If you’re trying to start a new business, apply for a new job while you have a job, start a new project, or monitor your social media presence, you might be wondering where you could possibly fit it into your schedule.
In college, I found a correlation between waking up earlier and productivity. I’d wake up at 7am (which in college life is like 4am), head to the dining hall with my laptop, and get a good two hours of work done before the dorm got loud. Then I could spend more of the evenings enjoying time with my friends.
These days, I have to commute to work, which I really don’t enjoy. I still wake up around 7, but I lay there until around 7:45, hoping that if I leave a little later, I’ll miss the worst of rush hour. By the time I get home from work and eat dinner, I’m be so drained that just watch TV. And since much of the weekend is devoted to getting the errands done, this leaves very little time to work on any sort of new company idea.
I have tried for a couple months to wake up early (at 7), but it never really worked out. I was very groggy throughout the day, and it was hard to focus on my work. Then I found Steve Pavlina’s How to Become an Early Riser post and Zen Habits’ 10 Benefits of Rising Early and How to Do It, which helped to shift my strategy.
Bad Sleep Habits
Lying in bed is not sleeping. Before, I would force myself to go to sleep at 10:00 or 10:30 every night, whether I was tired or not. Sometimes I’d waste time laying there for an hour before I could finally fall asleep. Then my alarm would wake me at 7am, and I’d waste time laying there in a half-sleep, and spend the day feeling exhausted. If I was feeling exhausted after nine hours of sleep, something had to be wrong.
Switching to Good Sleep Habits
Now what I’ve been doing is waking at 6am every single day, 7 days a week, without excuse. Without giving myself time to rationalize that I can use some more sleep, I jump out of bed at most a minute after the alarm goes off, and then go to the gym or work on a project. Then at night, I go to bed only when I feel tired enough to fall asleep.
This extends each day about 2 hours, because I’m giving myself more time in the morning, and I’m not wasting time trying to fall asleep when I’m not tired. That’s 14 hours per week. I can now also miss rush hour by leaving for work earlier, and working on personal projects until the time I’d usually arrive at work.
Is Adjusting Really That Easy?
This is only the fifth day I’ve been on this new schedule. Days one and two were actually the easiest. I was excited to add hours to the day, and I had very productive days at the office because I’d already been awake for three hours. Days three and four were a bit harder, since I’m accustomed to sleeping a little later on the weekend.
I’ve noticed I consistently feel drained from around 1pm to 3pm, so I caved and took about a half-hour nap on day three. The key is to keep naps short, otherwise I feel groggy when I wake up.
Although it seems counterintuitive that getting more sleep makes you more tired, I’ve found this to be a consistent pattern throughout my life. I think that my ideal range is 6-7 hours of sleep, but it might be different for you. The key is to try it out for at least 3 weeks. It’s easy to say “I can’t do it,” but once you give it a chance, you’ll see that it’s easier than you think.