I’ve always wished I was a morning person—having more awake, alert hours in the day would mean I’d have more time to accomplish things I need to accomplish and enjoy the things I enjoy. By morning person, I mean someone who can set an alarm for any time, no matter how early, and when it goes off be completely awake and ready to start the day. Jeff is like that, and I don’t understand it—if we’re getting up early on a Saturday to go on a hike or go snowboarding, he’s usually out of bed and dressed before I’ve finished rubbing my eyes. But lately, I’ve started to realize that this may not be the definition of a morning person, and that, gasp, I may finally be turning into one!
But first, a look back at how I’ve treated mornings in the past. In middle and high school, my school day started at 7:30, which meant leaving for school around 7:10 or 7:15. I would set my alarm for 6:00, press the snooze, and then my mom would often come upstairs around 6:09 to make sure I was getting up. Then I would proceed to leisurely get ready and sit at the dining room table to eat breakfast before leaving for school. But on the weekends, I was known to frequently sleep until 10:00 or later.
In college, it was a whole different story. I went from allowing myself to slowly get ready to calculating the minimum time I required to get dressed, pack my supplies, and eat a protein bar on the way to my first class. I did have to occasionally force myself to get up before dawn for early morning rowing practices, but those didn’t usually have the energizing effect they should have: I was a zombie during the day and usually required a nap at some point. And I was still sleeping late on the weekends when I could.
Then I entered the real world and began working a full time job. I continued with the system I had in college of giving myself the minimum amount of time I needed to get ready. In this case, that meant rolling out of bed at 7:30 so I would be ready to leave for work around 8:15. But in order to get up at 7:30, I would set my alarm for 7:15 and lie in bed gradually waking up for 15 minutes. And even with this system, I would bring my breakfast to eat when I got to work and wouldn’t be in full attack-the-day mode until 9:20 or so.
And finally we arrive at today. There have been two main factors that have influenced the change in my energy levels and use of time in the mornings these days. One is that Jeff wakes up at 6:45 to get ready for work. His alarm goes off, he gets up and proceeds to get ready. He does so quietly, but the small noises he does make help me wake up gradually, as I liked to do in Hoboken, until I finally get out of bed around 7:10 or 7:15. The other factor is that once I’m awake, I’m in my office. So even though I don’t need to begin working at 7:15 when I wake up, or even at 7:30 when Jeff leaves for work, I feel like I could. While it used to take me a while to mentally arrive at a state of alertness in which I could be productive, I am there almost immediately these days, at an hour at which I was just rolling out of bed for almost 5 years. The other big change is the weekends. If I sleep until 9:00 these days, which is rare, I already feel like I’m missing out on part of the day.
So let’s revisit the definition of a morning person. I used to think it meant someone who could wake up at any time and be immediately ready to start the day. However, since working from home I have tweaked that definition slightly. I think that being a morning person means that you are someone who is able to be productive in the morning, especially at an hour at which productivity may not have been an option in the past. In other words, to put it to my personal experiences, I used to be useless before 9:00am. But these days, I’m already writing, reading, organizing or cooking before 9:00, and occasionally even before 8:00. I’m fully aware that this isn’t particularly early for some people, but it is certainly a change for me, and one that has improved my mood, my work ethic and my productivity throughout the day. Not to mention that when we do wake up extra early for an adventure, I think I can get up and going with the best of them.
I suppose my parting thought is this. If you feel you aren’t getting the most out of your mornings, that doesn’t mean you need to start waking up at 5:00 so you can meditate, go for a run, make yourself an omelet and write 2,000 words of your novel before 9:00am. The change you seek could simply be to determine the time you can wake up at which you’ll quickly be alert and firing, set your alarm for that time and get moving. Because although my definition of a morning person has changed, I still believe strongly that the more time you give yourself in the morning, the better and more productive your day will be.