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.
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.
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.
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 challenges 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:
Thanks Kobe 🙂
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!
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 😉