Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

~Benjamin Franklin

I am writing this at the ungodly hour of 4:13 a.m. ‘For the love of pete, why?’ would be the legitimate response. And I’m going to tell you. First, let me get the obvious out of the way. As a disabled person, it takes me an hour and a half to shower and get ready — and I don’t wear makeup or do anything to my hair aside from brushing it. Basically, I get ready like a guy, but take the time of a prom queen on formal night. Add an hour for Frankie’s walk, plus time for breakfast and it’d be lunchtime if I slept late.

So, I like to get up early. It wasn’t always this early. For awhile, I was “sleeping in” till 5:30 or 6:00. But after a short break, I’m reinstating “monastery hours,” as a friend calls them. (She keeps them too.)

The simple reason is — I get more done. It’s peaceful and quiet (Frankie’s still asleep,) and the phone never rings. I use it as my time to write. My writing coach has been encouraging us to get in 1,000 words a day.  I know I’ll never make that, but I figure I’ve done my part if I get in a good hour and a half to two hours of uninterrupted writing every morning.

For those of you who follow such things, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  The organization that runs this challenges writers to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That’s 1,666 words a day if you break it down. Sara Gruen supposedly wrote Water for Elephants during her month of NaNoWriMo. The point is, to call yourself a writer, you actually have to write. And you really should do it every day. So writers, as my father would say, “poop or get off the pot.” (Actually, my father would say the words originally intended, but this is a good, clean, family blog.)

I’m often commended on my discipline, getting up that early in the morning. But the morning is easy, often automatic, if I’ve had enough sleep. Where it takes discipline is the night before. I need my eight hours. Which means I have to go to bed at 8:00. Which means I have to start the process at 7:00. I often fall asleep to the sounds and smells of a neighbor’s dinner, barbecue flaring up, steaks on the grill. And before the recent time change, the sun was still up. Once, I woke from a deep slumber to the sound of the telephone ringing. I answered it, my voice thick with sleep and irritation. “Do you know what time it is?” I demanded. “8:30,” came the response.

Even if you’re not a writer, you’re not off the hook. The benefits are endless and for everyone. Get to work early and get a head start, catch the sunrise, squeeze in a workout, beat the traffic or finally have time for breakfast. And if you are a writer, the early morning hours are best for channeling that ever elusive Muse. Wayne Dyer believes you are closer to divine inspiration at dawn. Or if he’s too New-Agey for you, take it from Bill Gates. He’s an early riser, too.

Assuming I’ve convinced you to give it a try, here are some tips:

1. Get enough sleep. I can’t stress this one enough. To get up earlier, you need to go to bed earlier. Otherwise it will be that much harder and you’ll feel awful. Or maybe you like fighting a losing battle.

2. Have a reason to get up. Ever notice how easy it is to get up to catch that flight or pack on the first day of vacation? Doing something productive or having something to look forward to makes it easier.

3. Don’t rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of it, it’ll never happen. Don’t even start to have that conversation. Just don’t go there.

4. Set the alarm across the room. If you have to get out of bed to wake up, you’re less likely to get back in it.

5. Don’t make drastic changes. Don’t attempt to change your routine overnight. Start by setting the alarm 15-30 minutes earlier. Gradually increase this by increments until you reach your goal time.

6. Get out of the bedroom immediately. Don’t tempt yourself by the sight of an unmade bed. Walk into the bathroom, turn on the light. Wash your face or jump in the shower. How about heading to the kitchen and starting that coffee?

7. Don’t hit snooze. You’re not getting up. And you’re not getting good sleep. It’s a lose-lose. And if you hit it once, you’re more likely to hit it two, three or seven times.

8. Reward yourself. Stay motivated. Treat yourself to something if you’ve accomplished your goal. Enjoy a tasty breakfast treat or a smoothie.

9. Get a wake-up buddy. Just like working out, it’s easier with a friend. Find a similarly motivated pal and encourage or call each other.

10. Pay attention to sleep cycles. Your body goes through five sleep stages, including REM sleep. If you’ve tried all the above and you’re still having trouble, you’re likely waking in the middle of a cycle when it’s best to wake at the end of one. Try setting your alarm a half-hour earlier or later.

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