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On waking up early

During the exam periods, you’re much more likely to find students in the library at 2am the night before the exam trying to push the last pages of their course into their memory than that you are likely to find students who wake up routinely at 6am and start studying early so that they can relax the night before the exam.

When I was an undergraduate student in Brussels, I woke up at 9:20am to start studying at 10am during exams – only to get discourage around 4:30pm in winter when it already started to get dark and I had done about half of everything I wanted to do during that day. And then one of my classmates told me that he always started to study at 8am, just like the days when we had class (we had class from 8am to 5pm). It took me a few years to shift to this routine, but eventually I ended up spending less hours studying (8am to coffee break at 4pm or dinner at 7:30pm as compared to 10am to midnight or beyond), worrying less, relaxing more and getting better grades. Win – win – win if you ask me.

If you’d ask me a few years ago if I’m a morning or evening person, I’d reply that I’m an afternoon person: I don’t like waking up early and I don’t like going to bed late. But by now, I’ve shifted to a morning-oriented lifestyle, waking up between 5:30am and 6:30am on weekdays, and rounding off the day around 9pm, then settling down with a book.

As long as I’m at university when I’m supposed to teach my classes, I’m good – nobody checks if I’m starting my workday at 6am or 11am, and I wouldn’t want anybody to check on me like that (I’m allergic to authority). During my PhD, I had a sort of external motivation to show up early because that time would match the availability of the people in the lab, but even that push for being early is gone.

I’ve been experimenting with different routines, especially morning routines, over the past year – and, while the way I fill my morning might differ, the constant is that it starts relatively early. Often times I work out in the morning before going to work, showing up at 9am in the office after 1 or 2 hours in the gym, but the benefit of the morning workout is usually a productive day. It’s not the same as biking my commute in the morning, but almost.

The main advantage of waking up early, is that it feels as if I have more hours in the day. My evening hours usually fly by while I busy myself around the house, pack my things, move things around, hang out on the internet and write the occasional post or CD review. Many people watch TV at night. If you start your day early, your evening is shorter, but still provides you with enough time to relax – what’s the difference between roaming around the house/ playing games for 2 hours as compared to 5 hours?

So, to wrap things up, I’d like to invite you to rise and shine in the morning, and catch some worms while you’re at it. And of course, let me know how this experiment works for you!

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