Written By: Jon Finkel
STEALING TIME IS AMAZING
My brother Craig used this phrase and I like it so I’ll use it too. I used to get up between 6:00 and 6:30am or earlier depending on when my kids came in to wake me up. I was always up late writing and I never knew how much sleep I’d get. It was REM roulette. It was grueling.
Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t set an alarm since my now 5-year old was born. And I just let the mornings become a rushed, annoyed shit storm of trying to get myself and the kids and the dog ready for the day. Like I said, I let it happen. I’m responsible. I thought that was how it had to be.
Holy crap was I wrong. Getting up at 5:30am has completely changed my mindset and reversed my thinking entirely. I have taken control. I have physically stolen time back from the day, which has led to…
STARTING THE DAY ON OFFENSE
As I mentioned above, for years I was starting my day on defense, on other people’s terms (my kids). My wife goes to work about 6:15am most days, so I’ve been solo with the kids in the morning their whole lives and I always felt like I was way behind from the second I opened my eyes. There was just so much that had to be done. I won’t go into my stacked list of “stuff that has to get done” before I go to work because it’s irrelevant to you. Needless to say, it’s long and it’s all small stuff and little 1-3 minute things like making breakfast and getting the kids’ school stuff ready and feeding the dog and packing a gym bag and on and on… You have your list. I have mine. Our lists in the morning become our lives. Sad but true.
YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF ONE BIG THING BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE IS UP
That one big thing for me is my workout. I don’t know where I fall on the meathead scale, but I’m definitely on it; probably on the higher side, to be honest. I like lifting. I like sweating it out. I like pushing myself. For me, it helps off-set all of the time I spend at my keyboard. I find writing so much easier when I’ve already beaten the hell out of my body physically for an hour or so.
In fact, the impetus for my starting to get up early was my workouts. I spent a long time trying to squeeze them in at lunch but after always cutting workouts short for an unscheduled meeting or getting distracted with an unexpected text or e-mail, or flat out not getting to go because work had to get done, I knew something had to change. I was also burning about 15-20 minutes every day packing my gym bag, showering at the gym and getting dressed for a second time. This also forced me to rush eating lunch, to rush my shower, to rush everything. It just wasn’t the time to myself and the break from work/kids/life that I needed.
Oh, man. Where do I start? I’ve been steadily putting together the essentials for a home gym. I’m up by 5:30am and exercising by about 5:45am. I’m sweating by 6am and done by 6:45am after a full hour of exercise with few interruptions (if one of the kids gets up early and I’m still working out, I buy some time with my favorite TV doctor…Doc McStuffins). But most days, I have plenty of time and I even hit some extra exercises because I can. It’s unreal. I am actually giddy when my alarm goes off.
For those of us who work full-time, have side projects and have little kids and a wife we want to spend time with, time to yourself is just about the most valuable commodity there is. And by getting up an hour plus earlier I gave myself the biggest gift ever: time.
THE RIPPLE EFFECT
As I said, I used to be woken up at 6:30am or so by a 3 or 4 year old or both. Now they’re sauntering out of bed and most days I’m washing down a post-workout shake while actually relaxing. Yeah, RELAXING IN THE MORNING!
My mornings used to be the dead opposite of relaxing. It was nonstop until we left the house. It was a negative way to start the day. I wish I thought of getting up earlier well…earlier. Like years earlier.
Now I sit down and have breakfast with the kids, rather than packing lunches and backpacks and trying to pack a gym bag and remember a towel for swim lessons and… Man, the old routine already makes me tired. On a side note, we pack all their shit the night before so it’s no longer a morning thing – yeah, should have done that earlier too….
But now??? We hang out at breakfast. We eat. We talk. We sing goofy songs. We color. I have plenty of time to clean up and we’re out the door, on time for preschool every single day – not sprinting out 25-30 minutes late and no longer tired from being tired.
I get home after dropping them off and I have time to walk the dog. Like a real, nice walk. I get fresh air. I think about the day or nothing at all. The dog’s lost 3 pounds since I’ve started this. He looks great.
I shower without rushing. I get dressed. No more gym bag to pack. No more slight twinge of concern if I’ll even have time to exercise later.
I then sit down and jot some notes in my notebook. Random ideas. Things I want to get done. Notes on new projects. Reminders… Just clearing my head… Then I take care of necessary e-mails or work stuff. And I’ll write a quick blog post like this one. Whatever is on my mind or needs to get done.
Then I go to work. I’m in the office by 9:30am.
I now do more before I get into work than I did on most days by dinner.
It is an unbelievable, freeing feeling. Oh, and….
I ACTUALLY SLEEP MORE
Because I now have time to get writing and e-mails and some work done in the morning, I only stay up late to write actual projects and books that I’m working on. No more busy work that just needs to be checked off the list.
Also, because I get up so early, I’m not only exhausted by 10pm, but my mind is clearer because I got so much more done… And I know I’ll be up early the next day to do the same.
Amazingly, shockingly, and to my complete and total surprise, I sleep MORE now than I did before getting up at 5:30am. I used to fight to stay up to get stuff done until midnight or 12:30am. Then be up around 6:30 or 7. That’s at most 6 and 1/2 hours of sleep if you’re keeping score.
Now, most nights I’m done by 10:00pm. And I even go to bed at 9:30pm sometimes if there’s no game or show on I feel like watching. And I feel great. Basically I’m getting 7 to 7 1/2 to even 8 strong hours of sleep a night.
I saved this one for last because it’s kind of sappy but it’s true: seeing the sunrise every day does something amazing for your soul.
I’m sure philosophers and/or psychologists have an evolutionary or psychological reason for this, but the fact is, being up when the sun rises feels good. Feels like you’re a little more connected to the universe. I find myself taking pictures of it. Wanting to talk about it. Wanting to let other people know how great it is…which I guess is what I’m doing now.
Did you like this article? Sign up for my profiles and monthly round-up: http://bit.ly/21juoUt
Jon Finkel is the author of Forces of Character with 3x Super Bowl Champion and Fighter Pilot, Chad Hennings, Heart Over Height with 3x NBA Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson, as well as Jocks In Chief, The Dadvantage – Stay in Shape on No Sleep with No Time and No Equipment, and all twelve volumes in the Greatest Stars of the NBA book series for the National Basketball Association, which won several ALA Young Reader Awards.
As a feature writer, he has written for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, GQ, Details, The New York Times, AskMen.com, ComedyCentral.com, Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame.com and many more. His work received a notable mention in the 2015 Best American Sports Writing anthology. He has appeared on CBS: This Morning promoting his books.