Ways to Rise Early and Do More of What You Want
The only way I have had time to self-publish two books is by waking up early. Nobody was awake to need me, and even if I wanted to send emails and make appointments, businesses weren't open yet and it was too early to text anyone (without rudely waking them) anyways. My brain was functioning at max capacity and I had a laser-like focus because there were little distractions. Because once the kids are up, it’s all over.
There are plenty of examples of power people who rise early, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Michelle Gass, a successful Starbucks innovator who wakes every day at 5am with her jogging shoes because she says, "morning runs clear my mind."
Women who wake earlier are less likely to develop depression, and early risers are generally more proactive, which correlates to better job performance and higher wages. And for moms, it means less impatience, yelling, and more peace within the home, which has far reaching implications outside the home.
I wouldn't say I was a morning person until I started getting up early and having time to do what I wanted to do. And usually I don’t know what I want to do until I meet with my Creator.
If I had a meeting with the Queen of England at 6am everyday, I would darn sure make it on time. So why is it any different with the King of the Universe? Not that our meeting has to be in the morning, but mornings for me are when I can meet with God one-on-one. And the morning includes the first fruits of my day. It’s when He tells me I’m loved, gives me guidance, and strengthens me with His Word. This meeting doesn’t just mean sitting on the floor criss-cross applesauce with my eyes closed. Sometimes it means sitting beside Him and asking Him what He wants me to write, or going on a walk outside as I listen to the Bible on audio, or dancing to some music.
Ease Into It
When I realized I needed to move some things around in my schedule to make room for these morning meetings, waking up at 5am sounded too difficult. I eased myself into the habit by setting my alarm 15 minutes earlier each day. My internal clock adjusted accordingly, and I started going to sleep earlier (and making kids’ bedtimes earlier), wasting less time doing things like eating after junk food after dinner and scrolling on my phone.
But please, don't hear me saying that I think everyone should get up early. According to the book The Power of When, there are four different chronotypes. Once you figure out which one you are (there’s more than just a morning bird or a night owl), you can plan your day accordingly. The gist of the book is to pay attention to your energy levels: when do you feel most productive? When do you feel tired? Those are the window to pay attention to, whether you need to do your important tasks when the energy is high or workout when the energy is lowest.
And for all the parents out there: grace, grace, grace. I still wake up at least once a night with my baby girl, and sometimes I choose sleep over getting up early. Because if I don’t sleep, I can’t think straight, no matter how much coffee or exercise I get! But I still really crave at least 20 minutes of alone time in the mornings and work hard to make that happen.
If you're feeling like you need to get filled up before you pour out your time, talents, and energy for the day, begin with rest the day before:
Start with rest. Jesus rose on the first day of the week, making it a day of rest for us. We start the week with rest in the Lord, knowing that we can do nothing good apart from His work on the cross. Prioritizing rest is not easy, but it is necessary for success. Rest up for the week ahead by resting the first day of the week. Rest up for the day ahead by resting the night before. Choosing rest at night can be a sacrificial act of choosing to read a book over watching a show, or choosing to journal instead of browse Amazon. These screen-saver switches yield wonders of rest for your body (and maybe dollars for your PayPal account)! Other sleep hygeine practices include using lavender for bottoms of feet, taking a warm bath or shower, quitting caffeine early in the day, and refraining from sweets and alcohol a few hours before bed.
Set yourself up for success. Do the tedious things the night before instead of leaving them for the morning, like picking out your clothes for work / exercise, packing lunches, even preparing breakfast (like my favorite blueberry oatmeal bake). Clean the kitchen, pack the lunches, do whatever helps you set up for the next day where you can focus on your priority tasks in the morning and not be distracted by urgent housekeeping needs.
Wake up for joy. What makes you come alive? Do it first thing. This is your act of living worship. The demands of the day often crowd out our dreams and desires, but when nobody is awake with the dawn to need anything from you, you’re free to pursue what sets your heart on fire. Then your light will burn bright for the whole day! For me, that means a 20 minute exercise routine, prayer journaling, a bit of writing and making a big breakfast. These are a few of my favorite things (*use broadway voice here*).
Next comes the hard part: waking up! Even if you have a strong joy-filled motivator, your body can be a strong protestor. Help it wake up with these strategies:
Wake up your eyes. Turn on a light! If you share a bed with someone, turn on a dim lamp, tap light, a watch with a light-up face, or as a last resort, your phone. I say as a "last resort" because it’s tempting to have the phone beside you before bed and not scroll at night, keeping you awake. But if you do, consider turning of the WiFi and Bluetooth to limit EMF exposure. And you could open the phone simply to see the time and that could be enough to wake you up. Some apps like First 5 open the phone directly to that app so you don’t get distracted by other apps before spending time with the Lord. You could also have the Bible app open and ready to go, or have a gratitude or prayer journal at your bedside with a reading light attached to it.
Wake up your skin.Wash your face, girl. When you get up to use the bathroom and wash your hands, splash your face with cold water! While you do so, you can imagine washing off the past day’s mistakes and starting new with the Lord. His mercies are new EVERY morning.
Wake up your insides. Drink a glass of water. Water helps move things along in your digestive tract, transports nutrients throughout the body, removes waste, keeps joints lubricated, protects spinal cord and nourishes the nervous system, etc. A good practice to rehydrate is to drink one glass of water before drinking any coffee. We all wake up a bit dehydrated from a night of fasting, and this is the best way to get all the wheels going!
Wake up your feet. While you pour your coffee, tea, or water, walk across an uneven surface like an acupressure mat. I have this one in front of our kitchen sink area. You could even have a tray of river rocks to add some interesting texture to the bottoms of your feet for a more natural stimulus.
Wake up your spirit. While you drink your water, tune in to your spirit. You could do this by praising the Lord for three things. I like to start the day by journaling the first half of the Lord’s prayer, going line-by-line. I end my prayer time with “Give us Lord our daily bread” with petitions for myself and others in my life, followed up by a portion of a verse I can chew on for the day. It only takes about five minutes, but I feel so much more connected to the Lord and ready for the day.
Wake up your metabolism. Moving the body jumpstarts all systems. It kickstarts the heart, lungs, and gets the blood flowing (including bringing oxygen to the brain), which helps get the creativity going too. Barack Obama shared with WebMD, “The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time.” Have a plan to do a 10-20 minute exercise session so you don't have to think about it in the morning. It could be a walk outside, or a simple interval workout with alternating 1 minutes of cardio with 1 minute of strength.
If you're new to rising early, be patient and persistent. Your circadian rhythm will naturally integrate with the new schedule with time.
When in doubt, get yourself a baby or a dog. They always make you wake up early. :)
Do you like waking up early?
What is something you would like to do if you had more time?
What are your tips for getting yourself out of bed?