Why You Should Wake Up Early


Divisive post, I know, especially to a group of people that (probably) mostly consists of night-owls.  Here, I’ll post your reply for you: “Shut up, Dave, I work better at night.  Don’t tell me how to live my life!”

But I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for an extra boost, that surge of productivity that’ll help you get more done than you ever have before, or if you’re finding that your motivation is at an all-time low and are looking for a way to get back on track, or (damn, this is a long list) if you just want to switch things up and feel like you’re seizing every single one of your days again… you should start to wake up earlier.  Set your alarm right now.  I dare you.

So let’s backtrack a little bit (for those of you with kids/families/other obligations please know that I understand you can’t change your entire day to fit your own personal schedule – just do the best you can).  Raise your hand if the skeleton of your day looks roughly like this:

  • Wake Up (6-7am)
  • Day Job
  • Gym/Happy Hour/Family Obligations/Pick Up Kids
  • Make Dinner
  • Try to Write
  • Maybe Watch TV
  • Bed (10-11pm)

Sure, make allowances in the list for special occasions like parties, going to the movies, seeing friends, taking trips/vacations.  Maybe you can switch up two or three of the above.  But I’ll wager that for most of us this is what our day looks like – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Now also raise your hand if you find yourself tired, physically or mentally, by the time you get through your entire work day, after-work-activity, dinner, and then finally sit down to write (or work on whatever your passion project is).

The problem is that most of us don’t account for a few specific types of fatigue that we experience throughout the day: mental, motivational, and decision fatigue.  All three of these types of fatigue are very real, and they occur throughout the day as we exercise these parts of our brain: every time you use mental energy (likely at your job) you have less left in the tank; if you go to work or the gym gung-ho and throw yourself into your activities, you sap your motivation (though it can be replenished); and every decision you make, from choosing your clothes in the morning, to making bold work-related choices, can cause decision fatigue.  That’s why we often find it so hard to sit down and work when we finally have free time late at night. 

I mean, honestly, have you ever gotten yourself a cup of coffee early on a Saturday or Sunday morning (or perhaps on a day off from work), sat down at your workspace, and found that the words just pour out of you like a waterfall after a monsoon?  That’s no fluke.  It happens because you’re fresh, your mind primed, you’re ready to seize the day. 

I could wax poetic about the beauty of working in the morning – indeed, it’s easy to fall in love with golden sunrises, the hush of the city or suburbs before the world wakes up, the inescapable sense that you should be tiptoeing across the floor even if you live alone – but I think we all know where I’m going with this.  Go to sleep earlier, set your alarm, jump in the shower, (dare I say; grab a cup of coffee?) and start achieving the goals you set for yourself. 

Even for you night owls out there, try it once or twice, just to see what it feels like.  If it’s not for you, that’s fine.

To close out this post I wanted to share my favorite part about writing early in the morning: you feel like you’ve accomplished your goal before the day even starts.  Writing early will impact your entire day; it will lift your mood; it will let you focus on the other thousand-and-one tasks that compete for your attention.  And you’re now free to use the rest of the day as you see fit.  Want to write more?  Great.  Want to go out with friends?  Have a blast.  Want to go to Happy Hour?  Crush some beers (that’s what my friends and I call it, because we’re terrible people.  ‘Crushing beers’).  The rest of your day belongs to you.  No guilt.  No sense of leaving something unaccomplished.

So try it, please, even just a few times.  Set your alarm.  Wake up with purpose.

I won’t say it’s easy.  But it’s definitely worth it.

What about you?  Are you an early riser?  A night-owl?  When do you get your work done?  Let me know below!

45 comments on “Why You Should Wake Up Early”

  1. Totally agree with you on this, I’ve always been an early riser. It started when I was a kid who often got up before the moon set to go fishing with my father. It is also a healthy habit — going to bed early and getting plenty of rest. When I’m well-rested, I usually can get more writing and writing-related work done in 4 hours than I can in a whole day when I’ve only had a little sleep.

