Early to bed and early to rise…

Hi RIP friends,

Let’s steal half of the famous Benjamin Franklin’s quote for today’s post.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
(Benjamin Franklin)

The second half is reserved for for Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans book review, which will take some time.

Tim, seriously, 700 pages??

Ok, straight to the point. After so many signals on books (like the above mentioned ToT), videos, blog posts – check out this amazing post by ESIMoney – I decided to give it a try: I’m waking up earlier than usual since Tuesday January 10th, weekends included.

 

Why?

No, it’s not a procrastinated “new year resolution that won’t make it to February“. I’ve always told myself the following story: “I’m not a morning person, I like to stay up till 12am, 1am, 2am“. I was convinced by that. But that’s just a story that you can and should change. I was not fully satisfied with going to bed so late, spending too much time in front of a computer after 10pm and always feeling I was missing quality time with just myself.

So I tried it. I challenged the status quo and started experimenting something new. Let’s see what happens, I started without a plan. The goal is to install a new good habit.

 

How earlier?

I used to wake up at 8.30am. I know, it sounds ridiculous. Shame on me! I moved the alarm clock at 7 and after few days moved again to 6.30. Next goal is to reach at least 6am, planned to happen on Monday January 23rd, but I’m secretly aiming to 5am. 5am gives me roughly 3 hours of morning time. Plenty of time!

Wait… what? They say the magic hour is 4am? Ok, one step at a time…

 

How did I do?

One of the biggest challenge of every time I try to install a new habit is the beginning. The first step. Not the biggest challenge though, that one is consistency, i.e. not giving up after a while. But still the first step is a major blocker.

To help making the first small step a giant leap for myself (in your face, Neil Armstrong!) there are two ingredients that I discovered they work well for me:

  • Strong Motivation, backed by concrete goals (desire to reach something) and some form of discomfort in current settings (desire to leave something).
  • A Brain Blocker, a way to stop thinking and put myself in autopilot. I discovered that my mind is my worst enemy in such situations. Should I go to the swimming pool? Mmh… why? It’s cold outside… I don’t know… maybe I can do something else instead. No. Stop thinking. Just do it. Yeah, I know these words look cliché (and a company logo) but it’s how it works for me! Wanna jump from a 10 meters high springboard? Let’s see… ouch, it’s so high… let me think… I may get hurt… and so I spent five minutes staring at the pool’s water, among preteens laughing at me… Then I blocked my brain, assessed that there were no risks, and then I just jumped.

My bed is the springboard. When I tried this in the past, the brain blocked me from actually leaving the bed. Snooze the alarm, just stay another 5 minutes in the warmth of my blankets, silence the alarm, goodbye! I had to silence my brain instead and just go out of my bed as soon as the alarm rings.

Then I discovered that this is an actual technique, known as the Heroic Minute:

The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up!
(Saint Josemaria Escriva )

Well, I transformed it into the Heroic Five Seconds. A minute would be too long 🙂

I discovered there’s a whole community behind this idea, both on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t, but feel free to join the #HeroicMinuteChallenge if it helps you staying committed.

I never risked going back to bed once awaken but it seems to be an issue with someone. To avoid this you can get dressed soon (you’re less likely to undress to go back to bed), light all the lights in the room (your brain will adapt to the new normal), move to another room (get far from the bed), drink a big glass of cold water, do some stretching exercise, wash your face with cold water, do some awakening meditation or quickly go for a walk.

Going for a walk excites me enough, but given my current balcony view and the fact that current forecast’s maximum temperature for the upcoming week is -5 I’d rather skip it for now.

Waking up early is amazing, but every rose has its thorn: I have to go to bed early too. That’s the hardest challenge now. I used to go to bed late, very late. I don’t remember when it was last time I went to sleep before midnight. Usually spending a lot of time in front of a computer or my smartphone, rarely reading a book. It’s still time with myself since Miss RIP goes to bed earlier than me, but it’s not quality time. I’m tired, I’m low in energy level and most of the activities I’d like to do in the morning simply can’t be done at night.

