an owl is sitting on a tree branch

Can a night owl become an early bird?

I never thought I could be an early bird until recently. Back in April I decided to start writing morning pages. I had The Artist’s Way book in my book collection for years, but never took the time to read it from start to finish. When I found out that Julia Cameron was going to be speaking at 1440 Multiversity, a nearby retreat center, I decided I wanted to go to her workshop. And if I was going to go to the workshop, I might as well come prepared. I knew it would be much better to start doing morning pages and artist’s dates before going to her workshop. That way I could ask questions without sounding clueless about her beliefs. If I had read at least one book, then I’d be better prepared for her workshop. I’m so glad I got started!

Many things get started and get done because there’s a deadline out there somewhere on the horizon. In fact, it’s probably the reason that most things get done. I knew I wanted to attend Julia’s workshop on my birthday weekend in mid July. I was so excited to meet someone who’s a hero to so many writers and artists. As a writer herself, she speaks from experience as she advises writers to begin their days by writing. In fact, this journaling technique is therapeutic for anyone, but especially so for writers. By starting the day writing morning pages, I look forward to getting up. It’s not the same as starting the day with a blog post or a chapter to work on. One thing that’s so freeing about the morning pages is that the only goal is to write three handwritten pages as soon as possible after waking up. You have the freedom to write anything that’s on your mind. This is the major point of it–to free write anything that’s on your mind. This is an awesome way for an early bird writer to start the day.

Julia Cameron is a champion for writers, artists and others devoted to creative expression.

For a while I was trying to incorporate my SoulCollage cards into morning pages and use them as a guide for my writing. At another point, I thought of a question and wrote to find the answer. Later I tried to give myself focused topics to write about. After these attempts at trying to do morning pages with more structure, I decided to go back to free writing and allow myself to write whatever I wanted. This makes it so fun to wake up to. I can’t wait to wake up to write and find out what’s on my mind. I’m excited to think forward about my upcoming day.

Shortly after I read The Artists’s Way, I started reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. In this book, he mentions six things to do every morning. To make it easy to remember, he made up the acronym of SAVERS. It stands for Silence (or meditation), Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. As a writer, scribing is the one that stood out most for me. Hal admits that he used Scribing instead of writing simply because it made it easier to remember the acronym. The W wasn’t quite as easy to work with. When Hal studied the morning routines of successful people, he learned that the most of them have a morning routine that helps them to get their day off to the right start. They’re early birds focused on what they want to do. They utilize specific techniques to visualize and prepare for the upcoming day.

Writing is just one of the six things. But this is significant considering that there are an infinite number of things we can do after we wake up. Notice that none of the six things include drinking coffee, taking a shower, eating breakfast or other body-related things people commonly do after they wake up. The main things relate to the mind. How we decide to start and then choose to proceed through the early part of our day is vital to setting the stage for each upcoming day.

I quickly realized I would need to adjust my morning routine to fit in the writing. I knew I would benefit by waking up earlier. I had been wanting to get up earlier for quite some time, but just wasn’t sure how to make it happen. I often wished I could become an early bird, but just figured I wasn’t born with those genes. In addition, I didn’t have any requirement to do so. I had a tendency to stay up late at night so it seemed impossible to wake up early. Instead of trying to make a fast transition, I decided to go slow. I decided to set my alarm clock back by five minutes every weekday until I got to my desired wake up time. I started out with my alarm at 7:00 am and during the month of September, I set my clock back by five minutes every weekday until I finally reached 5:00 am. Within a month, this now feels like my normal wakeup time.

Another thing that helped to make this transition easier is the Sleep Cycle app. It helps to make it easier to wake up. It can tell how deep you’re sleeping and know when to start playing sounds to wake you. I have mine set to chirping birds because it feels more natural than music or a jarring buzzing or bell sound of a traditional alarm.

Sleep Cycle alarm clock analyzes your sleep and wakes you up when you’re in the lightest sleep phase. If you want to be an early bird, this app can help.

I asked my health coach for advice on getting better sleep. He’s the one who suggested that I try Sleep Cycle. All of these things seemed to come together naturally as if it was what was meant to be. With advice from my health coach, plus the books by Julia Cameron and Hal Elrod all merging together, I had the support I needed to make a change. I knew that I wanted to wake up earlier and finally all the pieces came together. I finally had the motivation along with the physical and mental self-discipline I needed to transition from a night owl to an early bird.

The ego wants to be comfortable and in control. My husband and I had been waking up around 7:00 am for quite a few years and sleeping in later on the weekends. There are several different levels, including relationships, that play into shifting a major habit. You have to have strong motivation to push through various levels of resistance.

I realized when I was undertaking this goal that it would be easier to stick with the same wakeup time every day, including weekends. At first, this seemed like a blow to my freedom. What if I wanted to stay in bed longer because I could? It’s a luxury to be able to sleep in, right? But then I shifted my thinking, realizing that there was so much to be gained by waking up earlier. I would get more out of the day. As I made slow adjustments to my wakeup time, I discovered more benefits. I’d much rather be walking with the energetic early birds than witnessing night owls staggering off the stage after midnight.

A morning walk is a great way to start the day!

This morning, as I write this shortly after sunrise in Santa Cruz, California, I’m reminded of the incredible benefits of waking up early. We watched the sun rise from our RV while parked on West Cliff Drive at the intersection of Getchell Street. It was as vibrant and alive as this sunset we saw along this same route around 6:30 last night.

Sunset is a reminder that it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep.

Now that I’m an early bird, I love the peaceful mornings as much as I used to love the quiet time in the evening. The biggest difference, however, is that I feel like I’m ahead of my day instead of waking up feeling rushed into my day. It’s the same quiet time, but instead shifted to a time of the day when I’m more alert. I used to have this quiet time in the evening when my energy was mostly depleted. I was never very productive during these late night attempts at getting things done. Now I’m much more productive in the morning than I’ve ever been in my life.

If you wish you could be more productive with your days, start waking up a little earlier every day and discover the benefits for yourself.

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