I’m All For Early Morning Productivity — But Not at the Expense of Your Sleep
I’ve now been a paying subscriber to Medium for about four months, and a writer in the Partner Program for about two. Within that short time I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve seen about establishing an early morning routine to be more productive on your creative projects.
It seems to be one of the most popular subjects going around right now — not just on Medium but on YouTube as well (my other major social platform).
Maybe it has a lot to do with the people and publications I choose to follow, but there’s definitely an overall surge in interest in this specific productivity-boosting early morning schedule.
I think it can be a great plan, but I have an important caveat.
You can not sacrifice your sleep for an early start time.
If you’re going to wake up at 4, 5, or 6 a.m. in the morning, you have to make sure you’re going to sleep eight hours before that wake up time: so either 8, 9, or 10 p.m.
If that’s too early of a bedtime for you, then you have to push your wake up time back to compensate. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Not only is a lack of sleep extremely detrimental to your health, but it will also negatively affect your productivity over time, which completely defeats the purpose of getting up early in the first place.
For all of our knowledge about the importance of good nutrition, exercise and even meditation or mindfulness practices, the power of sleep was, and in many ways still is a mystery to us.
But there has been some amazing research done in the last several years about the power of sleep on our mental, physical, and emotional health.
One of the best books I’ve come across on the subject is Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.
This book is a little heavy on the science (for this English major, anyway) but the big takeaway I found is that sleep is absolutely essential to your health, in so many more ways than we realize. It’s the time our brains use to sort and process everything we took in the day before, regenerate our cells, even stabilize our emotions.
“There does not seem to be one major organ within the body, or process within the brain, that isn’t optimally enhanced by sleep (and detrimentally impaired when we don’t get enough).” — Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep.
All this is to say that if you wake up early to be productive and yet the rest of your day you are fighting to maintain your energy and focus, then you need to shift your priority to getting enough quality sleep every night.
It’s not sustainable to deny your body one of its basic needs for survival so that you can achieve a short-term goal (i.e. more productivity); you have to think about the bigger picture of your life and your health.
Take it from the chronically ill girl still trying to repair her sleep after a disastrous period of long-term steroid use and years of accumulated toxicity: Make quality sleep your priority.
If you do that and put the right organizational systems in place, you may just find that you’re naturally more productive without having to get up early at all.
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Make this the year you start new habits and stick with them.