I know this is an “old guy” post, but it truly is revolutionizing my life in ways that make me wish I had made the move much sooner. A few months ago, I finally followed through on something that Lord has been challenging me about for several years…my dysfunctional sleep cycle. For the past few years my sleep schedule has digressed into staying up until sometime around the end of the eleven o’clock news and then sleeping in until the last possible moment to still rush through personal devotions, get ready, and get to work just on time. What started this revolutionary sequence in the practical was a simple change in our local TV programming in which one station introduced “the evening news at 9.” With a change in my wife’s work schedule and this opportunity to close out the new cycle earlier, I determined to make what may seem like a minor change to you. A willingness to do a voluntary “time change” began this fledgling journey (this post is simply sharing a newbie’s experience not that of an expert) of discovering the pre-dawn potential for spiritual, familial, and vocation productivity that I have missed for years!
I am sure there are plenty of night owls out there who are skeptics like I have been for years, but may I simply give you things that may be missing because of your “late to bed, late to rise” modi operandi. The main reason that I did not shift sooner-and probably you have not either-is because you’re focusing upon what you would “lose” in the PM. May I challenge you to consider all that you’re unknowingly losing right now in the AM!
Here are 10 benefits of going to bed earlier that you can’t get any other way:
- It has forced me to be much more intentional with my evening time management. (Without an open-ended bedtime, I cannot afford to waste a precious second before 10 PM. What is interesting is that I have watched even less evening news as a result of this improvement.)
- I get more productivity done during the first few hours of my day than ever before with NO distractions or interruptions while much of the world sleeps. (My moments of best clarity occur before 10:30 AM. By backing up my start time to 6:00 AM, I get to realize more of that latent potential. The hyperactive clock at work seems like it now moves so much slower/steadier in a really good way!)
- My wife and I are able to enjoy a calm, steady transition from sleep to preparation for each of our workdays TOGETHER. (We feel more connected to each other as we don’t just review the previous day in the evenings-the token “How was your day?”-but anticipate the new day in the mornings. In these current winter months, it allows me share a sit down breakfast with my wife and to warm her car…it makes a difference. We married couples need to spend as much time waking up together as going to bed together.)
- It keeps my online browsing and TV viewing on a much purer and wise trajectory. (Let’s be honest, late night media blatantly digresses the later it goes. The after hours fodder of carnality, gossip, or foolishness just don’t seem to fit/make sense as much in the morning. How many “late-night” comedians could expand their ratings on an early morning time slot?)
- It creates pre-dawn time and space free of the “noise” my dear children that I dearly love but who tend to interrupt my complete streams of thought and study. (Whereas before, I could only get a couple solid minutes in my Bible or on my laptop, now I can get several solid hours of continuity before I leave for the office.)
- The flip side benefit is that my sons benefit from a father who is not only well-rested but already well into his morning with a prepared and hopefully contagious poise where formerly there was a get-up-last-minute grumpiness.
- One unintended consequence is that it helps me develop a rhythm that is reproducible on Saturday nights in preparation for the early and full Sunday schedule of local church ministry. (Prior to this seismic shift, I struggled to fall asleep early enough on Saturday evenings to be fully rested for my heaviest day of the week.)
- It allows me to “set in motion” tasks that once launched have a life of development on their own while I am busy with other pressing needs. (An example would be as simple as starting the 4 hours cycle of our dishwasher to be washing and drying WHILE Heidi and I are at work and the boys are at school. This is a key part of productivity-getting more than one thing done at a time both through delegation to other people and launching multiple things early in your personal day.)
- The more I interact with past and present heroes that I respect, the more I learn that, amongst other variables that I cannot control, my former sleep schedule was one of the greatest shortcomings that I voluntarily differ with them. (While some anomalies exist amongst the greats, most have and are early-risers.)
- Lastly, it creates a holy anticipation for “the day the Lord has made” that you cannot savor in between the few bites of breakfast devoured while throwing your day together. (This allows not only your body to be engaged but your mind of clarity and your heart of passion for the events, responsibilities, and people that God will send your way!)
- The eleventh benefit that others tout but I have yet to add is the before-light regiment of….exercise. I will keep you posted on how long until I yield (waiting until after the fattening holidays) to that convicting addition to my schedule. 🙂
If you are asking if I am saying “staying up late is a sin,” I am not. What I am saying is that it is a stewardship issue! There is something to the adage of previous generations, “early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise,” that many of us supposedly more-sophisticated generations with lit up smartphones after midnight are missing out on that is sapping our spiritual walk, physical energy, time management, and family relationships.
If you are more of a naturally nocturnal like me, you are probably reading this post and doubting it can or should happen in your life. May I encourage you to just try it for a few months, and I highly doubt you will every want to revert back to the old, late-night “normal.” You don’t have to make the change all in one traumatic chunk. Just trade 15 minutes at a time from being awake in the PM to being awake in the AM. In just a week or two, you can have a new schedule with maybe a little extra coffee to lube the process.
If you were to ask me what excites me most about the New Year, my answer would be the content of this post and how applying it for the entire 12 months will revolutionize my walk with Jesus, my sweet family, my preaching and pastoring, and every other nuance of my life that I am excited about right now!
Ps 63:1 “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”
Do you have any scheduling disciplines or tweaks that are helping you?