#ProjectEarlyBird

I always went to bed very late. I often played games till 1:30 or 2:30 am and never went to bed before 1 am. I loved that. I went to school back then, so it worked most of the time. When I became a student, my easy-going sleep cycle annoyed me more and more. I already wasn’t on top of the day, felt behind when I got up at 9:30 pm1 and ate breakfast. I kept being late mentally which put me under pressure and didn’t feel good. I knew that I had to change that habit. Knowing that but not being able to do so frustrated me even more.
But I was in good company. Keeping up late is the ultimate cool, that was a fact, I myself always had been suspicious of people who went to bed before midnight. My love for coffee and its caffeine were the best excuse one could think of to keep up late, be late in the morning and brag about crazy sleep hours.

Myself, 4 months ago:

I couldn’t fall asleep one minute before 2 am, I tried!

Yeah, you do. Just regularly get up at 6am and see how you will love to go to bed at 11 pm, even earlier, or midnight, depending on your needs. We owe it to our brains to sleep, that’s a fact. Time measurement only has been around for a few hundred years, that’s another fact. We depended on dawn and dusk before. Just think about all these studies reporting of health problems caused by shift work.
We shouldn’t let time measurement go, of course. But I think being aware that it’s artificial should allow us to consider some changes to our sleep rhythm - or care about sleep in the first place. When I first realized that, I got a sleep mask, cause in cities like Hamburg it’s never completely dark.

Then, I came across Nicolas Alpi’s post on rising early. It was exactly what I needed.
#ProjectEarlyBird went live on February 1st 2011, just when I started to work on my first term paper. There was some serious synergy going on, because social life is reduced to a minimum during such workload. So, there was no distraction from

  • getting up at 6 am
  • (sometimes) running some 5 kilometers
  • having breakfast/reading feeds/checking twitter/2
  • having some free time/cleaning/dishes/collecting ‘next steps’ for the term paper
  • arriving at the library at about 10 am
  • having lunch at about 12:30 pm3
  • continuing to work at about 1:30 pm
  • going home at about 6 pm and feeling awkwardly good about it4
  • going shopping/cooking
  • watching a film or some episodes of a tv series and not feeling guilty about it
  • going to bed at about 10:00 pm

I think that’s a good example of how I did it in the first weeks. Of course work doesn’t get done by itself,5 but getting up early gives you the best starting position there can possibly be. I sticked with 6 am, though the really hard part was to not letting go of the whole project when both of my term papers were finished and the next semester began. Sadly, I let go of the running part, so as you can see, rising early makes you no super human.
Want to try it? I started by moving the wake up time earlier in steps of half an hour per week from current wake up time - till my iPhone went crazy smashing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ every morning at 6 am. Even on the weekends, of course. In general, I followed Nicolas’ advise, his article’s really great. Also interesting: this piece by Leo Babauta. Kudos to Shawn Blanc for linking to both of these articles.

So, why 6 am?

I decided that 6 am works better for me than 4:30 or 5 am would. Just too often there’s an event or something else that doesn’t let me go to bed as early as I would like to, so 6 am is a good compromise between my needs and the social calendar. Though, I’m tempted to try 5:30 am. I began #ProjectEarlyBird in the Winter, so that it was dark and cold outside. Currently, dawn’s at about 5 am, and makes it even easier to get up that early.
It also takes more effort to make room for a night out, I like that. I had the tendency to always stretch that ‘one beer’ out very late and often was blaming myself for it the next day. Now I have to alter my sleep cycle very much for drinking some beers with friends, therefore plan very carefully for lesser, but more special occasions.
I love rising early.

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  1. When there was no lecture at 10:00 am which I attended, that was an early one.
  2. I just as much as never managed to eat breakfast at home before I left for the day. I didn’t have appetite in the morning, but my stomach hurt a little. Vicious circle.
  3. I really started to get hungry at about noon, exceptionally early for me!
  4. Instead of punishing myself for being late in the morning by keeping up late in the evening, despite being tired and the loss of focus
  5. At first, it really feels like it does</span>