Project 47, Part 2: Morning Routines Involving Waking Early Aren’t For Everyone

Read almost any self-help book and the author will almost always push the reader to have a solid morning routine. The books say, “wake early,” and give statistics about all these achievers and billionaires that rise early and get more done before sunrise than most losers and non-achievers get done in a week. For YEARS I’ve tried to become one of those people – people like Jocko Willink (Tweets a picture of his watch every morning to “inspire” me, I guess). Or Tim Ferriss or Ryan Serhant.

Again. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. I was convinced only people that wake up at 4:30 a.m., 4:45 a.m., or 5:00 a.m. and immediately get in a workout, journal, and have a power breakfast …only those people are successful and the rest of us are doomed to mediocrity.

I’m here to say …bull crap. I’ve started asking successful (and happy) people I know what time they wake up. Guess what? These 4:45 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. super achievers are outliers.

What’s wrong with going to bed at 11 o’clock and waking at 6 o’clock in the morning, and feeling rested and energized from a quality 7-hours of sleep? These people who claim they regularly function at high-levels with only 6-hours or less of sleep are (a) lying or (b) not understanding how much BETTER they would be with 7+ hours of sleep. I’ve done the reading. I’ve done the research. I personally have journaled …less than 7 hours of sleep severely impacts my daily mood, optimism, and energy compared to 7+ hours. It’s not just me. It’s humankind. Sleep is the most important thing we can do for our bodies and brains.

The other thing about the insanity of the 5:00 a.m. wake-up, and let’s say you believe you can function at high-levels with, say, 6 1/2 hours of sleep, is that your bedtime needs to be 10:30 p.m. If you want 7-hours of sleep? Guess what? Bedtime at 10:00 p.m.

So what, you ask? Just shift your bedtime earlier? Is it really that bad?

No. If I was single and if my spouse, who I love and like spending time with, also goes to bed at 10:00 p.m.

She doesn’t.

I’ve discovered that 10 o’clock to 11 o’clock can be “our time” and that’s also more valuable than gold (or the insane morning workout). We can sit on the couch. Catch-up on the day. Talk about the next day. Enjoy each other’s company. With three teenagers in the house, going to school, this is when the household finally starts to relax.

What I’m saying is this – ain’t nothing wrong with an 11 o’clock bedtime. It means the bedtime routine can start casually around 10:30 with taking the dog out, brushing my teeth, locking the doors, turning off lights, putting the last few things into the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen so I wake up to a clean kitchen. Grinding the coffee beans. Filling my water boiler with water.

Relaxing. A 10 or 10:30 bedtime means the bedtime routine starts about 9:30.

I’ve found, after only a few days, I actually sleep better going to bed a little later and going to bed with my wife instead of giving her a kiss while she’s sitting on the couch and then marching upstairs as if I’m going to Sleep Camp. I get stressed-out looking at that 10 o’clock or 10:30 p.m. lights-out, time-to-sleep, your-success-is-depending-on-it finish-line for the day. I’ve also found I wake up on my own right about 5:45 a.m. and don’t even need an alarm. If you’ve ever woken up on your own, without an alarm, or without the garbage truck rolling down your street, you don’t know what you’re missing. Remember being a teenager? And sleeping until you woke up? Tell me you weren’t the best version of yourself (or at least the happiest) between the ages of 15 and 25 when you had that luxury?

Speaking of Teens …I have three of them and one of them is living under my roof for the final year of her youth (she’ll be off to college next fall). Going to bed at 10 or 10:30 also means I go to bed before my kids. Plus, having Teens means my evenings, from dinner time until bedtimes, are spent at sporting events, meetings, and helping with homework, not to mention my chores like lawn stuff, outdoor stuff, and quick errands. Anyone with Teens and kids knows it means your evenings are not your own . . . not until around 10 o’clock and you (and your spouse) can exhale and high-five for making it through another day.

All of this, once again, makes the early-to-bed early-to-rise routine ludicrous (for me). I like “me time” as much as the next guy, but a 5:00 a.m. wake-up call where I spend about 2-hours alone every morning seems less about “me” and more about “I hate spending time with the people I love.”

My point? If waking early and starting the day strong makes you happy and you feel it makes you the wild success you are …great. But if you do NOT enjoy this, think about the other 99.5% of go-getter Americans who might actually watch the 11 o’clock news or, gasp, stay up and watch the opening monologue of Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert in the same way Americans used to watch Johnny Carson. Think about that …the decades of achievers that got us into space, invented computers and iPhones, and built things in the 60s, 70s, and 80s …they all stayed up late for Carson. They slept until 7 or 7:30. They worked 9 to 5. Somehow that worked and American didn’t collapse into some romanticized version of France, Italy, or Greece where nobody works and is always on “holiday.”

It can work for you and me. Stay tuned for my new, better, less insane morning and daily routine.

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