As the many people who’ve embraced my RMBC method and told their 9 to 5 jobs to shove it can attest, being a freelance marketing copywriter has countless perks. The income opportunities are limitless, and the schedule provides complete flexibility. But that flexibility can test your discipline. There’s no one telling you to be at your desk on time or you’ll be fired. Without those rigid parameters, it can be tempting to let your schedule—and your productivity—slip.
As you find your groove as a freelancer, I’ll share a tip that has been a game changer for me: Wake up early. I was already an early riser, but lately, I’ve been pushing my wake-up time an hour earlier to 5/5:30 a.m. with amazing results.
If you’re a night owl, you’re probably feeling pretty skeptical right now, but stay with me. There’s research to back me up. One study showed that early risers procrastinate less than those who stay up late and sleep in. Another study found that college students who go to bed earlier did better in school than those who stayed up late. But my anecdotal evidence is enough for me. Few modifications have made such a big difference in my productivity and peace of mind.
There are reasons why starting the day early sets us up for success. Here are a few:
- It’s quiet. If you’re the first one up in the house, you’re going to get uninterrupted time. Less interruptions = greater productivity.
- Less stress. We’ve all been there—oversleeping, jumping in a 5-minute shower, grabbing a Pop Tart as we run out the door (usually forgetting something else in the process). Our blood pressure is spiking before the morning cobwebs are out of our brain. It’s an ugly way to start the day—on edge and scattered. Waking up early allows you to rev up confidently and calmly.
- Better sleep. In his New York Times bestselling book “Why we Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams,” Dr. Matthew Walker explains that people who wake up early set themselves up for better sleep patterns. This makes them less likely to develop sleep disorders and more likely to get adequate sleep than night owls.
How to Get Yourself in Bed
If you’re not used to turning in at a decent hour, you’ll need some strategies to build a new routine.
- Plan for it. If you know you want to be in bed by 10 p.m., back your schedule up accordingly. If you have kids, decide when you should be putting them down. Then, determine when you’ll start your own nighttime routine. Work in an incentive. If you have a partner, you could both plan to be in bed by 9:45 so you have time to talk about your day and unwind for a few minutes before you drift off.
- Be consistent. Yanking your bedtime around is murder for your body rhythms. Sure, you may derail on weekends and busy days, but try to keep those inconsistencies to a minimum.
- Try the app. There are some great apps out there that can help you stay disciplined at bedtime. They’ll sound an alarm to remind you to start getting ready for bed, put your phone in “do not disturb” mode, and even play “calming audio experiences” to help you drift off to sleep. Other apps turn bedtime into a game where you can build stuff as you keep your goals (or watch it get demolished if you miss the mark).
- Eat early. Few things can mess up your sleep patterns like a belly full of heavy food. Eat early and in moderation and avoid foods that won’t sit well.
- Taper off the screens. Our bodies are hardwired to respond to natural light, which is why we sleep at night and rise in the day. But blue light from electronic devices messes with our biological clock (circadian rhythms). It suppresses our melatonin (which helps us sleep) and shifts our circadian rhythms. A few hours before you go to bed, lay off of your devices so that the blue light doesn’t cheat your body out of a good night’s sleep.
How to Get Yourself out of Bed
If you’d like to try being an early bird, but you’re out of the habit—or never were in the habit—you’ll want to ease into it.
- Make incremental improvements. Your body will hate you if you try to jump from a 9 a.m. to 7 a.m. wake up. Try shaving off just 15 minutes at a time. Start by waking up at 8:45, then 8:30, then 8:15. Ease yourself into your new schedule.
- Move your alarm clock. Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to physically get up and go get it when it sounds. You can also invest in one of those flying alarm clocks that you have to chase around the room. It could have you laughing or swearing profusely; either way, you’ll be out of bed. And whatever you do, don’t hit the snooze button. The few minutes you get between snoozes is low quality sleep. If anything, plan to take a short power nap later in the day.
- Map out your mornings. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Bible had that one right—especially when the people are wandering around in a soporific haze after rolling out of bed. If you leave your mornings to chance, you’ll bumble them away. Right before you go to bed, take 5 minutes to jot down your plan for your morning. This will help you hit the ground running.
- Eat the frog. Use your a.m. time when your brain is fresh and your energy is high to do the most unpleasant tasks—like eating the figurative frogs. Maybe your most unpleasant task is exercising. Maybe it’s knocking out more of that sales letter that’s been hanging over your head. Tackle the stuff you don’t want to do first so that you can do the stuff you do want to do later.
Take a good hard look at your schedule. If there’s a way to shift things earlier, try it out… gradually, of course. Work out. Finish that work project. Step outside and see the moon in a whole new light. Be patient… it may hurt at first, but chances are, you’ll discover why so many successful people swear by the magic of mornings.