I’m not sure whether it was too many late nights during college, or if I’m a night owl by nature, but it’s far too often “late to bed, late to rise” for me. And I’m trying to fix it.
There aren’t enough hours in the day for kids, hobbies, work, etc., and life’s far too short to spend in a sleepy haze. Here are 10 tips for how I get up at 6:30 a.m. every (ok… maybe not every) morning:
1. Go to bed when you’re tired.
You’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to go to bed at the same time every night, right? Yeah, I tried that, and ended up staring at the ceiling for a few hours. Instead, I go to bed when I’m tired.
Usually this means that I do go to bed at roughly the same time every night. Eventually you get into a rhythm and it works out. One caveat, though, is that we geeks tend to get rather caught up in our own hobbies. Don’t stay up later than you should just because you want to finish one more mission in COD: Ghosts or because you have a blog article due the next day (ahem).
2. Pick out clothes the night before.
Honest, it really helps. Making decisions, even small ones about which shirt or tie to wear, can be challenging in the wee hours. I’ve even contemplated taking the Neil Gaiman route and just wearing the same damn thing every day. My wife says that’s sad, but she’s never gone an entire day with backwards underwear and an inside-out shirt.
3. Program your coffee maker.
Several folks told me to cut back on my caffeine after I mentioned to them that I was trying to get up earlier.
After I stopped laughing, I went out and bought some really good whole bean coffee (our recent favorite is Ruta Maya). Now, every night I load up our automatic coffee maker (we have a Cuisinart Grind-and-Brew, though I’ve heard great things about the Krups KM7000 model) and in the morning when I hear it go off like a jet engine, I get warm fuzzies inside. It’s not quite as nice as Rosie from The Jetsons topping off your cup, but it’s close.
4. Set your alarm. Across the room.
I have the innate ability (much to my wife’s frustration) of being able to slap an alarm clock’s snooze button without actually rising fully out of unconsciousness. I believe my record during one morning marathon was two hours of consecutive snoozage.
The thing is, snoozing sucks. It’s low-quality sleep that doesn’t leave you feeling restful in any way. My groggy brain is not rational enough in the a.m. to understand this. So there is no alarm on my bedside table.
5. Put a glass of water next to your alarm.
Drink the whole glass when you get up and turn the alarm off. After a full night’s sleep, you’re probably a little dehydrated, and for whatever reason, drinking water just seems to help the body realize that it’s time to get up.
Be careful if you’re using your computer as an alarm, though. Nothing ruins a day — or a laptop — like a clumsy spill on the keyboard.
6. Have a good reason for being up early.
If you’re the type of person who can spring out of bed at dawn, just because it’s a beautiful day, gosh darn it, and you’re out to change the world, etc., then congratulations. You’re probably one of those weirdos that doesn’t drink coffee in the morning either.
We mere mortals need collateral. Sometimes it’s not enough to know that you’ve got more time in the day. Sometimes you need to know how to spend it.
Remember back at number 1 when I told you to put down the Xbox 360 controller and get some sleep? Well … pick it back up again! If you want to finish that quest, you’ve got the time to do it now. Paint some miniatures! Go for a walk! Make and eat pancakes with your kids! Plan something fun and you’ll probably get out of bed easier.
7. Have a well-stocked “library.”
I’m going to be perfectly frank with you. I get a lot of reading done in the bathroom. I think of it as my own Fortress of Solitude, minus the subzero temperature and creepy statues of my parents.
It’s also the first place I go after I wake up, to take care of various biological necessities and to freshen up for the day ahead. If there’s an interesting book sitting beside the, uh, throne, then I’m a lot more likely to look forward to the morning rituals.
8. Do something active.
I know that for a lot of geekdads, numbers 8 and 6 don’t really jive. “Exercise is not fun,” says you. “I’d rather be playing videogames.”
What about Wii Fit? It’s no Fallout and it’s not exactly the most hard-core workout regime, but it’s just as good as some pushups and light calisthenics. Plus data geeks can watch their weight (hopefully) drop over time, and that’s always a good motivator.
If you’re not Wiilling (sorry, it had to be done) to hop on the balance board, how about downloading some podcasts (I’m partial to our very own GeekDads podcast for your consumption) and taking a walk or a jog.
9. Spend some time thinking.
It might be a little corny, but taking a moment out of your day to ponder life, the universe and everything can be immensely relaxing. Reflecting on the previous day’s events is a great way to learn a lesson or two.
10. Write something down.
I just finished reading Michael Palin’s superb Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years and I’m impressed by his ability to capture the important details of his personal and professional life. I’m trying to spend at least a few minutes of my morning scribbling a few thoughts on the events of my own life, and I find that, in combination with number 9, this helps me to hop in the car, refreshed and ready to take on the workday.
So those are my little morning rituals. What helps you get out of bed in the morning?
[Note: This article was originally published on GeekDad in February of 2009.]