The Morning Experiment

A few weeks ago, my friend Will read an article on Medium - or rather only the headline - then turned to me and said, “want to start waking up at 5:30 and working through our courses? I’ll do my One Month course, and you can do your Udemy one.” Without even looking up from my computer I said yes.

Getting up early and working on things that I enjoy has helped me be happier and more productive. This new found productivity isn’t from working longer hours, but putting in higher quality ones. The problem I was running into was that when I set aside time at night for my own things, I found it really difficult to stop the day from pushing its way into my time. Meetings would run late, work was due at midnight, emails would keep coming in - the day just wouldn’t stop. I would much rather work through the night and into the morning; however, with 8 am’s this isn’t really feasible.

I was starting to have a real internal struggle that got worse as I made less and less time for my side projects. My time was being sunk into homework and group projects, while my list of side projects, desired skills, and books to read was getting longer. I was becoming frustrated with myself and with my situation. It felt like I was running in sand - I could work as hard as I wanted but I wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t feel productive finishing my homework - it gave me nothing, and I felt like a failure for not completing the projects I was constantly talking about. I needed to ship more things (and still do).

The 5:30am wake up call was my way of turning my schedule on its head - shaking up the rut I was in. What I didn’t expect was how waking up and starting my day by doing something that I loved would help me work through one of my many existential crises. I started spending less time on things that I didn’t value (read: homework assignments) and carved out more time for my own work. Will and I originally only planned on working from 6 - 8, but soon I was working until around 10 or 11, only stopping to go to class, and then I eventually started skipping class. By taking action I’m beginning to realize what is more important to me, and watching my priorities reorganize right before my eyes.

When people ask me why I’m dropping out of school my answer isn’t as clean as they expect. This decision wasn’t made off of one simple interaction, but countless small ones that compounded. Waking up at 5:30am helped make it clear to me that dropping out was something that I needed to do. It was in those moments when I was trying to force myself to put down my side projects - the things I really enjoyed doing, that were moving me towards my goals, and helping me learn the things that are important to me - that I realized I had to drop out. This was my Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment. A lot of other things took place before his assassination, but in the spirit of keeping things neatly packaged, we just say his death was the start of World War I.

I couldn’t have kept this up by myself. Without Will there were definitely mornings that I would have skipped out on. Having an accountability buddy is key when trying to form a new habit. You guys will push each other. It’s peer pressure, but with a positive connotation.

Waking up early in the morning is not something that I plan on sticking with after leaving school. If you’re in school or work a 9 - 5 job and find it hard to stay up all night, I’d highly recommend the early morning wake up approach. It has helped me accomplish a lot of the work that I wasn’t getting done when I stopped staying up until 4am.

What’s something you’ve been meaning to do/get better at? I challenge you to get up tomorrow at 5:30am. Just one morning. Invest in yourself. See how it feels. I know you’re sitting there right now saying you’re not a morning person, but you may surprise yourself.