Experiment Recap: Waking Up at 4 am
This morning was my 7th day in a row of waking up at 4:30 am. The following are the lessons learned during this experiment:
1. I get more work done waking up at 4:30 am.
The number of waking hours I have during the day does not change depending on the time I wake up, however, my attitude and habits do. Regardless of the time I wake up, I shoot for 7 to 8 hours of sleep, which means I will go to sleep at a time that will give me these hours. During this experiment, I wrote somewhere that it wasn't the feeling of waking up before most people that motivated me, but I think I was wrong. I do get some motivation seeing that not even the sun is up. In my mind, a little voice comes up that says, "get to work...they're all asleep right now."I enjoy doing things differently than others. The feeling of being one of the few to do something has driven me my whole life and is evident in the choice I've made. When I wake up after the sun, I know that most people are already up as well. My capabilities remain the same but my psyche is completely different. Most of the battle is in our mind and waking up before the sun comes up makes the battle much easier for me to win.
2. The first three days are the hardest.
It was painful to wake up the first three days as my body adapted from being used to waking up after 9 am. It wasn't until the morning of day 3, when my mind finally felt refreshed after waking up. To help my body adapt, I forced myself not to take a nap during the 2nd day, and to continue to do my regular exercise routine (2, 10-minute workouts). I reduced the amount of blue light the hour before sleep by using my Hooga reading light. I also made sure to take a hot shower before sleep and to read a book while in bed to relax my mind. Be warned, using a reading light as your only light source for a hot shower will make you feel like the killer from Psyco is going to open the curtain at any moment.
3. Waking up at this time made it easier to build new habits.
My only habit at 4:30 am before this experiment was sleep. This created the opportunity for me to build new habits during this new period of my day. I know my mind will build habits regardless, so I might as well choose which ones it builds. I chose the following habits:
10 bodyweight squats,
Make egg breakfast in microwave
Eat breakfast (sometimes listening to an audiobook)
Brew Yerba Matte tea
Sit down to write one shitty page (while playing music)
Go outside to look at the sunrise
Write blog post
I began to do all these the first morning, which made it easier to do them the next day, and then the next. It is important to note two things.
First is that I made sure that each of these habits was enjoyable, and tweaked them along the way to generate maximum enjoyment. For example, I cook my eggs in the microwave because I don't want to spend the time it takes to cook and clean with a pan. However, cooking them all the way through in one microwave session made for disgustingly dry eggs. To fix this I microwave the eggs in short periods: 60 sec, 30 sec, 15 sec, and 15 sec. My goal was to have a variation of Chef Ramsay's delicious Perfect scrambled eggs. By making this change I successfully made my breakfasts much more enjoyable each morning. Enjoyability = Sustainability.
Second, is that the end of one activity is the start of the next. This is what James Clear calls habit stacking in his book Atomic Habits. Making a habit start right after one ends, keeps the momentum of my morning going. Once I stop this momentum I create another obstacle for myself because my monkey mind would rather do nothing.
The seven-day experiment has now come to an end and I can go back to waking up at a reasonable time. Unfortunately for me, I rather be an unreasonable man. Coming into this experiment I expected myself to hate my mornings by the end day 7, but the opposite was true. I've grown to look forward to these early hours of solitude, mainly due to the writing that I get done. Removing all expectations of what the result will be of that day's writing, has led to insights and ideas that seem to appear out of nowhere. Although it is too soon for me to be able to properly convey the value that these insights bring with them, I can say that they bring the sense that I am onto something that will lead to big rewards. In my mind, it makes sense to continue to wake up at 4:30 am for the foreseeable future.