You Should Know How To Do This: Be a Morning Person

The entire point of being a morning person is so that you can be a complete and total jerk about it all the time.

I am a morning person. I am a complete ass about it. Like, “oh, you just got up? I went to barre class, made some scones, did all my laundry, and read six chapters of Ulysses. Also, they were not sold out of maple bacon doughnuts when I got there. I wish you’d be there! Would have saved you one! They’re super good. One day!”

This is the beach at 5:30 AM. Look, you don't have to share.
This is the beach at 5:30 AM. Look, you don’t have to share. There are no kids trying to bury you in sand, and no drunk people/gross catcallers ruining your run, swim, or lounge.

It was not always this way. Back in the day, when I was a baby Kentucky, I would sleep until noon, no problem. This might be because I was a teenager and apparently teenagers’ circadian rhythms are on like, 27 hour cycles or something. One time, my dear grandmother woke me up at like, 9:30 and I complained bitterly for about a month.

When I was in college, I needed to work in addition to taking classes, so I scheduled all my classes on Tuesday and Thursday so I could sling overpriced lipstick the other five days. This effectively means that I was in class from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on those days, which is kind of a feat for most students. It’s not ACTUALLY a feat, but if you’re in college and you tell someone you take 8 a.m. courses, they think you’re some kind of sainted freak. After that, I got a job that started at 7 a.m. where they would fire you if you were late, so I just kept the ball rolling. ANYWAY. I learned a lot about getting up early and its benefits.

Here’s the bottom line up front: if you stay up until 1 a.m., you will lose that time and it will not be productive; your brain is buzzing from everything that happened that day, you’re exhausted, and everyone knows that nothing good happens after midnight. If you get up earlier, you will be fresh and thus able to use that time wisely.

Think about it: the post office is not open at 1 a.m., but it is open for that hour before work. I could go on, but there are a million examples of things like that. As a result of getting up early, I have been able to watch the sun come up over the Alhambra, get tickets to Neutral Milk Hotel, find really good deals on meat and cheese at the grocery store,* train for a marathon in the South, see the pope, get a good spot at the beach, never stand in line at the coffee place or the DMV, and feel superior to other people each and every day. Seriously, do you know anyone else who got in and out of the DMV in 15 minutes? That alone should buoy you.

I know no one likes the dude, but that IS him. Have YOU seen the pope? No, because you were napping.
I know no one likes the dude, but that IS him. Have YOU seen the pope? No, because you were napping and this happened at around 9 a.m. and I had to get in line two hours before. 

There are no limits to the things you can do as an early riser. To become one, you need $10 worth of props and good planning. It takes about three weeks, as forming new habits tends to.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what time you want to get up and how much sleep you require. Remember that the best thing you can do for your sleep hygiene is to get up and go to sleep at approximately the same time every day (this means within an hour or two). Also, this is the one and only time I’ll say “sleep hygiene” because that’s a gross term.

After a couple years of consideration, I have found that I am the best version of myself after seven hours and fifteen minutes to seven hours and forty-five minutes of sleep. If I am under that, I’m mean and sleepy. Over that? Mean and sleepy. I like to get up at 5:30 so that I have a solid 2.5 hours before work (I go in at 8). That means I go to bed around 10-10:30 on weeknights, which sounds lame and is, but hey, it works for me. Figure out what makes sense for you and your schedule and your body. I have a friend who, honest to god, feels amazing after 4 hours of sleep. People like this make up around 10% of the population, so it’s probably not you. If it is, I am envious. I would be reduced to infancy if I did that two days in a row.

I feel like Gwyneth "I smoke one cigarette a week" Paltrow by showing you that I'm sooooo laid back that I sleep in on the weekends, but...
I feel like Gwyneth “I smoke one cigarette a week” Paltrow by showing you that I’m sooooo laid back that I sleep in on the weekends, but, y’all! I totally sleep in on the weekend.

So, you’ve decided on your wake-up call and bedtime. Now, you need to figure out what your “cut off times” are. Stop with caffeine 8 hours in advance of sleeping. Stop with exercise 3 hours in advance. Stop with eating or drinking alcohol 2 hours in advance. This sounds like a ton of rules, and it is, but they become second nature really quickly. For me, I don’t have coffee after about 2:15,  I do yoga and/or strength training after work, and I try to eat dinner around 8. All day, you should vaguely be making sure you’ll be able to get to sleep at night. If you’re hopped up on coffee, or kind of drunk, or digesting a huge meal, or hoping your heart rate comes down after doing a ton of cardio, sleeping is hard.

The next thing you need to do is make a plan to get ready for sleeping. Again, I know I sound so incredibly boring, but please ask my friends! I’m hip and cool. The plan for sleeping goes like this: 2 hours before you want to sleep, stop doing strenuous things. An hour before, stop using anything electronic and do any and all flossing/washing/brushing that you need to do. Half an hour before, have a warm cup of herbal tea, put on your pajamas, and get into bed, and dim your lights. Read. Meditate. Write in your journal. Whatever it is that is quieting to you, do that. I want to be the kind of lady who meditates but, man, I am not.

When the appointed time comes to turn out the lights, I like to put in earplugs and put on an eye mask and spray my pillow with aromatherapy mist (SHUT UP), but I’m not going to try to tell you how to live your life. Whatever works for you works for you, and you’ll  wake up looking like this:

Except, ugh, she's so lazy. SEVEN? The day is over.
Except, ugh, she’s so lazy. SEVEN? The day is over.

Now what? It’s 5:30. What the hell are you going to do before work/school/going to the unemployment office? Well, I generally do about an hour of cardio, take a shower and get dressed for work, then make a decent breakfast and read a book or the newspaper over coffee before I bike to work. I also catch up on personal emails, do a little bit of stuff for Chronderlust, and generally tie up loose ends. Sometimes, I run errands or have breakfast out with a friend. I hate to feel rushed, and I’ve found that feeling rushed first thing in the morning makes me feel rushed all day. I think you’ll find that your day is more peaceful if you feel like you’ve had time to yourself before engaging in vocational tasks– you’ll be able to ditch that “but I just left work” feeling that plagues you when you get up and run from house to office.

Does that sound miserable to you? Well, it is for the first couple times you do it. In order to make it seem fun, just think about what it is you like to do and then plan to do it during this time. That gives you something to look forward to about the morning. I told my roommate about this, and he was like, “that’s genius. I could just get up early and read and then not be grouchy by the time I get to work.”*If you like to garden or listen to NPR or practice twerking or whatever, do that.

Look, most adults go to work in the morning for something like 50-60 years. Do you really want to be miserable every day ever for 50 years then spend your days off making up your sleep debt?

Have I convinced you? What are your tips for getting up early? What’s your favorite thing to do in the morning? What non-morning person in your life do you love to taunt? Tell me in the comments!

*it’s true! They mark down the butcher/cheese case items first thing in the morning, so you can get steaks or Gouda or whatever for next to nothing around 7:30.

*note: he did not say “and then I will not be grouchy” but I gently suggested that that may, indeed, be the case.

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