A few nights ago, I posted on instagram around 11pm about how I’ve been trying to train myself to be more of an early bird. The idea to write a blog post about waking up early hit me. Right as I was heading to bed for the night. Ironically, this seems to be how my brain works these days. I find these bright shining glimpses of inspiration riiiight before I’m supposed to switch the lights out. And they tend to torment me in those moments. Do I break my own bedtime curfew and summon them into fruition? Or do I set them aside to pursue the next morning? The latter of which often finds me unable to shut my brain off and simply fall asleep regardless.
For several months now I’ve been trying really hard to get to bed earlier each night. With aspirations of waking up early to start my days with certain intentions. So many inspiring successful people swear by the good an extra hour can provide you with in the morning before the rest of the world (or at least your family) wakes for the day. The suggestions are all enticing for sure. Time for some uninterrupted reflection and meditation, a chance to practice some yoga or do your preferred kind of exercise. Maybe read for pleasure, listen to a podcast. Write in your journal, or simply just drink your cup of coffee/tea and embrace the quiet.
In my ideal morning, I would wake up, well-rested, without an alarm.
I would ease out of my bed and into my morning with a bit of gentle stretching. Then head downstairs to open the blinds and start some coffee. I’d sit down on the couch with a cozy blanket to do some sort of inspiring guided meditation. Using the time to practice the art of just BEING in the stillness and quiet. Since we are talking ideal… I’d be really good at staying centered in my meditation and not getting distracted.
Afterwards, I would grab my coffee (or even make a fancy frothy latte) and head to my desk. There I would sit and free write in my journal for at least 15-20 minutes. Once I finish that, I’d pull out my calendar and check in for my day. What’s on the agenda, what pressing to-do’s will I need to tackle, and what will I cook for dinner? This might help me remember to pull the dang meat out of the freezer to defrost before 4pm! Then I would probably head back to the kitchen to take a few final moments to prep the kids morning snacks before going upstairs to greet them for the day.
Ahhhh, it sounds so delightful. And honestly, pretty reasonable! I think I could easily manage to accomplish all of that in an hour and a half. So if I get my kids up at 7:30am, all I need to do is wake by 6am! If I’m determined to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, that means a 10:30pm bedtime curfew for myself.
So why is waking up early so much easier said than done??
Let me get real with you for a minute. This season of my life is pretty hectic. I don’t foresee that changing any time in the near future either. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. Life with toddlers tends to be unavoidable this way. Every waking hour of our household between 7:30am and 7:30pm is mapped out in toddler time. Between diaper changes (for the youngest), potty training (for our oldest), consistent hanger-management (i.e. snacks and snacks and meals, and more snacks), nap times, bathtimes, bedtimes… every transition is contingent on another. And well, we’ve all heard the expression “the days are long…” and it’s so so true. Please don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for all of it. The good, the bad, the haggard. Just don’t be fooled – easy is not a word in my vocabulary these days.
I’ve been really pondering this early to bed, early to rise proverb lately. Healthy, wealthy, and wise? Gosh, sign me up for that! So why does it always feel SO DAMN HARD?
When my alarm goes off at 6am and I find myself prying my eyelids open with a bitter resentful determination. My brain is sluggish. The only thing I feel keenly aware of is the alluring comfort of my pillow. The coziness of the piles of blankets tucked snug around me. When I go to stretch, every joint in my body screams in painful resistance. I stagger downstairs (usually closer to 6:30 by now), drunk with exhaustion. Yank open the blinds to greet the utter darkness of another winter morning. Thank goodness for coffee. That part never fails to highlight the dawn.
As the morning spreads before me, finally ripening with possibility – the limit to my freedom becomes alarmingly present.
The clock ticks steadily closer to 7:30am when I know their OK-to-wake light will switch to green and the automated sounds of birds will start chirping. The irony of those “early” birds is not lost on me. It’s important to mention here that my children are also tiny psychics. Lest you have believed they normally stay asleep until 7:30am, let me clarify. Those little hangry monsters KNOW when I’ve actually gotten up with my alarm. It’s like they can sense it. And their morning mission in life is to get my attention.
