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.
We can’t pour into others unless we first pour into ourselves. Here’s how.
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/Write
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. If you are doing this, it is likely you will spend the day longing to be back in your twin mattress bed to catch up on the sleep you have lost.
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.
I have honestly been doing this for about a month now. I had no idea there was a book about it. It has changed my spiritual life significantly. Thanks for the blog and info. This is good stuff.
Matt, thanks for the reply man. Awesome to know other people have benefitted from this as well!
Well, this makes two. Perry prays in the early morning as well. Might have to give it a try since there are two strong servants of God doing this. Praying your work in Jackson, TN honors God, miss you bro.
Thanks brother! It’s great to hear from you. I hope everything is going well for you and Crystal!
Came across your blog via Relevant and saw this post. Great challenge. I’ve realized when I have more time to myself before the kids get up, I’m more attentive to them. Love how you explained it as filling ourselves up first so we can pour into others. Thanks again for this!
(BTW are you still waking up at 5, a few months out?)
Debbie, thanks for your comment. I am still waking up early, and I can’t tell you the impact it continues to have on my life! Blessings!
I love this! I just finished my first semester of college, and I must admit that I did not manage my time very efficiently when it came to sleep. But the few times that I did get enough rest at night and got up early the next morning, I remember that the days went a lot better with a much happier attitude. So I am excited to say, that I would love to try this challenge during this upcoming semester. Thank you so much for the inspiration!
Elise, I do believe there is a strong connection between the health of our day and our ability to begin each day focusing on the things that are important. I pray God gives you focus and self-discipline to makes gettimg up early a habit! Blessings!
I agree with you. I did this for a long time. It has been amazing! This last year I was not so good in waking up each day, indeed for longer periods and I do regret it very much! Thanks for your challenge! I was planning to start getting up early again, but now I am definitely taking the challenge! Besides I will make a plan as well! I needed this! God bless you!
Marta, I pray this challenge transforms your new year!
I think I will make this my New Year’s resolution! I’m always flying out the door, whipping by day care, and am exhausted by work time. Then, I get aggravated at myself for waking at the last minute.
Brittany, I will be in prayer for you. I know God will use this time to bless your life!
I have been endeavoring to wake up before the dawn for several years now. I am successful most of the time. The word “early” in the bible almost always refers to the “dawn” of the day. When dark becomes light. Wisdom says that those who seek her at the dawn will find her. YHWH tells us this is the prime time to seek Him as well. And we are encouraged by the writers of scripture to seek Him early(at the dawn). I do not function well if I sleep even as late as 5 or 6 o’clock. Getting up at three or four int he morning is not for everyone. Not practical for everyone. But it works for me and I can tell you I have never been a morning person since childhood. i am now pushing sixty. I know now that rising early really is a design of God for every man and woman. We are the ones who changed times by the creation of the light bulb and the desire for more wealth. It has led us to physical bankruptcy. I encourage you to try this out for a while. Give it a month of two and as Frank has said, don’t give up if it doesn’t work a couple of days or you sleep in a couple of times. Just get back on the track and go for it. I do not get up early on the Sabbath. God created Shabbat for man and I observe it every week without fail. It also has changed my life. Most will argue for their right to wear themselves out all weekend long(weekend is a human invention) doing things they say are necessary. Then wonder why on Yom Sheni(moon-day) it is so hard to get thru. I practice the Shabbat completely, all food is prepared beforehand.and I work on Yom Rishon(sun-day) the first day of the work week according to YHWH. I mean really, FORCE me to take a full day off, to do nothing but seek God, love family, rest and eat well without have to worry about anything that is not an “ox in a ditch” emergency. It’s awful. Not really. It is a delight(Isa 58) Have a great day.
Thanks for the comment and for your insight. I also believe strongly in a regular Sabbath. It is important because it is supposed to be a normal part of our lives, and it is especially important in a busy culture. We must stop and listen to God. It is in the quietness that God often shows himself to us! Blessings!
Jesus was also a jobless hobo wandering the wilderness in no discernible direction. Change your life? No cars, no modern clothes, no owning or renting a house. Quit your paying job and walk across the country while giving others unasked for advice.
