Everyone has an optimum time of day – a time when they have supreme clarity of mind, and during which they can therefore do their best work. It is important for us to know which time of day works best for us.
I love the night hours. It is not at all difficult for me to stay awake until 2am, reading, dreaming, and making plans for the future. The night has a special quality – something that summons forth our creativity, that dares us to think the unthinkable. It can be radical; it can be liberating.
But it’s not for me. However much I love those hours, I have come to realise that living that way does not ultimately benefit me. Losing hours of sleep will surely take its toll. There are stories of people who can get by wonderfully well on less than five hours of sleep every night (one such example is the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher), but I am not one of them. I have come to know that I am at my optimum the following day if I have had at least seven hours of sleep. Any less than that, and I might already kiss goodbye to a productive and well organised morning.
I have also found that, on the mornings that I do rise early (i.e. at around 6.30am), I have enough time to do those things that generally set me up for a productive and inspiring day. Rising early means I have time for prayer, for exercise, for journalling, and also to marshall my thoughts and prepare for the day. Rather than waking up late and spending the morning trying to catch up with the lost hours, I enter the new day with calm and purpose. I find then that I am taking charge of the day, rather than simply reacting to everything coming my way.
Rising early gives me a great opportunity to control my agenda – not just the daily tasks of life, but also the mental and emotional ‘asks’ that accompany them. Being well rested, I am better able to observe my thoughts and emotions. In fact, I have noticed a clear relationship between my state of mind and my tendency to react. The more rested I am, the more in control I am of my thoughts and emotions. This is a great benefit.
So I know that early mornings are the best for me. It is therefore in my interest to have as many of them as I can, preferably every day. However this does not come without cost. I still love the night time. It has many benefits for me – not least, creativity, wild thoughts, and the opportunity to ‘observe’ the world at rest. I had to give that up, but I came to realise that I did not lose much. I have learnt that I can have all those benefits in the morning, as well, that those ‘night time benefits’ are also available to me if I rise early. And rising early comes with the added benefit that I enter the day with power.
Everyone is different. Some of us function better with early morning starts. Others are late night people. It is not a matter of what you prefer (left to me, I would have preferred late nights), but rather it is a matter of what works best for you. Discover for yourself what works best for you, and begin to use that to your advantage.