In previous attempts to move my wake up window a couple of hours earlier I tried (and failed) to work on my bedtime. Intentionally trying to go to sleep earlier. Failed. Even if I tried to turn off lights and pretend to be ready to sleep I’d stay awake forever.

This time I forced myself to not care about bedtime and just force wake up time and see what happens. It happened that the first night I slept something like 5 hours instead of my usual 7. I was not very fresh that Tuesday at work!

Coincidentally we – the RIPs – had a very intense social second week of January: Wednesday to Sunday evening all booked with my Theater rehearsals on Wed, dinners at friends’ houses on Thu and Fri, a surprise party on Sat and a boardgame evening on Sun. Going to bed early is going to be a tough challenge. I may need to give up something I’m not sure I’m actually ok with.

Anyway, so far it’s working fine. I left earlier than usual evening events and set a hard rule of no digital after 10pm. Wasting my attention on videogames, mails, facebook and whatever else late in the evening makes sleeping harder. I can tolerate watching a movie though. Let’s rephrase the rule in “no digital device closer than a meter to my eyes after 10pm“.

On Monday January 16th, after a week of experiment and with less social events in sight, I moved my alarm to 6.30am and conquered the last (for now) 30 minutes of territory.

 

What does it feel like?

So far so good: I’ve finally found the time I was missing in my life. Time for my projects, time for myself!

Not enough, though (yet). Waking up at 6.30 gives me roughly 90 minutes of peace before the world (Miss Rip) wakes up and destroys the atmosphere. I guess there would be even less time available with kids around. I’m joking, though. Before this experiment I used to keep sleeping for another 30 minutes after Miss RIP’s alarm clock rang. Never been there to kiss her or hug her when she awakens. Now I hear her alarm from the other room, acknowledge my time is over, and run to her to wake her up with hugs and kisses. It’s amazing how this simple small practice boosts her happiness (and mine too).

Anyway, 90 minutes of myself every morning is an amazing gift. I actually crave for it when going to sleep! This, combined with The Fridays, gives me plenty of time to enjoy life in my way.

After the mentioned long social weekend was gone I was finally able to go to bed very early for my standards. On Monday I fell asleep at 9.30pm! I hope I won’t feel guilty with Miss RIP and friends for trading my evening social time with my egoistic morning time.

 

What do I do with this extra time?

These first 10 days have been very experimental. I focused on enjoying whatever I wanted to do, without much structure. I’ve been reading (Tools of Titans), planning the day, writing, blogging, meditating, stretching, playing videogames, washing dishes, stared at the outside snow, completing a jigsaw puzzle, watching youtube videos and reading other blogs. Unstructured time just to see how it feels, to try to destress, to simply enjoy life.

Free lunch is over though. I want to follow some kind of structured routine that involves:

  • Physical (10-60 minutes): walking, biking, do some workout routine at home, go to the swimming pool. The goal here is getting my body challenged.
  • Curiosity (10-30 minutes): read nonfiction (or mind challenging fiction, like The Silo Trilogy or Hyperion), study, watch youtube videos and TED talks. In general: getting my mind challenged.
  • Creativity (30-90 minutes): write a blog post, code for a pet project or a new software idea, write down 10 ideas, enjoying thoughts experiments (like the dinner table series on waitbutwhy) and/or create new ones. The goal here is to put myself at work on something I’m passionate about.
  • Spirituality (5-20 minutes): daily meditation, weekly reflection about where I am in life, where I’m going and what makes me happy. This is to find my purpose in life and remind myself to not forget that there’s more than living in survival mode and chasing pleasures.
  • Planning (5-20 minutes): planning the day, scheduling the duties (errands, bills, social events), play with the Eisenhower Matrix and set morning time for the “important but not urgent” items. This is to try to keep some sort of control over natural life chaos.
  • Leisure (0-30 minutes): whatever I want that makes me pure short-term pleasure like watching an episode of a tv series, playing a videogame, solo play a boardgame, waste time on facebook…

I don’t want to be too broad though. I’d like to focus on few projects, ideally just one at a time for each category.