Also logic. “I severely changed my life and it was life changing.”
Finally, what if I live in the wrong time zone? Some parts of Europe are 8 hours ahead of where I am in the USA. In order to communicate I need an overlap. 9 pm is 5 there so if I take a job telecommuting, which morning do I use?
Relevant Q I struggle with….how do you not fall back to sleep while reading or meditating?
Mary, make sure you get enough sleep. The days I get plenty of sleep, I do not fall asleep. If this doesn’t work, maybe you should start your day with something active. Workout first. Go for a walk. Hope this helps. Blesings!
I am seriously going to give this a whirl once more. I used to wake up at 5 to go to the gym. I would come home, eat breakfast and get my girls off to school. Right now, our lives are a mess. I barely wake up with enough time to get myself ready for work, let alone to get my youngest ready for school. I go to bed early and I am still always tired (and I am talking, 9 pm early). I neglect time in the Word saying God never replenishes my rest if I’m up a little later reading. I get aggravated and act like a child. I’m moody and depressed, severely depressed. I quit drinking almost (in 2 days) a month ago. It is still a daily struggle and I would rather sleep than face the obsession and compulsion to throw away my sobriety. One question: Did you start with 5 am or did you work yourself back to it?
Jennifer, I can understand many of the struggles you described. To answer your question, I worked myself back. I have learned that I must get sufficient sleep to make this work. So, I started working back from 7:00 a.m., going to bed 30 minutes earlier and getting up 30 minutes earlier (i.e. start at 11:00 p.m. and get up at 7:00 a.m. The next day, go to sleep at 10:30 p.m., and get up at 6:30 a.m., and so on.)
Praise God for being sobering for over a month. I think allowing yourself to take control of your day will give you more strength to remain sober and live with purpose.
One tip: every morning I wake up early, I smirk. Essentially, I am telling the day that I just won and that this day will not control me! Maybe you should do the same. Blessings!
Still rising early a year later?
Alex, a year later, I am still rising early. I have learned to be flexible and not get frustrated with myself when my schedule doesn’t allow me to wake at 5. But even when I can wake up at 6 and begin my day with God, the impact it has on my day can’t be overstated. Thanks for the comment! Blessings!
Love this. Any suggestions on how to make this work for someone that works till midnight? It’s probably not possible, right?
Natalie, depending on your schedule, you might be able to apply the principles. If you do not go to work until later in the day, wake up a couple of hours earlier than you normally would. The idea behind waking up early is that you take control of your day, instead of allowing your day to control you. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to wake up at 5, maybe you could wake up at 7 instead. Just some of my initial thoughts. Thanks for the comment! Blessings!
This has been in my mind a lot lately. However, I have a 5 year old and a 5 mo old. The baby usually wakes at 6am. Which is why I haven’t been able to wake up earlier to be more productive. That means I’d have to wake at 4:30 or 4am which I know will make me miserable. But I just need some time to be with myself, pray, read, and get centered. I never have time during the day for me. Any suggestions on how to do this with a young baby?
Summer, you bring up a great situation. I have two little boys, so I recently went through the “baby waking up during the night” stage. My recommendation to you is to be flexible. Maybe it means some mornings you wake up 30 minutes before your baby and just spend time in meditation or in the Word. Maybe it means you spend time in the night after your child has woken up. Some mornings, you will be too exhausted to do any of these. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but controlling your day is still possible. Just be flexible.
I found this blog to be very informative and inspiring. I am a 20 year old from Alabama who has currently taken a leap of faith and moved to a different state to just simply live a different lifestyle from one I’d lived all my life. Since being here, I’ve made it a personal challenge to better myself in all aspects. Mentally, physically, and spiritually. I’m very much a homebody and could stay indoors all day laying around watching netflix. I stay up late and wake up late. I mostly work afternoon shifts and since I sleep til noon usually, I find little to no time to do things like workout, read, etc. so this blog has inspired me to make it a personal challenge to go to sleep earlier, so I can awake early to fit all the extra stuff in I never have time for. Again, great read. 🙂
Sydney, thanks for the comment. I appreciate your faith and willingness to try something different. I hope your decision to wake up early transforms your life!
