There’s a very happy dream I have every so often that seems obvious in its meaning. In this dream I open a door and discover a new room in my house. It’s big and airy, spacious and unused. I wonder how we never noticed it before. I’m going to keep it a secret and in the dream I think about all the possible uses for the new secret room. Freedom! Possibility!
Time is a bit the same way. I dream for extra unclaimed hours. In our heavily scheduled days and planned holidays what’s best is found time. I love time without competing demands. Meetings that get cancelled at the last minute are the very best. Sometimes when I’m triple booked I think I could just claim this time and do none of the things. Working in airports with flight delays can also feel like found time.
This desire for extra hours is part of what makes very early mornings so alluring. It can also feel like found time. You get up while the rest of the world sleeps.
Now to be clear I write this as a morning person. This morning I was up at 530 am and at my desk on campus working by 7. I love the early hours but it’s the very early hours I find alluring.
What’s the appeal? It’s so quiet here on campus, working alone. At home there’s also the benefit of very few other people being up and around. You’ve got a real jump on the day. By comparison in the evening, extra hours can be wasted on television but no one watches television in the morning. What’s my mother’s saying? An hour sleep before midnight is with two afterwards? Also, “nothing good happens after midnight.”
Mornings are also about doing important things. You need a good reason to be up so early. Like writing, or exercise, or meditation.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom”. – Aristotle
Being an early riser is associated with success on all sorts of fronts: career, fitness, writing. Why? It all comes down to the same idea. Good things happen in the morning. In theory you could snack on healthy food and exercise in the evening. But the truth is, very few of us do.
Here’s former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink featured in Business Insider about his 4:30 am workout schedule.
Willink shares an image of his digital wristwatch with his thousands of Twitter followers every morning, and it always reads about 4:30 a.m. It’s a habit he picked up in the SEALs after noticing that the highest performers woke up the earliest.
As a civilian, it can be easy to have your entire day filled, and exercise usually doesn’t get top priority. Willink’s advice is simple: Start going to bed earlier, get your gym clothes ready before you go to sleep, get up while the rest of your coworkers are sleeping, and jump into your gym shorts.
Now I’m no fan of getting up in the dark but the truth is I’m doing that no matter what. It’s not light until 730 am. But what time in the dark? For a few years I got up at 430 to bike to school and be ready on the pool deck for swimming at 6. Other times I got up that early to ride to the start of bike training, also at 6 am.
But without team training commitments, whether swimming or cycling, even CrossFit worked, I’m not sure I’m able to do it. Not 4:30 am anyway.
I might start with 5:30 and see how it goes. Right now my alarm goes off at 6:30. I’ll report back.
You? Are you an early riser and exerciser? How early is early?