 

Yeah but this blog is about Personal Finance and FIRE. Is waking up early related to money?

Personal finance is a journey. You may jump in after a tough awakening from your financial nightmares, then you start tracking pennies to get your head above water. You become financially awake/aware. You install good habits and reach integrity, right direction, wealth.

Then at one point money start fading into the background. You have enough of it. You can finally focus solely on how to improve your life. I don’t care about money, I care about building a happier and better life. Follow your passions, find your purpose, seek happiness, improve well being, connect with others. Money is just a means to these ends.

So yes, waking up early perfectly fit my Personal Finance framework: it’s a way to improve my life using my resources (time here, not money).

Plus, as an amazing positive feedback loop, waking up early makes you a more organized and productive person. A person with excess of quality time available to work on side projects, learn a new skills, plan and prioritize things in your life, remove some physical and mental clutter and explore your inner self. All of these will somehow find their way to improve your wealth.

Not convinced? Let’s ask Kobe Bryant:

Kobe Bryant‘s words!

Thanks Kobe 🙂

 

Bottom Line

Wake up, don’t be lazy! The world is awesome when the others are sleeping! That silence, the hidden sunlight, the frosty winter… I can’t imagine what will it look like to go for a long walk before dawn in spring or summer! Coming back at home after hours of walking in the woods… and it’s still 8am!

And it all started with setting an alarm clock and waking up within a minute!

You still not convinced? There are plenty of resources out there, like The Miracle Morning book and the associated Facebook community.

Btw, if you need some help, you can always purchase a money shredder alarm clock, they say it helps 😀

So guys, go to bed and see you tomorrow at 6am!

Yaown… what time is it? What’s up?

Nothing, nothing, go back to sleep my friend 😉

24 comments

  1. Have you ever heard about the 90 minute rule? They say you should always sleep a multiply of 90 minutes (so 1 1/2 hours, 3 hours, 4 1/2 hours etc) because at the time you are awoken by your alarm clock your body will already be dreaming and therefore be nearly awake.

    First I didn’t really believe it, but I experimented with it and it worked great. 7 1/2 hours is the sweet spot for me. I typically go to sleep at 10pm and get up at 5:30 if I have to work. Never has there been one tired day since I started with it.

    1. It looks very random to me.
      I’m not like a clock, I can’t tell neither when I exactly start sleeping (definitely not when I “go to bed”) nor when my REM phases are happening.

      1. It doesn’t have to be as accurate as you may think. Just give yourself 10-15 minutes or whatever amount you feel right for yourself as extra time to fall asleep. And if it really takes longer one day, then I will assure you that you will still be less tired in the morning.

        Of course you don’t have to try it, but it was an amazing enrichment to my life.

  2. the money shredding alarm clock is absolutely brilliant!! hahaha!
    Talking of getting up early…Mate. You don’t need strategies. You don’t need to read books or join communities. There’s a much better trick to kick you out of the bed every morning: make a child!
    This works perfectly from first day on. After 4,5 years of being parents, I can tell you, it’s the most reliable way of getting up early without a snooze function. Try it!

    1. Well.. the goal is not just “waking up early”, but “having time for yourself”. It probably means that with kids you have to wake up even earlier, i.e. directly don’t do to sleep 😀

  3. Good stuff!

    Those early hours/days add up too!

    Imagine what impact one extra, focused, accomplished hour every day for a year, five years, or ten years can have. It’s pretty amazing stuff when you consider the results over time.

  4. Hey RIP,
    That’s a great habit to have without children, but mostly with children too!
    If I want some time for “my stuff” I have to start my day at 4am while Mini. HdLR and Mrs. HdLR are sleeping, so I can go for a run and enjoy that peaceful atmosphere while my mind and the lake resonate 🙂 then meditation time, checking on my swings trades, writing and/or reading.
    I try to keep this time to myself and not to mix it with “work stuff” although sometimes is difficult and I end up replying a bunch of emails and preparing work stuff.

