The Zero Four Thirty Experiment
So, this summer, I decided to try out a new concept... In my life, I’ve been neither a morning nor a late night person, but rather I seem to be able to adjust to whatever the alarm clock says fairly easily. This is especially true if I wake up with any consistency.
After reading a book called Extreme Ownership and hearing an interview with the author on the Tim Ferriss show, I became convinced I needed to try an early wakeup in order to get some things in my life done. I am happiest when I start my day with a sense of accomplishment and don’t wait until late morning before I get to do any “work”. Traffic and school drop-off circumstances being what they are, I would often find myself not getting to any work or personal productivity before 9:30 or so every morning. Also, hitting the ground running at the whim of two energetic little boys sometimes left me, ahem, a little cranky!
Jocko Willink, the author of Extreme Ownership, usually puts out a tweet every morning about 0430 - it’s usually just a photo of the face of his watch with the time. I would continually see that photo in my twitter feed every morning as I had my coffee and breakfast with my family, and it made me begin to consider whether I, too, could take control of my day, and find a better sense of accomplishment by getting a bit of a jump on my daily work. I also thought that by getting up every day at 4:30, I might be forced to not stay up so late in order to have some “me time”, a habit that was perpetuating a cycle of tiredness and a feeling of not getting to things that are important to me during my day.
I started at the beginning of August, and I honestly thought I would make it about 5 days and quit. The first couple of days were a little hard, but I had an extensive personal project that motivated me, so I was able to keep at it. By the end of the week, shockingly, waking at 0430 felt quite normal, and I was habitually waking slightly before the alarm clock, which is normal for me when my body has a consistent schedule.
The funny thing was, I REALLY liked it. There’s nothing quite as great as a quiet house in the morning. I had time to accomplish a lot of personal work and projects, practice trombone (with a mute!), and just have some focused alone time at the start of my day, which has done wonders for me mentally. Here are some other benefits:
- I don’t feel stressed when it’s 9AM and I haven’t started anything that I need to do for the day
- I’m able to give my children the attention they need from the moment they wake up, and not be cranky and impatient during the early part of our day
- I’ve been able to do all my audio and video editing in the mornings, and spend evening time with my wife
- Trombone practice has been more consistent
- I have broken the cycle of staying up late, in order to have time to myself
- My bedtime has shifted earlier
- I’m no longer tempted to have that 3rd or 4th beer of the night, as I stay up late and get absorbed in working on some project or other. This has been a very important piece of the puzzle for me. It’s easy for me to eat or drink alcohol late in the day in order to “prolong the moment", and sometimes I would find myself with food or drink that I didn’t necessarily want, but was just having because I was up and didn’t want the “me time” to end.
One thing I decided early on was that if I got up at 4:30, and I felt tired as hell, then I would give myself a pass to go right back to bed, with no guilt. That has worked great. I don’t sweat it if I wake up and feel like I just can’t do it that particular day. It gives me some flexibility, and again, no guilt over not “achieving” something. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in always getting things in, whether we are really up for it or not. I think this causes a lot of less-than-quality time spent doing things, whether it’s family time, trombone practice, or working out. Back in my Ironman days, I worked out many times when I should have just taken a nap, or slept in!
So, do me a favor… Do you have any routines, morning or otherwise, that help your productivity and happiness? I’m curious to hear what works for all of you! Leave a comment on the website or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you! Oh, and if you need to get in touch, try me about 4:30 tomorrow morning, I’ll be up. 😃