  2. Great advice and very well said! Mornings here don’t work well (nor any other time of the work/school/work week), so I basically compose when mentally and physically exhausted (it’s a real challenge and sometimes I’m aware that it’s not working at all) — but the weekends do work well. I should take that freshest time to compose.

  3. Good point about being fresh early in the day. Most people don’t realize that they can be mentally tired at the end of the day even if they haven’t done a great deal of physical work. And that impedes doing other things: “I’m too tired.”

    Annoyingly enough, I get floods of ideas just as I’m going to bed, and sometimes just as I’m starting to wake. If I don’t write down the late night before bed stuff, it never quite comes together the next day even if I remember the basic idea I had. The waking up stuff tends to effectively end my sleep period. Mind won’t shut off so I might as well get up.

    But, in general, I’m one of those night owls you mention. What time is it? 10: 30 pm. Well, best start cleaning the bathroom. It’s like a burst of energy at the end of the day. Maybe it’s because I’ve been home from work and other responsibilities for a while and had a chance to rest.

    Still, there is much to be said for those quiet morning hours when few others are stirring, as you so beautifully noted.

    1. I do find myself getting those 10pm bursts of energy pretty often, just like you. For me, though, they’re pretty unreliable – maybe just 2 or 3 times a week. So if I want to be consistent, I have to make time early in the day to work. There is something to be said for both quiet morning hours and the quiet late night hours!

  4. Reading the beginning of this post I was all “Yup. That’s me. Yup. That’s my schedule.” Lol!
    About a month and a half ago I started writing in the morning. I try to write every day, but of course some days it doesn’t happen. I have to agree with you. I feel more accomplished during my other activities if I wrote even a paragraph in the morning. I feel like my mind is full of ideas when I go to bed, but I’m too exhausted to really put them into the right words.
    My day job does not involve writing and it makes me sad that I’m not doing what I really want to be doing full-time. However, writing a bit in the morning makes it more tolerable until I’m able to transition into full-time writer.

    1. Yes! I’m so glad you feel the same way I do. Just doing a tiny bit of work in the morning makes me more satisfied all day, no matter what I’m doing, and it helps stem the flood of guilt I would otherwise feel at not doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing (aka writing). Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I really wish my schedule looked like that, but working shifts, (7am-3pm or 3 pm -11 pm) usually leaves me feeling exhausted and it takes most of my effort to just eat at a similar time every day. Hopefully, I will one day get some consistent hours. That would be the dream.

  6. I’m mixed on this, because I’ve never done well with early morning alarms, but on days when I *happen* to wake up before the sunrise, I’ve really enjoyed it. I like the stillness of the morning and how it looks like a fine grey veil is over everything, gradually gaining color. I know myself well enough to know I couldn’t handle that every day, but like you, I do prefer being creative in the beginning of my day, even if it’s not technically “early.” 🙂

    1. I definitely won’t argue with you there – early morning alarms are the worst. I usually set mine as whatever my favorite song is at the moment, which helps get me out of bed and into a good mood. But whatever works, works!

  7. When I worked a forty-hour week, I tried getting up earlier to write, but because I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I realized I needed to sleep more than I needed to write. Now I write full time and, as you suggest, wake up each morning with purpose.

    1. I’m jealous you can write full time! I try to go to sleep an hour or two earlier when I’m waking up early to offset the difference

  8. I’m up at 4:30 am! Is that early enough for you 😀 ?
    That’s the time of day I’m guaranteed some peace and quiet.
    That’s the time of day I can reach folks I edit for online and chat in real time, instead of waiting for an email to land in my inbox the next morning, since the time difference is generally 5-15 hours between me and those I edit for.
    That’s the time of day I have the most energy. Unfortunately I can’t channel that energy into cleaning house or something since I’m too %^&*() considerate to wake others with the vacuum or other noises so early in the day when they can sleep later *sigh*

    1. 4:30 is definitely early enough for me! I try to shoot for 6:30, so you definitely have me beat. But I agree, I definitely have the most energy in the morning after I take a quick cold (I know, weird) shower. And I’m sure the others in your house appreciate you not vacuuming at 4:30am 🙂

  9. Couldn’t agree more. If I didn’t get up early I would never write anything. It’s the single best choice I make for my writing day by day. I, too, find that the words just start pouring out when I sit down now in a a way they never did when I wrote sporadically and at later parts of the day. Great post!

