How to become an Early Riser a la Steve Pavlina
January 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
Several years ago I read an blog post written by personal development frontiersman Steve Pavlina. Apparently it has proved to be one of his most popular posts. Its subject? Simple: How to get out of bed when your alarm goes off.
As we’ve mentioned several times in previous posts, if you are a Spartan, you control your habits, not the other way around. (How to know if your habits are controlling you? Ask yourself the question: Would I choose x? For example, Would I choose to press snooze every morning and sleep 45 minutes later than I want to, so that my morning routine is rushed? Would I choose to work out only twice a week? Would I choose to hunt around my kitchen for sweets every night after dinner?) If you ask yourself these questions and the answer is No to one or more, congratulate yourself. You have identified the habits that you want to change.
If you are a Spartan, physical exercise is critical to your daily routine. Maintaining your form and physical strength are not optional. One of the most important steps on the journey to becoming a Spartan is for you to decide how much exercise you need, what form you want it to take, and to set aside a certain time every day to do it. It could be ten minutes a day, if that’s all you have time for. That’s better than nothing. Or thirty minutes, 5 days a week. Maybe you need an hour every day. The number is different for everyone.
Getting up early is a way to insure that you get this exercise into your day. Whether or not you do the exercise as soon as you get up, you will add invaluable extra time into your schedule. Below are a few highlights from the three posts that Pavlina has published on the subject.
1. How to get up right away when your alarm goes off: Practice it!
Go to your bedroom, and set the room conditions to match your desired wake-up time as best you can. Darken the room, or practice in the evening just after sunset so it’s already dark. If you sleep in pajamas, put on your pajamas. If you brush your teeth before bed, then brush your teeth. If you take off your glasses or contacts when you sleep, then take those off too.
Set your alarm for a few minutes ahead. Lie down in bed just like you would if you were sleeping, and close your eyes. Get into your favorite sleep position. Imagine it’s early in the morning… a few minutes before your desired wake-up time. Pretend you’re actually asleep. Visualize a dream location, or just zone out as best you can.
Now when your alarm goes off, turn it off as fast as you can. Then take a deep breath to fully inflate your lungs, and stretch your limbs out in all directions for a couple seconds… like you’re stretching during a yawn. Then sit up, plant your feet on the floor, and stand up. Smile a big smile. Then proceed to do the very next action you’d like to do upon waking. For me it’s getting dressed.
Now shake yourself off, restore the pre-waking conditions, return to bed, reset your alarm, and repeat. Do this over and over and over until it becomes so automatic that you run through the whole ritual without thinking about it. If you have to subvocalize any of the steps (i.e. if you hear a mental voice coaching you on what to do), you’re not there yet.
I read that most insomniacs are people who go to bed when they aren’t sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy and find yourself unable to fall asleep quickly, get up and stay awake for a while. Resist sleep until your body begins to release the hormones that rob you of consciousness. If you simply go to bed when you’re sleepy and then get up at a fixed time, you’ll cure your insomnia. The first night you’ll stay up late, but you’ll fall asleep right away. You may be tired that first day from getting up too early and getting only a few hours of sleep the whole night, but you’ll slog through the day and will want to go to bed earlier that second night. After a few days, you’ll settle into a pattern of going to bed at roughly the same time and falling asleep right away.
Why get up early?
I’d say the main reason is that you’ll have a lot more time to do things that are more interesting than sleeping.
Again, I’ve gained about 10-15 hours per week doing this. That extra time is very noticeable. By 6:30am, I’ve already exercised, showered, had breakfast, and I’m at my desk ready to go to work. I can put in a lot of hours each day of productive work, and I’m usually done with work by 5:00 pm (and that includes personal “work” like email, paying bills, picking up my daughter from preschool, etc). This gives me 5-6 hours of discretionary time every evening for family, leisure activities, Toastmasters, reading, journaling, etc. And best of all, I still have energy during this time. Having time for everything that’s important to me makes me feel very balanced, relaxed, and optimistic.
Think about what you could do with that extra time. Even an extra 30 minutes per day is enough to exercise daily, read a book or two each month, maintain a blog, meditate daily, cook healthy food, learn a musical instrument, etc. A small amount of extra time each day adds up to significant amounts over the course of a year. 30 minutes a day is 182.5 hours in a year. That’s more than a month of working full-time (40 hours per week). Double it if you save 60 minutes a day, and triple it if you save 90 minutes a day. For me the savings was about 90 minutes/day. That’s like getting a free bonus year every decade. I’m using this time to do things that I previously didn’t have the time and energy to do. It’s wonderful.
If you are reading this right after it was published, looks like you are already there! You are using your Saturday mornings to make yourself a better Spartan, not to luxuriate in unnecessary extra sleep.