I hate mornings…I mean, if the morning was a person and could breathe, I would meet it in a dark alley and punch it in the teeth…twice. I always preferred to stay up late at night because that was when I did my “best work” (whatever that means). I always slept late in the mornings and woke up grumpy. Anybody been there?
Recently I ran across a book that changed how I see mornings. It is called Early to Rise by Andy Traub (you can read my review of the book here). Basically, Traub challenges people to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning, and he gives a lot of great practical action steps to make it happen. If you are a night owl, I understand if you are skeptical. I was skeptical.
You might be tempted to stop reading, but I implore you to hear me out. I always believed staying up late at night and getting up early in the morning did not matter when it comes to productivity and effectiveness…then I read the book and actually started getting up early. It has changed my life.
I believe more than ever getting up early leads to greater productivity and a more meaningful life. Let me share a few reasons why.
1.) Jesus woke up early.
I am not trying to Jesus juke you. The gospel writers mention that Jesus woke up early on more than one occasion (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). It is also amazing how many times the phrase “early in the morning” appears in the Bible. Now you might see Jesus waking up in the morning as insignificant. But I believe the son of God was intentional about everything. I also believe if the Holy Spirit inspired the gospel writers to mention this on more than one occasion, we should take note.
It could be that Jesus was on to something.
2.) There are fewer distractions.
One of the major differences I have seen in my short time waking up early is there are less distractions. I have two young boys, and it is really difficult for me to do anything productive at night. Babies are selfish, needy, and impatient. I love them. I love playing with them. They bring so much joy to my life. But they are exhausting. And once I put them down, I need to spend time with my wife because having two boys does not allow for quality time during the day. By the time I finish this, I am exhausted. And I still need to spend time in the Word and in prayer with God.
Not a good recipe for quality time with God.
3.) You will have more focus and energy.
I used to disagree with this one because I was NOT a morning person. But I realized something about mornings…I allowed them to control me. And when something controls us, we don’t like it. When I slept until 9 or so, someone woke me up or the morning woke me up. Either way, I was grumpy and my family needed my attention immediately. Bad combination.
Waking up early allows me to take control of my mornings. I wake up between 5 and 5:30, and I have time to get my bearings together. I spend time in God’s word. I spend time in prayer. I read a couple of chapters in a book. I workout. I listen to a podcast…all before my kids wake up.
Now I should note…this is not ALWAYS the case. Some mornings my kids wake up at 6:00 and I only get to do half of this. But that is ok. When they wake up, I am prepared to give them my undivided attention. Even though I have never attempted to wake up at 5:00 (or 6 or 7 or 8), I have more focus and energy throughout the day than ever before.
4.) You will be less busy doing stuff that means NOTHING.
If you choose to wake up early, you must cut out some stuff. Waking up earlier means going to bed earlier. Therefore, you must be more efficient with the time you have. You must spend less time watching tv. You must spend less time on social media.
So far this month, I have watched less tv and spent less time on social media than I can ever remember. And amazingly, the world continues to turn. I always thought I could never go without tv. But I was wrong.
It feels good to have a life free from the control of tv and other meaningless things.
5.) You will have more time to pour into others.
Waking up early is about being selfish. That sounds bad, but really it is not. You see, we can not pour into other people unless we first pour into ourselves. Beginning each day by allowing God to fill me (along with being able to do other things that are productive) makes me more effective and able to pour into others. Investing in others is the core of Christian living.
If we do not intentionally create space to refill and renew our own spiritual, physical, and mental tanks, we will never be effective in filling the tanks of others.
A few important points that will guide your time in the mornings:
1.) Stay away from social media and e-mail.
If you are tempted to spend your time on social media or checking e-mails, do not even use an electronic device…mornings are a time for you to improve yourself and social media/e-mails are a hindrance to your improvement, generally speaking).
2.) Have a PLAN.
Do not wake up without a plan. If you do, you will go back to sleep. Have a schedule. Have a plan. Check out this sample schedule for my morning.
5:00 – Wake up and make coffee/breakfast
5:15 – Dwelling in the Word (Daily Bible Reading)
5:45 – Time with God (meditation, prayer)
6:00 – Read a book/blog posts
6:30 – Listen to a podcast or run/workout
7:15 – Time with God (meditation, prayer)
7:30 – Kids Awake
3.) Mornings are YOUR TIME.
Be selfish with this time. You can use the rest of the day to pour into other people, but use this time to fill yourself.
4.) You MUST go to bed earlier.
Waking up at 5:00 or 5:30 or 6:00 is not about getting less sleep…it is about re-orienting your sleep schedule (BTW, try the Sleep Cycle app. It is amazing. It tracks your sleep and wakes you up at the moment when you are sleeping the lightest). Yes, this means you must go to sleep earlier. Do not go to sleep at midnight, wake up at 5, and expect to have a productive day.
5.) This is a CHALLENGE. It is not easy.
There will be many days when you will not want to get up. Remember this is a challenge. Either you can control your morning or your morning can control you. Meet the challenge head on, and decide you are going to win.
6.) NO SNOOZE.
When the alarm starts, do not hit SNOOZE. You will almost always go back to sleep if you do not get out of bed immediately.
7.) Be FLEXIBLE.
Stuff is going to come up. Your kids will wake up early. You will be sick. Some function or event the previous night will force you to be awake later, thus preventing you from waking up earlier. These will be the exception, not the norm. Do not allow a few days of not getting much done to deter you from the big picture. Remember, this is not a legalistic, I am better than you because I get up, challenge. This is a challenge to maximize the life you have.