  10. I liked this line: The problem is that most of us don’t account for a few specific types of fatigue that we experience throughout the day: mental, motivational, and decision fatigue.*** Lot of truth there.

  11. I agree with this post, I typically wake up earlier than anyone else I know. Sometimes I wake up at 3:30 AM to hit the gym and get in a few minutes of writing before my day job. Morning time is when I’m fresh and ready to go!

    1. 3:30am! That has to be the earliest I’ve heard so far. tj6james6 earlier commented that he wakes up at 4:30am. The two of you are putting me to shame

  12. I agree with you. I write best when if I go to sleep at twelve and wake up at six or seven. I am most productive and creative at those hours. Strange because I used to do all my writing in the wee hours (2 am onward). A true night owl. Now I am an early bird like the robin. 🙂

    1. I’m the same – used to be a night owl but switched. Early hours are when I’m the most productive and creative. I’m a baby, though, and need to sleep ~8 hours 🙂

  13. I struggle enough to get up by 7am and out of the house by 7:30am that people telling me to get out of bed /even/ earlier always meets with an incredulous stare. Any tips for dragging myself out of bed? Everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked so far, and I’d like to be an early riser, but…. it’s very difficult.

    1. Sure! There are plenty of things to try. Going to bed earlier is obvious, but little things like making your alarm be your favorite song as opposed to just ringing, taking a shower early, making breakfast the night before and leaving it waiting for you in the fridge, setting an iced coffee next to your bed to drink right when you wake up. Get creative with it! But make sure you get enough sleep – 6am is only a doable wakeup time if you are in bed at 10ish

  14. I only sleep about an hour, maybe two, and I’m certainly in here working by 5.00 am. I tend to sleep intermittently during the evenings, and I listen to radio most of the rest of the night. weird, huh?

    1. Wow, only an hour or two? I definitely couldn’t function. Not sure I’d say weird :), but maybe ‘unique’? How many hours do you usually end up sleeping total throughout the evening?

      1. It depends. If I have something interesting ‘on the go’ I’ll sleep very little during the evening. Otherwise maybe a couple of hours? One thing is certain; I am useless creatively after about 1400. I tend to do my household duties in the afternoon. I should explain I have a back problem. Lying down isn’t comfortable for long.

  15. I get up early, but I don’t tend to produce much I’ll keep until after 5pm. Before then it is ideas and outlines only, if I’m not pissing away my day reading about US and scottish politics! I wish that were not so! (Though I did once crank out a chapter during daylight hours that remains largely unchanged – when on a plane to NJ!) Good luck with your WIP!

  16. Yeah I wish I could but I have insomnia. I used to be able to do this as in adjust My sleeping schedule. I’ll take whatever sleep I can get

  17. Ooh, easier said than done–especially the going-to-bed earlier–but can’t knock it till it’s actually tried.
    Up at 6:40am for an 8am job. Could I back that up just one hour? Not having to dance around the bathroom skedge with my two renters might translate that into even more time…
    FINE. I’ll finally try it. Might hafta inch back the alarm in increments, though. Will let you know.
    PS 25 years after grad school and I still feel like a student. You could live in a worse mindset.

    1. Haha I’m sure the mindset won’t be going away anytime soon. And do let me know how waking up earlier goes! Don’t forget your coffee (I usually motivate myself out of bed by thinking about the food I’m about to eat)

Leave a Reply to dibenami Cancel reply