Welcome back to LCU, students.
It’s the start of another school year, and the start of something new is a great time to shed bad old habits and develop good new ones.
In this series of posts, I’ll tell you about three small but powerful changes I’ve made to my life recently and encourage you to try them yourself. These are ways I’m trying to use my time well, to be more productive, and spend more time doing things that matter.
Many people try to make big changes like quitting smoking or losing 100 pounds or running a marathon (think New Year’s resolutions). These frequently fail. But small changes are easier to manage and often lead to more lasting results.
The first habit: Get up early
This summer I started working on some writing projects. I also started reading a lot about writing and publishing, and listening to self-publishing podcasts and interviews with authors. I’ve been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast and Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn podcast. I’ve been a reader and fan of Steven Pressfield and his partner Shawn Coyne. I’ve read and listened to interviews with indie author Hugh Howey (and enjoyed his novel Wool).
One habit that many successful creatives share is the practice of starting the day early. Your brain is often at its best first thing in the morning. In my house the small hours are also quieter: the kids begin to get up around 6:30 and then the crazy starts.
So I resolved to get up early to read, pray, and work.
Initially I set my alarm for 5:15. For the first several days I was consistent about getting out of bed.
But there’s another side to getting up early: you have to go to bed early as well. When I went to bed late, it was really hard to get out of bed early–shocker, I know.
Aside: Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance, and he writes about its power–and how to overcome it–in his book The War of Art. It’s short and it’s fantastic. You should read it.
Back to our present subject:
I’d been accustomed to going to bed around midnight, sometimes later. Mostly because I’d work or read in the evenings or, because we have nine kids, sometimes my wife and I just don’t get to bed as early as we’d like.
I started getting up later when I didn’t get to bed before midnight. My 5:15 alarm slid to 5:30. And then maybe I’d snooze for 10 minutes. Or 30. And I’d have to drag myself through the day on as little as five hours of sleep, sometimes less.
But I’m learning to shift my evening work and (bad) sleep habits. I’m also discovering that my body’s clock is resetting itself with my attempts at the new habit. I’m often waking up without an alarm around 5:00. That’s a good thing.
Now that the first week of school is underway (and our nine kids are into their school routines as well), I’m getting into a better rhythm myself. Last night I was in bed before 11:00 and out of bed before 5:15 this morning. I’m still trying to get to the goal of a 10:00 bedtime but, again, the day doesn’t always go as planned. Did I mention I have nine kids?
But I have noticed that the discipline of rising early is paying off. The focused time to read my Bible, to pray, and to work while the house is quiet is paying off. I’m getting centered for the day and I’m getting stuff done.
If you’re not an early riser, why not give it a try? If you live in the dorm, you’ll probably find that you’re one of the few people up early. And that should give you good time to get things done. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Are you an early riser? Why or why not? Would you be willing to try?