31 Dec 2015, 08:32

Challenge #1 - Waking up at 630am - Finish

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Today marks the last day of my first two month challenge and in short, it was extraordinary. As a quick recap, my challenge was to wake up at 6:30am each weekday for two months. I thought it would be hard but rewarding; in reality it made my life a lot easier. I assumed that I would be sleeping less but I actually ended up sleeping more, and being more productive both for that and because I had a solid 3 hour block to work on my priorities each morning.

It felt incredible to be able to throw a ton of time at whatever I wanted to work on, and I was able to see clear, defined progress in these areas. Namely – I studied a ton of CS fundamentals and Go code, built sample / side projects, and successfully recruited for a Golang backend role, something I’d been dreaming about for a long time (I’ll be joining the Eikon Messenger team at Reuters in the new year :)). In general, whenever something started bubbling to the top of the priority list, I’d throw a morning session or two at it and knock it out of the park.

I can’t say it was all rosy, but the downsides didn’t really hold a candle to the upsides. First though, the stats: I successfully woke up at 6:30am 97.7% of the days during the roughly 9 weeks that comprised November and December (I missed 1 day, the day after Thanksgiving). I didn’t record detailed stats for the weekends but I would estimate I still woke up at 6:30 about 35% of the time, and by 7:30 80% of the time. The remaining 20% usually involved a really, really late night out or situations where I had accumulated a small but consistent slept debt over a few days.

So what were the downsides?

  • There were 2-3 instances where I accumulated a consistent sleep debt (30-60min) each night for 3-4 nights in a row. Each time this happened it culminated in a pretty shot day where I didn’t get much done and had to clear my schedule that night to sleep early or wait until the weekend when I could sleep in. In the grand scheme of things these were few and far between.
  • As expected, there were one or two instances where I had to leave a social event earlier than I would’ve liked. This was actually less of an issue than I anticipated though – since I was sleeping more in general, I could choose to skip on the sleep if I really wanted to.

What were the upsides?

  • In addition to the big boost to productivity and momentum I touched on above: It was easier to fall asleep each night, and after the first two weeks I also experienced almost no “wake up pain” during the entire remainder of the challenge. This was a surprising net plus. FYI, When I say “wake up pain” I’m talking about the classic Rage-Against-the-Alarm-Clock sort of feeling. Before, this was a moderately common occurrence (whenever I stayed up late but couldn’t sleep in).
  • I also noticed that if I did stay up late I actually fell into a deep sleep quicker and still woke up on time and pretty well rested. I was shocked the first time this happened. My body knew what to expect and adjusted – something I had never experienced before.

What I’ll be doing moving forward

  • For starters, I’m definitely going to keep waking up at 630am. That Benjamin Franklin guy really knew what he was talking about.
  • Slightly tangential, but it was really important to pick ONE thing to focus on during my 3 hour block, and try to decide that the night before. There were definitely a few times I didn’t get as much done because I didn’t have a singular focus; I’ll be continuing to work on this moving forward.

Final thoughts / notes

  • I bought a Phillips light alarm clock to simulate the sunrise – helpful since about two weeks in the days were short enough that I was waking up in darkness.
  • Should you do it? I don’t doubt that there were probably several factors involved in the upside I saw, as they’re things I have been working on for a long time and certainly didn’t manifest entirely during the last two months. I also think my personality and social preferences have been converging to this point for some time and were necessary prerequisites. If you’re curious though… why not do a two month challenge and find out :)?
  • Lastly, some macro thoughts: I felt a big urge two weeks in to start working on something else. At that point I had sort’ve “figured out” the waking up thing and wanted to tackle something else. I even thought about overlapping (and staggering) challenges, so I could have more fun and get more of them done. About 3-4 weeks in though, I noticed my momentum for the challenge really slipping. If I was working on something else, it would have been really easy to forget that I was focused on waking up early and not push through the pain points. This was a pretty clear sign that two months is the right length for me, and reaffirmed my belief that a singular focus is paramount.

Up next, meditation challenge.

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