It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.
Are morning people born or made? In my case it was definitely made. In my early 20s, I rarely went to bed before midnight, and I’d almost always sleep in late. I usually didn’t start hitting my stride each day until late afternoon.
But after a while I couldn’t ignore the high correlation between success and rising early, even in my own life. On those rare occasions where I did get up early, I noticed that my productivity was almost always higher, not just in the morning but all throughout the day. And I also noticed a significant feeling of well-being. So being the proactive goal-achiever I was, I set out to become a habitual early riser. I promptly set my alarm clock for 5AM…
… and the next morning, I got up just before noon.Advertising
I tried again many more times, each time not getting very far with it. I figured I must have been born without the early riser gene. Whenever my alarm went off, my first thought was always to stop that blasted noise and go back to sleep. I tabled this habit for a number of years, but eventually I came across some sleep research that showed me that I was going about this problem the wrong way. Once I applied those ideas, I was able to become an early riser consistently.
It’s hard to become an early riser using the wrong strategy. But with the right strategy, it’s relatively easy.
The most common wrong strategy is this: You assume that if you’re going to get up earlier, you’d better go to bed earlier.
So you figure out how much sleep you’re getting now, and then just shift everything back a few hours. If you now sleep from midnight to 8am, you figure you’ll go to bed at 10pm and get up at 6am instead. Sounds very reasonable, but it will usually fail.Advertising
It seems there are two main schools of thought about sleep patterns. One is that you should go to bed and get up at the same times every day. It’s like having an alarm clock on both ends — you try to sleep the same hours each night. This seems practical for living in modern society. We need predictability in our schedules. And we need to ensure adequate rest.
The second school says you should listen to your body’s needs and go to bed when you’re tired and get up when you naturally wake up.
This approach is rooted in biology. Our bodies should know how much rest we need, so we should listen to them.
Through trial and error, I found out for myself that both of these schools are suboptimal sleep patterns. Both of them are wrong if you care about productivity. Here’s why:
If you sleep set hours, you’ll sometimes go to bed when you aren’t sleepy enough. If it’s taking you more than five minutes to fall asleep each night, you aren’t sleepy enough. You’re wasting time lying in bed awake and not being asleep. Another problem is that you’re assuming you need the same number of hours of sleep every night, which is a false assumption. Your sleep needs vary from day to day.Advertising
If you sleep based on what your body tells you, you’ll probably be sleeping more than you need — in many cases a lot more, like 10-15 hours more per week (the equivalent of a full waking day). A lot of people who sleep this way get 8+ hours of sleep per night, which is usually too much. Also, your mornings may be less predictable if you’re getting up at different times. And because our natural rhythms are sometimes out of tune with the 24-hour clock, you may find that your sleep times begin to drift.
The optimal solution for me has been to combine both approaches.
It’s very simple, and many early risers do this without even thinking about it, but it was a mental breakthrough for me nonetheless. The solution was to go to bed when I’m sleepy (and only when I’m sleepy) and get up with an alarm clock at a fixed time (7 days per week). So I always get up at the same time (in my case 5am), but I go to bed at different times every night.
I go to bed when I’m too sleepy to stay up. My sleepiness test is that if I couldn’t read a book for more than a page or two without drifting off, I’m ready for bed. Most of the time when I go to bed, I’m asleep within three minutes. I lie down, get comfortable, and immediately I’m drifting off. Sometimes I go to bed at 9:30pm; other times I stay up until midnight. Most of the time I go to bed between 10-11pm. If I’m not sleepy, I stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Reading is an excellent activity to do during this time, since it becomes obvious when I’m too sleepy to read.
When my alarm goes off every morning, I turn it off, stretch for a couple seconds, and sit up. I don’t think about it. I’ve learned that the longer it takes me to get up, the more likely I am to try to sleep in. So I don’t allow myself to have conversations in my head about the benefits of sleeping in once the alarm goes off. Even if I want to sleep in, I always get up right away.Advertising
After a few days of using this approach, I found that my sleep patterns settled into a natural rhythm. If I got too little sleep one night, I’d automatically be sleepier earlier and get more sleep the next night. And if I had lots of energy and wasn’t tired, I’d sleep less. My body learned when to knock me out because it knew I would always get up at the same time and that my wake-up time wasn’t negotiable.
A side effect was that on average, I slept about 90 minutes less per night, but I actually felt more well-rested. I was sleeping almost the entire time I was in bed.
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.
So if you want to become an early riser (or just exert more control over your sleep patterns), then try this: Go to bed only when you’re too sleepy to stay up, and get up at a fixed time every morning.
How to Become an Early Riser | Steve Pavlina
Last Updated on November 19, 2019
20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity
Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?
If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:
1. Create a Daily Plan
Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.
2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task
Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.
3. Use a Calendar
Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.
I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .
Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space
4. Use an Organizer
An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.
These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.
5. Know Your Deadlines
When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.
But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.
6. Learn to Say “No”
Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.
Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No
7. Target to Be Early
When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.
For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.
Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.
8. Time Box Your Activities
This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.
You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.
9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You
Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.
10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before
Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.
You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)
Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.
Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.
Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)
12. Block out Distractions
What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?
I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.
When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.
Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done
13. Track Your Time Spent
When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.
You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.
14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details
You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.
Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.
Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster
If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.
When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)
17. Batch Similar Tasks Together
For related work, batch them together.
For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:
- writing (articles, my upcoming book)
- workshop development
- business development
I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.
18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters
What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.
One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.
While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.
19. Cut off When You Need To
The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.
Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.
20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between
Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.
More Time Management Techniques
- 10 Practical Ways to Improve Your Time Management Skills
- 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity
- How to Be Productive at Work: 9 Ground Rules
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com