A Teenager’s Guide to Getting Up Earlier

The stereotypes of teenagers are often unfair, portraying us as noisy, rude and rebellious. Although I’m usually quiet, polite and the closest to rebellion I come is dying my hair, there is one way I match the profile perfectly – I love to sleep. With this in mind, I was sceptical when a friend suggested I try getting up earlier like she did. I thought I needed the hour and a half of sleep more than whatever I could accomplish in that time, but I was getting so stressed about my workload I gave it a shot for about a week. It didn’t go well.

The results weren’t awful, but I felt tired and working for an hour and a half in the pre-dawn gloom just felt dismal. I got back on top of my work and decided to go back to getting up just before I had to leave the house rather than 2-2.5 hours earlier. It didn’t seem worth the extra effort.

Cut forward almost two months and with exams and stress looming, I decided to take another crack at getting up earlier. Six in the morning might not seem that early but I can get away with getting up at almost eight and since my sisters stay up much later than me, I rarely fall asleep when I want to. This was a big change in my schedule so I was apprehensive to start again. To my surprise, I found it a lot easier than before and now I’ve been following this new routine for a few weeks I’m confident it’s having a positive effect. I get more done in a day than previously and I’m actually feeling less tired during the school day, providing I get to sleep early enough. This isn’t because getting up an hour or two earlier is a panacea for all troubles, but because I was approaching it in a better way at a better time.

My current school day routine runs something like this:

6:00am – Alarm goes off

I try to get up at this point but more often than not I fall asleep for ten minutes before remembering.

6:00 – 6:15am – making first breakfast. I don’t know how putting on a piece of toast and making a coffee takes so long but it never seems to be less than fifteen minutes.

6:20 – 7:30 – revision/school work downstairs while eating my toast and drinking my coffee. Sometimes I post an update on my Instagram story if I’m very bored, but generally, I try to keep my phone away and get some work done.

7:30 – time to leave the house – getting ready for school and eating second breakfast (I need proper breakfast or I can’t get through lessons.) What time exactly I have to leave depends on which parent I’m with and if I’m giving anyone a lift so it can vary by about thirty-five minutes day to day. About half the week I’ll have twenty minutes or so to myself that I tend to use to write or learn Japanese.

My evenings again vary day to day but on most days I manage two to three hours of studying and usually have an hour to work on my own projects like writing. As my evenings are so variable it’s hard to plan exactly how much work I can do, but having an extra hour or so in the mornings really makes a difference.

There’s a bunch of reasons getting up a little earlier to work is a good idea:

  1. You get more work done in a day. I’m always having to remind myself that I don’t have to be ‘productive’ 24/7, but if you’re struggling with your workload like I am with exams it can be a good way to manage that.
  2. You can have more evening free time. I’m one of the few people I know who have ‘leisure time’ in the mornings which, as I’ve mentioned, I tend to use either for writing, Japanese or just watching anime if I’m on a binge. However, all most people tend to do in the morning is sleep and get ready for the day, so by using the earlier hours to get things done, you’re not cutting into your leisure time, meaning you have more time to do things you like later on which is a prefered time anyway.
  3. School feels less of a drag. This might just be me, but I’ve found getting up earlier helps school feel easier to get through. If you get up at the last possible moment to get to school, school time accounts for far more of your waking day and is the first thing you experience. Rising earlier means you’ve already had two hours or so of your day before you get there and makes it feel more of a temporary place you’re visiting than your entire day.
  4. You get a better sleep schedule. I like/need a lot of sleep so I like to be asleep earlier rather than later anyway, but early rising has made that a necessity if I want to get through the day. Completing your work earlier in the day means you’re less likely to have to stay up late to finish it and so gives you more control over your sleep cycle.
  5. It’s a chance for peace. My mum’s house in particular is always busy and full of noise so having an hour to myself in the morning is lovely. Whether you meditate or not, having some peaceful time alone can make you feel better and more prepared for the day.

All in all, I think it’s definitely worth an hour or so of sleep, and it doesn’t even have to cost that if you can get to bed earlier. However, this isn’t going to work for everyone all the time, as I discovered during my first attempt. There are ideal conditions for this routine and those that make it harder.

I’d recommend this if:

  • You’ll be getting up at sunrise or it’ll already be light
  • You can plan in advance what work to do
  • You have a working space that is not in your bedroom
  • You won’t disturb others in your house
  • You’re not on a diet/fasting

I think the first condition, of working with the sun up, is the most important. Working in the dark is dismal and makes you much more tired, but if you do this during the summer with lighter mornings then the sunlight will energize you. I think working in the gloom of night was the primary reason I couldn’t originally stick to this routine. Some people can do it, but everything is easier with a bit of sunshine, or at least natural light.

Planning your work in advance is vital in my opinion. There’s no point in getting up early if you’re just going to spend that time faffing about trying to decide what to do. Set yourself a goal for the next morning before you go to bed and make sure you’ll have everything to hand when you get up. Be efficient in your work to make the most of your precious time.

It’s not essential to work outside your bedroom, and for some people this might not be at all practical, but I think it helps. It’s easier to remove yourself from distractions and the lure of your bed if you work downstairs or in another room. I’ve also read on the NHS website that keeping your bedroom for relaxation can help you sleep better. Whether that’s true or not, I find moving downstairs to work puts me in a better frame of mind to approach my revision.

Obviously, if rising earlier will cause issues for others in your household then it probably isn’t the best idea. If you know it will disturb people, try discussing your plans with them beforehand and make sure everyone knows what is happening. Be considerate.

While it’s not impossible to rise earlier if you’re severely restricting your intake, I find having a drink and a snack first thing is helpful for waking me up and ensuring I can concentrate on my work. Your brain is wired to concentrate more on food than anything else when you are hungry, so you’re not going to be able to make the best use of your time if your stomach is growling. A healthy, sufficient diet is essential for reaching your potential.

Getting up earlier may not work for everyone, but if you’re able then I’d really recommend giving it a try for a week or so. Find a routine that works for you. I sleep in on the weekends and some cold mornings I read textbooks in bed rather than get up properly. Don’t rigidly stick to something that doesn’t help you. In the end, it’s only a few hours a week and probably won’t rapidly transform your life, but those few hours add up and can take off the pressure of getting everything done in just a short evening.

****

This blog post took me a couple of days to write and while doing so I came to a conclusion. Even with my extra hours since getting up earlier, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to stay on top of all of my writing-related activities (social media, this blog, promoting, the actual writing part) as well as my revision for my exams in just a couple of weeks. Writing is important of course, but these exams will change the course of my life and so I need to give them priority for the moment. With that in mind, I’m sorry to say this blog will be going on hiatus until August, with the exception of one announcement to come very soon. I hope to return in three months time with more experience and better posts to share with you all. I will continue my Instagram account and be sharing my rep parcels, but probably posting about three or four times a week rather than every day. I wish everyone with and without upcoming exams the best of luck with your endeavours and I look forward to writing for you all again soon.

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