How to wake up early: the 7 pros and 2 cons of embracing the morning

What’s your time of the day to do deep work?
When you’ve got that laser focus to get in the zone and get lots of things done?

I love mornings. But ever since I wrote my post about using the morning to invest in yourself, I got a few questions and requests to expand on the topic of why and how to wake up early.
As a morning advocate, my routine is far from perfect: my days start with a short journaling session, a 20 minute meditation, then a workout at the gym, and some reading time. But by the time I am actually doing creative work it’s some time around 8:30-9am, and my morning advantage is gone.

Still, having time in the morning allows me to stay healthy, learn new skills, use positive habits to have a great start of the day, and hone my laser focus for the next many hours.

wake-up-early-get-laser-focusMy laser focus.

Can anyone become a morning person?

Short answer: yes.
Long answer: yes.

When it comes to becoming a morning person, this is the classic excuse I hear:
learn to wake up early*Cringes*

My friend M is totally right: he will never become a morning person. Not until he starts to believe it’s possible anyway.
But what my friend M doesn’t know, is that I wasn’t always a morning person either.
Nowadays, I’m so used to mornings that if I want to catch up on sleep I have to use the “reverse sleep in” technique. That is, go to bed early.

But until a few years ago, I used to be a hardcore night owl.

Yes, there I said it, time to fess up Matt.
I used to waste lots of time during the day, until I realised the sun had gone down and I’d better get some stuff done. A race against time would start, and I’d guilt-trip myself into working hard for a few hours, and then go to bed -exhausted- at 3am.
This got me through university with excellent grades. The problem was: all my day was gone. I had no time to do anything else.

So yes, anyone can become a morning person.

Yes, anyone can become a morning person. Click To Tweet

But…

Should you become a morning person?

Being a morning person has many advantages, so I decided to research and list all of them, with a couple of downsides associated to being an early bird. Is it worth it? You decide.

  1. Keep the best for yourself: when you wake up early, you can use the best part of the day to invest in yourself. Whether it’s training, reading, learning, writing, working on your side business, the morning is the best time to do it.
    You still have all the energy of the day, no one is awake to interrupt you, and it’s easiest time of the day to stick to positive habits.
  2. Less prone to bad habits: night owls often get a bad rap for being less healthy. Although research is inconclusive on this (probably some fellow early risers spreading hate), night owls tend to be partial to bad habits. A study conducted on a large Finnish cohort of twins found that evening types are much more likely to be smokers, and much less likely to stop smoking over their lifetime. A similar study showed that owls consume more alcohol that larks.
    I’m sure this extends to other habits: how much easier is it to give in to late night eating?
    As we move through the day, decision fatigue erodes our willpower, and it becomes more and more difficult to say no to temptations or make strong decisions. It’s why Obama has only two suit colours to choose from.
  3. Better sleep quality: your slumber is made of a series of alternating 90-minute cycles during which the brain moves from light sleep to deep sleep. Though the 90-minute cycle only has minor fluctuations throughout the night, the ratio between light and deep sleep changes. Deep, non-REM, sleep tends to be more prominent in the early part of the night, no matter your bedtime. If you’re going to bed particularly late (in the am) you are missing out on the deepest, and most restorative part of your sleep.
  4. Better structure to stick to habits: waking up in the morning requires discipline, but it’s also a habit in itself. It will train you to stick to other habits.
    The morning is also when your willpower is stronger: research from Columbia University has shown that willpower is like a muscle. Every time you make a decision is like doing another rep on that willpower muscle: it gets tired.
    After a few decisions, your muscle will be too tired to make another one.
    If you want to stick to positive habits, the morning is the best time to do it.
  5. Happier: a study from Germany’s Aachen University showed that night owls tend to have reduced white matter in the brain. This fatty tissue facilitates communication amongst nerve cells, and its diminished integrity has been linked to depression and a disruption in cognitive functions.
    Early birds’ brains are better wired for happiness and learning.
    But do not despair: the brain is a very adaptable organ, so by changing your personal time zone, you will exercise your nervous tissues and help your brain find new pathways.
  6. More productive, less procrastination: when I was a night owl, I had the whole day in front of me. The whole night if I needed to. So what’s the rush? Everything would take me ages.
    But when you’re working early in the morning, you only have a limited amount of time before your daily commitments kick in.
    This keeps you focused and makes you more effective: you’ll be able to do three times as much if you have a looming deadline waiting for you.
  7. Some research associates early birds with higher earnings. I found these studies interesting but inconclusive: a lot of variables seemed to play a role, like geography, education, and the kind of work performed. However, a recent study from San Diego University clearly shows a correlation between sleep and earnings: one extra hour of sleep increases income by 4.5%.
    So remember: although being an early birds get better sleep, do not sacrifice your sleep time in order to wake up earlier: change your bedtime accordingly.
Early mornings change your brain and make you happier, healthier, and more productive. Click To Tweet

 

And now for the cons of waking up in the morning.

  1. Depending on your lifestyle and friends, where you live in the world, and how early you wake up, it might be a bit anti social to be an early bird.
    It’s totally up to you to set your mourning routine for success: be realistic and ready to find a compromise, and be open about your routine. Tell your friends: you can send them this post, and maybe they’ll become early birds too. Win, win, win.
  2. It encourages discipline, but like any positive change, it also takes discipline. I won’t lie to you: becoming an early bird isn’t a walk in the park. But it’s a change that will ripple positive effects towards so many areas of your life: once you start seeing the benefits, you will be motivated to stick to it, until it will become totally natural.

So, how to become a morning person?

Being an early riser gives you an unfair advantage.
You will sleep better quality sleep, be healthier, it will be easier to stick to positive change, you’ll have the best part of the day to yourself, and it’ll be chemically easier for you to be happier.

If you want to become a morning person, sign up to receive the Goal Setting Handbook, and you will also be able to download a free checklist full of principles and hacks to help you start the change. Just click here:

Download your free copy

What would you use your extra morning time for?
Send me an email and let me know, so I can better help you with my future posts.

Catch you in the morning,

— Matt

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