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Monday, January 23, 2012

Waking Up at 5am to Code: A Response

I recently read a post by Matt Greer titled Waking Up at 5am to code. I’ve been doing something similar for about a year now so I figured I’d post my 2 cents on the matter.

A little background

Quite some time ago I realized that the amount of time I spent working on personal projects had been greatly diminished. I wanted to spend time working on those projects, but during core waking hours my time was tied up with work and family commitments. I needed to spend time at work during the day on week days, I wanted to spend time during the evening and weekends with my family.

Since pretty much all of my waking hours were accounted for I thought I’d try getting up earlier. At first I started getting up at 6:00am. That gave me about an hour or so to get some work done. And it worked well for a while, but life changes and so does the family schedule. As a result I started having to get up even earlier: 5:30am.

Getting up at 5:30am is were I’m at these days. In theory, that gives me a solid 1 1/2 hours to get stuff done in the morning. Reality on the other hand isn’t as optimistic. It usually takes a good 10 minutes for the morning fog to clear. I also have a few small morning chores that need to be done no later than 6:00am. Since I don’t want to interrupt my flow I need to get those done early too; those take an additional 10 minutes. Lastly, in order to make sure everyone is able to get themselves ready and out of the house on time I need to be completely dressed and out of the bathroom (we only have one) by about 7:00am. Figure 15-20 minutes there for the morning routine.

By the time these taxes are paid my gross working time has gone from 1 1/2 hours down to 50-55 minutes. It can be really demotivating to realize that I don’t even have a full hour to get things done. But on the flip side it can also light a fire to make sure everything that needs to get done gets done.

I’ve had some success with my morning routine over the past year. It’s been a rocky road, but for the most part I think I’ve done alright. I haven’t produced much, as my desire to work on side projects comes and goes. Having the time set aside does really help though. I know that I’ll have guaranteed time to work on things that I’d like to. But typically that time is spent reading or relaxing; everyone needs down time, and I find that without that morning time I don’t get enough of it.

For those of you doing this or wanting to do this

Ultimately rearranging your schedule can be a fairly disruptive change in your life. The disruptions for myself have been quite minimal, but you need to make sure that those closest to you understand what you’re doing, why you want to do it, and are on board with it. If they aren’t you might start running into some problems. For those considering this kind of change, here are a few pointers:

  1. If you’re up early, people start assuming that you won’t mind doing things for them. This encroaches massively on personal time and can be a real problem. Saying “No” is vitally important to protecting your few precious hours. That being said you can’t always say no. There will always be times when you have to carve off a piece of those hours as needed; just keep those to a minimum.

  2. Don’t be militant about getting up early every day. Sometimes you need a break. I find myself sleeping in about 1 day a week. It’s a nice treat, just don’t get used to it.

  3. Getting up early also means going to bed earlier. This can be a social problem if you have friends and family that are night owls. Staying up late on their account will only serve to sap your energy for the next morning. Don’t stay up late unless you’re ok with sleeping in the next morning.

  4. Always have a plan for what to do the next morning. If you don’t wake up and know exactly what you need to work on or get accomplished you’ll either not want to get out of bed or get up and zone out. Neither of these is desireable; so make sure you have a plan for the next morning.

  5. Make sure your work area is comfortable. I’m sure this goes without saying, but having a comfortable, and in the winter warm, work place really helps to motivate you to get out of bed. If the bed is warm and comfortable, why would you want to sit in a cold office in an uncomfortable chair?