Great tips. I’ll research the app and other points in the article. I get up at 430 two days a week for exercise then 545 the other days for two years now. I get more done in those 2-3 hours than I do all day. However, I will say, if your spouse is the opposite it can be tough on a marriage as I go to sleep at 845 and he feels we never have time in the evenings after the kids go to sleep. One pet peeve when I read blogs, several grammatical errors noted. Breathe not breath and used not use in your text.
Nic, thanks for the comment. And the point you make about the spouse is important. It is something couples must work through to ensure the relationship stays strong, but your spouse understands the importance of your time in the morning.
About 8 years ago, God blessed me with a sleep disorder. I seldom sleep past 4am, and often rise at 3am, regardless of when I go to bed. So I’ve been hitting the sack earlier, usually before 9pm so I’m not a zombie all day. When this started it made me mad, but now I love it and thank God for sovereignly intervening in ‘my’ body. I’m up 60-120 minutes before the rest of my family, so I get long, uninterrupted time with my Shepherd, who feeds me from His Word and from the writings of my friends, A.W. Tozer, J.I. Packer, Jerry Bridges, John Piper, and others. Your experiences and reasons are totally consistent with mine. My family benefits from this pattern, because God uses these times alone with Him to make me a better husband and father. And I don’t miss much, because almost nothing of any value happens after 9pm.
Jeff, I love how you said God “blessed” me with a sleep disorder. That is a great perspective. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and affirming the ones I have had. Blessings!
I’ll just wake up for myself and keep everyone else’s imagination out of it.
FRank, I am so glad to meet you. My niece sent me this article. Powerful. And I love how you include your faith so strongly in it. Me too. I’m going to try getting up earlier now. Thanks.
Amy, I hope getting up early has a transformative effect on your life. Thanks for the comment! Blessings!
Interesting, this is a challenge I will attempt to do. BTW: looks we have something in common, I’m member of Church of Christ. God speed.
Thanks for the comment!
Frank, I remember in college I would get my best studying done before 6am. I would go to bed at 8am and wake up at 4am a couple nights before a big test and I would ALWAYS remember things better. Great advice on how this could also be applied to studying the word of God.
I also find it rewarding to start the day focused on me rather than when someone requires me to be awake in order to get to work ‘on time’ .
Tha ks for the advice!
Ana, thanks for the comment. There is some truth to the reality that we are more focused and more alert in the morning. Our willpower is not something we have an endless supply of. Have you ever wondered why most crimes, most arguments with your wife, and everything in between, happen at night, after dark? The same could be applied to studying. When I am preparing for a sermon, I always study in the morning. I reserve afternoons for less important tasks. Blessings!
I agree with almost all of your points but instead of “at 5am” I would say “late at night.” I am more focused at night, there are fewer distractions, and with no chance of my 5 kids waking up early (like what tends to happen when I wake up early) it is *really* my time! I have spent the last year staying up later than I ever had and have had the most amazing times in the Word, and accomplished more than I ever thought I could. Staying up late affords me the freedom that getting up early doesn’t. There is no “deadline.” And that is amazing! I do think there is great value in and starting your day in communion with the Lord. But for me that happens quite a bit after 5 am 🙂
Lauren, I am not dismissing your statement, but I believe there is something special and divine about the morning. Being a Christian, I see it was part of the rhythm of Jesus and others in Scripture. Also, studies prove our willpower is diminished more at night, which makes us less focused. For me, when I struggled with addiction to porn, it was because I did my best work at night and so I always stayed up late to work. But it was also during this time that I was weaker mentally and Satan attacked me. I never once watched it in the morning. Always at night. So, I would give that warning to those who struggle with this issue.
Again, I understand some people focus better at night, but waking up in the morning is more than focusing better or being in a creative state of mind. It is a discipline that allows you to spend focused time with God. Thanks for reading! Blessings!
I believe that things are “posted” in my new feed sometimes for a divine reason. I have recently (8 days ago) started a prayer journal and taking time to read a daily devotional and dwell on it throughout my day. I like the idea of getting up earlier and getting quite time to myself. I am going to try my best to incorporate this into my daily routine. Thank you for this article.
Whitley, thanks for the comment! I hope this transforms your life!
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