once snoozed my 5:00am alarm. I even got up a little before the alarm one morning.
That’s how keen I am now.
It brings unexpected practical benefits
Is there anything better than stepping out of the shower on a chilly Winter’s morning and reaching for a toasty warm towel? Because that’s what I get to do now. As soon as I wake up, I turn the central heating on as I’m usually doing things in several rooms. While I’m busily working away on achieving my goals and feeling smug, the central heating is also doing its thing for the towels in our airing cupboard, getting them all warm and dry, ready for me when I step out of my shower around 6am.
Are you tempted now, with all of this talk of warm towels and getting stuff done? The best bit is it’s easier than you might think to get up a little earlier!
Here’s how I get stuff done in the crazy hours of the morning
How do you get started on this whole early-rising business? Here are some tips I’ve picked up in the time I’ve been doing it.
1. A little goes a long way
I was already getting up at 5:30am for work, so changing that to 5:00am wasn’t too much of a shock to the system. If you currently get up at 7:00am or 8:00am, don’t switch straight to 5:00am! Try going backwards in half-hour increments until you’re happy with your new rising time.
2. Plan for success
When I set my alarm back to 5:00am, I had projects in mind; this meant I could focus my attention on editing photos or pinning up a dress seam. Make sure you set yourself a goal for your early-morning time so you can get straight to the task at hand instead of spending valuable time wondering what to do. Start with something you really want to do but you’ve been putting off for lack of time. The more excited you are about your task, the easier it will be to spring out of bed at stupid o’ clock in the morning!
3. Stick to your time limits
Once you work out the times that work best for you, make sure you keep an eye on the clock and pack up when your time’s up. It can be difficult to do this when you’re really getting into your project, but it will leave you something to look forward to the next day. If you keep running out of time, consider pushing your waking time back another half hour. (4:30am, here I come!)
4. Get plenty of sleep
The point of this exercise is to find time for yourself, not to tire yourself out! If you’re getting up at 6am, try and be in bed by around 10pm the night before.
5. Mark the difference between your time and work time
I like to get up, put on some warmer clothes (and the heater), then head straight for a cup of tea and my laptop. For me, the shower marks the start of getting ready for work, so I save it for when I’ve finished my new morning routine. This means that the forty-five minutes I have to myself genuinely feels like my time. My work morning only begins once I’ve stepped out of the shower.
Are you an early riser?
Have you ever been tempted to try a similar technique? Do you already carve out time for yourself in the morning? Share your thoughts in the comments below – I’d love to have a chat with some fellow early birds!