Can waking up earlier really change your life?

As a parent of young kids, it can be hard to pursue hobbies (reading, writing, exercise). Aimee Foster knew that waking up earlier would free up some time so decided, albeit reluctantly, to give it a try. She was surprised by what happened…

I recently read an inspiring article on The Early Hour about how successful people wake up early. Apparently, a little time in the morning to exercise, work or just prepare for the day can significantly increase your motivation and energy levels as well as giving you a head start with your tasks as the day unfolds. Early risers apparently relish in the calm and solitude of their mornings before the day ramps up and everybody wants a piece of them.

Despite liking the idea of this, I filed it into the ‘when the kids are older’ pile. My son wakes up at 6am every day and my daughter not long after. So for, waking up earlier to have some precious ‘me’ time would mean waking up at 5am, right?

I dismissed the idea pretty quickly.

But I just kept seeing articles advocating the benefits of rising early and I felt drawn to it. I am naturally a morning person; most of my energy, enthusiasm and motivation are present in the mornings. I would wake up and have a list of things I wanted to accomplish when the kids were in bed (bake a cake, go for a swim, spend some time writing etc). As the day progressed, all my enthusiasm for evening activities had been slowly ebbed away by the demands of childcare and my freelance work (which I slot into my son’s nap time).

By the time evening arrived, I just flumped on the sofa mindlessly staring at the TV. Sometimes I attempted to write (my favourite pastime) but became flustered and annoyed because the day had stolen all of my energy and motivation.

It seems so unfair that a parent’s only ‘me time’ is in the evening when we’re exhausted from the demands of the day. Wouldn’t it be better if the day was flipped upside-down and child-free time occurred in the morning when we are at our brightest?

Waking up earlier: time to give it a try

I knew that something had to change. Writing is my passion and I was becoming resentful of the lack of time I had to pursue it. I revisited the idea of waking up before the rest of the house. Maybe it was worth a try. I bit the bullet and began waking up at 5am. If it works for Michelle Obama then it could work for me.

In order to make this work, I decided to set a few of rules. Firstly, the night before my 5am starts, I go to bed stupidly early. I normally crawl under the covers at about 8pm. The result of going to bed so early and rising at 5am is that I’m actually sleeping more than I would normally.

And secondly, I resolved to not give this my usual ‘all or nothing’ approach (which usually sees my pursuits starting off well and then quickly suffer from burn out). I wasn’t going to wake early every single morning. I don’t think my husband would be overly impressed if I was in bed at 8pm every day. He works shifts, which involves three nights per week and so I reserve my early nights and mornings for those times. This means I can strike a well needed balance and on the evenings I stay up later, I get up later the next day (only a parent of small children could call waking up at 6am a ‘late start’ but there you have it).

My third rule was that my early morning starts would not include any of the practises I usually lose large chunks of time to. No social media and no responding to emails. This is my time to do what I love and need to do. It’s the only time I find for writing and I need to make it count.

After a few weeks of this new practise, I noticed:

  • An increased feeling of fulfilment – I am finally making time to write at a time when I felt energised, motivated and inspired. Simply put, this makes me happy.
  • Increased energy – Three early nights per week have positively impacted on my energy levels. I no longer start sliding down the slippery slope of exhaustion and crankiness at 3pm every day.
  • The benefits of solitude – I’m a bit of an introvert and the solitude encased in my early mornings is good for my soul.
  • Increased motivation – I seem to have got my mojo back when it comes to all other aspects of my life. I was waning slightly before I started this practise, surely it can’t be a coincidence?

I also discovered that an hour is just not long enough! If I woke at 4am would that be verging on the ridiculous? I settled at amending my wake up time to 4.45am because I was typically wasting 15 minutes of writing time turning the computer on and going to make a cup of coffee. This seems to work really well, although the time still whizzes past in a blissful flash.

I’m now left wondering why I didn’t start early rising years ago. It has truly revolutionised my life, given me time to write in peace when my motivation levels are at their highest and is something I look forward to.

If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be looking forward to waking up at 4.45am I would have laughed at you. But that’s what parenting does – it changes you beyond all recognition. I’m amazed at all the benefits early rising has brought to my life. Why don’t you give it a go?

What do you think about waking up earlier each morning to pursue hobbies – good idea, or a waste of precious sleep time? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below…

Photo credit: Coffeexplosion by Minusminus, 5s – Day 126 by Lisa Congdon, sunrise from Designspiration