    So, keep it up! you’ll come to 4AMers club soon 🙂
    Cheers

  5. Kudos for doing this experiment.
    Curious to see how you will do going forward.

    On Wed and Thu, I wake up at 5:45 to be at work early. In return, I get to enjoy quality time with the kids in the evening… Worth evey minute of swearing between 5:45 and 5:50…

    1. Right, I’m telling my story like it’s a great accomplishment but I forgot that waking up at 6.30 is essentially the “average” for other people 🙂
      I’m lucky I can be so flexible at work!

  6. An interesting experiment Mr RIP, I hope it gives you what you are looking for.

    The best cure for sleeping in I’ve found is small children! The little bastards are relentless, unforgiving, and take absolutely no prisoners. They also don’t understand hangovers, which has certainly proved to be an effective method for having me call it a night early when out with friends.

    Those sunlight alarm clocks help to make the getting out of bed part easier also, as it makes it less jarring when the alarm actually goes off.

  7. This. Is. Awesome! I started getting up about 2.5 hours earlier last week and can already tell that my days are on such a better track because of it. I spend my time doing a Bible devotion (30 min), then reading one of my 6 nonfiction books (30-45 min). Then start knocking out notifications on social/blog/etc and then start writing. By the time my girls and wife get up, I’ve gotten most of my goals out of the way and can focus on them without feeling the tug to check my phone, pull myself away and stuff like that. I’m able to be “present” more with them! It’s an amazing feeling too!

    Hoping to continue it throughout the year!

    1. Amazing achievements Steven!
      The feeling of having accomplished something and looking at your watch to discover that “it’s still 8am!” is joyful!

  8. Reading this at 10:30 pm.. I’ve immediately changed my plans and I’m going straight to bed 🙂 I have ToT on my night stand, still untouched since Xmas. Maybe I’ll find some free time for it in the morning, if I get up before everyone else 🙂

      1. It got me started (book), but arrival of a new family member kinda changed plans, so I’m again in a survival mode for the next few weeks/months. But once I get freed from frequent nightly interventions, I hope to get back on track with early starts.

        1. I finished the “Healthy” part and I must admit I loved it (not everything though). I’m going to write a review of what I’ve read so far 🙂

  9. Hey Mr RIP!
    I’ve read almost all of your entries now, and I’m absolutely loving your blog. BTW It’s been almost a year that I’ve been waking up at 5:00 every day (not during vacations). And it’s really an amazing feeling. I’m a student and all my friends look at me with weird faces when I tell them about it. And they think I’m just crazy, cause I always fail to explain them the actual reasons why I do it, but I just love mornings silent ambient. It gives you a lot of headspace. Keep working on it, and welcome to the early birds club.

    1. Thanks EGB, I really appreciate your compliment 🙂

      5am? As a student?? How can you still be alive! Go get a beer, now! Jokes apart, that’s great. If you can manage to sleep less on some days or regularly go to bed at 9.30pm it’s impressive. Question: are you able to keep up even during summer? With sun that sets at 10pm?

  10. Congratulations mate! You’re on a good path!
    I read TMM back in November last year, and since then I wake consistently between 5 and 5:30am every weekday.
    On week-ends it depends on what events we have, but I make it a rule to get my body stick to 7 hours of sleep no matter what.

    My life has incredibly changed since then. More power. More options. More control. More life, in a sense.

    Last week I even tried to wake up at 4:55am. The only thing it really changed: I had 5 min more 😉 all the rest is psychological barriers as you said.

    Looking forward to exchanging with you on the topic when we meet next time.

    Cheers,
    MP

    1. 5 – 5.30? You rock MP!
      I’m having hard time keeping up during weekends. That’s like “one step forward during weekdays, two steps backward during weekends” 🙂

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