My day used to begin with chaos. Chasing kids. Grown ups shouting. Kids crying. Looking for things. Rushing breakfast. Dishes left in the sink. Rushing out the door feeling harassed.
My introduction to early mornings was basically insomnia. When I had a lot of work on or things that were stopping me sleeping I started getting up to deal with problems rather than lying in bed worrying about them. First thing in the morning my brain was clear and bright. I could power through work that later in the day would take twice the time. Everything seemed so conquerable in those quiet early mornings.
But I didn't want to get up early just to work more. So I began using this time to do my own yoga practice, meditate, prepare a healthy breakfast - and generally get ready for the day. There was a bit of trial and error. 5am gave me loads of time but I felt tired in the afternoon. 6.30am wasn't early enough to make any kind of difference.
At the moment I'm up most days between 5.30 and 5.45am. Some days I choose to lie in - some days I sleep in. Some nights I sleep badly and don't even consider it. And that's all ok too. Some days I do a power of work before 6am. But most days I do exactly the same thing. I try to make it a routine, the same each day, so I don't have the stress of even simple decisions.
It's not for everyone but if you're interested in getting up a little earlier and seeing what that can bring to your life, here's a wee guide I've put together.
Why get up early?
Calm over chaos
For me the biggest benefit of getting up early is that it enables me to start my day as I mean to go on. I no longer wake up in a rush, running late and frantic. The difference in our house is tangible - there is still chaos, but we are calmer and have time to spare each morning. Before I'd often feel harassed as I started work, still covering from the rush. Now I'm always in early and prepared and calm.
It gives you time. We all run around saying there aren't enough hours in the day .. we'll here's an extra couple for free! This is your time, before the rest of the world awakes. However you choose to spend that time is up to you (some suggestions below).
Move / Exercise
First thing in the morning is a great time to move your body. Move and sweat and shake off that sleepiness. Whether that'a slow burn yoga class or a sweaty 20 mins of HIIT. You could even go for a walk or an organised swim (yes in the dark - taking necessary precautions of course).
Getting exercise in early wakes you up and sets a tone for the day - it also means there is no chance you'll be too tired or busy for it later on!
Meditate / Pray
Whether it's a practice of sitting for 20 minutes every day, time to pray or your own spiritual practice or even just listening to a 5 minute guided meditation, or taking a moment to think about / write down what you're grateful for. How often do we run out of time for this practice later in the day, or feel too tired at night.
When I leave enough time for breakfast I'm more likely to eat well - to take time to include fruit or make food that nourishes me for longer. Sitting down mindfully enjoying this meal starts my day well. When I don't leave time it's a piece of toast on the go.
I try not to get up specifically for work however when I have a lot on I do sometimes sit down to get through it first thing - I find my brain works better and I think clearer without the distractions of the day. I can generally get through work much more efficiently at this time. But I prefer to use it for other things.
Calm and organised day
Time breeds times. I not only have more time for myself to do whatever I choose but I also have time to tidy up after breakfast and make preparations for the day - so when I come back to the house I'm already steps ahead rather than chasing my tail.
Common sticking points or questions
What about the dark winter mornings?
To be honest I actually prefer the dark mornings. There is something truly magical about feeling like you're up before the rest of the world. I love the quietness - it feels almost sacred. On the mornings I go down to the studio I love that moment of stepping out under the dark sky and looking up a the stars and the moon. It's hard to explain but it is beautiful - even when it's cold / rainy / windy. It makes me feel alive!
What about bed time
Ask yourself what you do with your evening time. I found that after 9pm if I was still up I was either: watching TV, playing on my phone or buying random stuff online. I was very rarely doing anything that nourished me. It may have felt like relaxing but actually it was just zoning out. And all those things affected my ability to fall asleep.
Getting up early shouldn't mean getting less sleep - aim for 8 hours a night. So if you're planing on getting up at 6am try to get to bed by half 9 so you can be asleep by 10. Work backwards and create a routine that involves putting away your phone, maybe a warm drink (non caffeinated), a good book or whatever else helps you relax.
What time should you get up?
There is no perfect time - it depends on your life and your schedule. The idea is to get up earlier than you need to.. Work back from what time you need to leave the house / be at your desk. Maybe it's just giving yourself an extra 30 mins, maybe it's an hour, or even 2. Try it out and see what works for you.
How to do it ...My Top Tips!
Set an alarm and when it goes off, jump straight out of bed!
It sounds obvious but getting out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off is the best way to do it. Don't stop, don't snooze, don't give yourself an option or a decision to make - should I /shouldn't I? I could just have another 5 mins. Just do it. It's much much easier when you're out of bed.
Make a plan for what you're going to do and prepare the night before
Doing exercise in the morning? Leave out your workout clothes the night before. Doing yoga - get your mat ready the night before. Journalling - have your notebook out. Know that you have to tip toe around sleeping partners or kids - put your stuff somewhere you can easily get ready.
Cut out the decisions
Try to do the same thing every morning. Every single morning the first thing I do is drink a glass of water. I know what I'm wearing, I know what I'm doing, I know what I'll eat. It makes it so simple and stress free. Have everything ready. The last thing you want is to start thinking - what am I going to do just now and where are my leggings / yoga mat.
Set a night time routine
As important as a morning routine is how you go to bed. Set a bed time and aim for it. Be strict. Get to bed at the time you decide and don't take your phone with you - GET an alarm that isn't your phone so you're not tempted to look at your phone at night.
Is it for you?
That's up to you to decide but try asking yourself - what qualities would you like to invite more of into your morning and, indeed, your day? Would getting up early enable you to do that? Would it support your goals and aims? And if the answer is yes, maybe it's time to give it a go.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - are you a convert? Have you always got up early? Or are you a night owl?
If you'd like to try it this November we are running 30 days of Gratitude - daily 6.30am yoga and meditation classes focussed on gratitude week days throughout November. In studio or online.