It’s the end of a long day. You sit down on the couch and kick off your shoes, because you’ve finally completed your long to-do list. Well, you’ve almost completed your to-do list. Okay, fine—you hardly got anything crossed off, despite rushing around like a maniac all day. Certainly, there can only be one explanation: there are not enough hours in the day.
Not enough time in the day? I say it and hear it all the time. But think about it: we have the same amount of time every day as did Napoleon, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates. If twenty-four hours was enough for them to take over Europe, invent a million things, or make billions of dollars, it should be enough time for me to somehow go to work and still do my laundry in the same day. I’m going to have to find a better excuse than “There isn’t enough time.”
One solution: wake up earlier.
That’s right, I said it. But why would anyone want to do that? Everyone hates mornings, right? It seems there are few things as universally loathed, by people my age at least. Mornings rank up there with poor Wi-Fi and arrogant professors on the list of Things College Students Like to Complain About. I was pretty much in this club until lately, hitting the snooze button on my phone alarm two (or eight) times, rolling out of bed only to cling to a cup (or eight) of coffee. College affirmed this late-morning lifestyle—my classes didn’t start until 11 most days and my schedule lasted until after midnight several times a week.
I wake up every morning around 6 for my summer lifeguarding job, so I set out a few months ago to become a morning person. When I mentioned my quest at work, the responses included “Don’t be that guy” and being asked if I was 50. But, I didn’t want to resent my job for making me get up, I didn’t want to have the morning grumps when I interacted with people, and ultimately, I wanted to get more out of my days. After all, I’d hate to waste any good daylight being a half-asleep zombie.
Turns out, there may be some perks to waking up earlier: Morning people are more satisfied with life on average. They feel healthier. Early risers even tend to be more successful, because society caters more to them than to night owls. One study found that morning people begin to set themselves apart as early as high school, getting better grades then getting into more prestigious universities.
In order to wake up earlier, I leave the blinds on my window open. The natural light flooding my room makes it harder for me to roll over once my alarm goes off. Also, I make a habit of waking up early. I try to wake up at the same time each day regardless of whether I have the opening shift, so that when the early days do come, my brain has established a rhythm. On the work-free days, I plan my morning out, so that I have something concrete that requires me to get out of bed—a early run, for example.
Over the past few months, I have discovered that mornings have much more to offer than just increased productivity. It isn’t for nothing that photographers call the first hour of sunlight the “Golden Hour,” because sunrises are absolutely beautiful, and provide a spectacular backdrop for nature’s great awakening every morning.
On top of that, I am finally taking responsibility for every hour of the day. If you’re not convinced, you probably will be some day: research shows that we rise earlier as we age. But in the mean time, go ahead and sleep in. But next time you claim you don’t have enough time, ask yourself this: when was the last time you saw a sunrise?