Waking Up Early 2.0

A few months ago, I wrote about waking up early. I tracked my progress for almost a month, and most of the days I woke up between 4:45 and 6:00. My "must be up by" time is 7:30a, so waking up more than an hour and a half early counts as a huge win.

From mid-may until June 7, I woke up consistently very early. I had excellent success. The reason, however, was not controlled by me. I woke up early because I went to bed early. My wife teaches kindergarten in Prince George's County, and had two classes of 25 kids. Her assistant principal, who's been doing what he does for about 30 years, told Kristi that her kindergarten class had some of the worst-behaved kids he'd ever seen.

These rough kids (several emotionally disturbed kids, more than a few suspensions for violence, etc.) are why Kristi is teaching where she is teaching, but it is exhausting. This means that my wife would usually go to bed by 10:00 pm. We always go to bed at the same time, so this meant I was going to bed at 10:00. When I'm in bed that early, it is so easy to get up at 5:something.

I've figured out how to not hate getting up early; I actually enjoy it. So now the challenge is getting enough sleep so I can get up early.

Don't wake up early

When I was thinking about waking up early, I lived in a context where the default was going to bed early. Since Kristi's finished teaching for the summer, our schedules (and bedtime) have developed a lot more flexibility. For the last few weeks, my bedtime has drifted towards midnight or later. I would wake up at 7:00 or so, or if I woke up early, I'd be tired throughout the day. Being tired during the day sucks.

I am shifting my attitude from being one who wakes up early (when it's easy) to one who goes to bed early. I love getting up early, but until now, I'd not considered my evening ritual. I just coasted through the day until I decided it was time to start getting ready for bed, which takes an undetermined amount of time.

Going to bed early

My action steps for the next two weeks are pretty easy, and it's pure monitoring. I am not yet trying to change my behavior. I want to set myself up for success (what a trite saying, huh?) but this means having accurate expectations.

Without an accurate understanding of where I am now, my attempt to set correct goals hinges more on luck than good planning. To facilitate this good planning, I'm keeping track of when I go to bed. Self-monitoring generally leads to low-level improvement by itself, so I'm hoping to move in a good direction simply by paying attention to that which I want to change.

Action Steps

I will pay attention to two things every evening.

  • What time I start going to bed.
  • What time I actually lay down in bed.

I am tracking what time I start going to bed so I know how long it takes, for the same reason we all know how much time we need to get ready before we leave in the morning. If you have to leave the house at 8:00, you know your alarm has to go off at 7:15, or something like that.

I'm tracking what time I actually lay down in bed first so I can actually quantify the first metric (If I know I start going to bed at 11:15, and wake up at 6:30, that doesn't really tell me anything) but so I can know how much sleep I'm getting every night, and how I feel in the morning. Different people have different sleep needs, supposedly between seven and eight hours. I would like to better know my own sleep needs.

Your turn

If you're interested in waking up earlier, do this with me. I'll post your results along with mine, and you'll be (mildly) internet famous! You don't actually need to wake up at any different time than you already do, you just need to chart when you start going to bed, and when you actually go to bed. (It takes a sticky note and a pen.)

Leave a comment here, or shoot me an email. You don't have to start today (Monday) just sometime this week.