Usually that starts with them chucking books out of their beds. Then it escalates to a total Where the Wild Things Are type of rumpus. Over the past year I have experimented with different ways to buy myself a little more time in the mornings. Whether I want it for me-time or simply to just sleep in on occasion. Sometimes, after they fall asleep at night, I leave small toys for them to wake up and play with. Recently I’ve been leaving a basket of books beside their beds for them to read (sometimes even with a flashlight so they can read in the dark and not wake each other up if it happens to be that early). These things do work for a small smidgeon of time.
But if they suspect that I am up and they are not – behold the cacophony.
Shouting matches across the bedroom. Full volume duet renditions of LET IT GO or I LIKE TO MOVE IT MOVE IT. Banging things against the walls or against their crib railings. Slamming the blinds. And finally, hollering for me to come and get them “MAMA!! MAAAA-MA!” I swear, they have a sixth-mama-sense. Oh, and did I mention their bedroom is above my office? It’s no wonder time feels limited in the mornings.
But the sweet sweet hours of an evening seem to stretch endlessly ahead of me come 8pm when those endearing crazy little kids of mine are finally asleep in their beds. Granted, I still have the trivial tasks like cleaning up from dinner. And tidying up the miscellany of toys/books/random crap that have been left lying all over (despite by better efforts to have them help clean up before bed!). There are always loads of laundry to finish up, the dishwasher to load/run. Emails to check and texts to respond to. But something else magical happens in those twilight hours for me. Ahhh, the quiet.
In this calm after the storm of the day, the freedom of those hours feels limitless.
At night, time passes more fluidly for me. I know if I can get the boys to bed on time, and IF I get straight to work, I can have a solid few hours of creativity in front of me to really be productive. Obviously this is only relevant to specific nights. Ones I’m not spending time with my husband, participating in my virtual book club, or decompressing by binge-watching Netflix. Or nights that I/we have other plans to get out of the house for the evening.
One problem I have with the evening hours is that I’ve never been one who can just sit down and reign in my creativity in an instance. In this regard, I feel that the flow of having a few hours (say, in an evening) is a lot more conducive for me getting things done creatively than one fixed hour or so (in the morning). It always takes me a while to get in the groove. And so once I finally do, it’s incredibly hard to pull the plug. Sometimes I’ve just hit my stride as 10:30pm rolls in, and then I hate to stop! The other night I started writing an essay around 8:30pm. By 10:30pm it was in full swing so I negotiated with myself… what’s another 30 minutes?
By 12am I had finally finished and in bed. But the thrill and buzz of such productivity, such clarity, such vision kept me awake another good 30 minutes at least!
Another very true thing about those evening hours, is that by the end of the day, I am always mentally exhausted. My headspace reserve is completely depleted. And while I can usually find my creative groove on nights I seek to do so, it takes me an incredibly longer time to get there. Whereas in the mornings, I find myself more alert, clear-headed, and refreshed. My mind less preoccupied with all of the things I haven’t accomplished that need to be done. The to-dos left unchecked, and burdens of the day. So productivity is all relative when I look at things that way.
All of that being said, I know this much to be true:
- I have to prioritize SLEEP over creativity. For fundamental reasons – mainly because my brain simply does not function well without it.
- I’d like to prioritize my creativity over Netflix. Though I do love a good series (and it’s the BEST way I find I can mindlessly decompress).
- And I certainly prefer catching the proverbial worm over burning the midnight oil.
I know that I need to continue to craft my experience. For now I plan to keep dragging myself out of bed at 6am. And aiming for a 10:30pm bedtime curfew at night. It has never hurt me to practice better habits. If I can create more fluid rituals for myself at both ends of the day, perhaps I will find the balance in both!
I’d love to hear more about your morning/evening rituals. How do you feel about waking up and going to bed early? Is it something you have tried or wanted to try for yourself? Or if you have already found the keys to success in these things – please share your tips and encouragement below!!