Advantages of waking up early

March 29, 2007

dawn.jpgWaking up early has innumerable benefits. Before I launch into a list of those benefits, you might want to consider the fact that almost all successful people are out of bed by 630am. So, what exactly are the benefits of waking up early?

  1. The first advantage is the extra time gained in the day. If you wake up two hours early, rather than sleeping for 8 or even 10 hours (quite a normal feat for me sometimes) you’ll gain two precious hours that you can put to use. Two extra hours might mean time to work out, meditate, cook something by yourself (which means you’ll be eating food which is more healthy and cheap — and sometimes even more tasty!), write a short story, or pursue a hobby. Wake up at 6, and even if you have a one-hour commute to work, you can fit in time for a quick workout, meditation, cooking and email– all before you’ve even reached work.
  2. Waking up early usually mean that your day gets a great start. First, you’ll be proud of yourself for waking up so early, and achieving one of your goals. You might be able to reward yourself by catching a glimpse of the sunrise, or appreciating the breaking morning sky. And usually, if your day has a great start, the rest of day follows in a similarly happy pattern. Or at least you’re in a good mood and better able to deal well with setbacks or frustrations.
  3. You get time to work on an important goal that you might not usually have time for. Many great writers used to write in the morning, before they went off to their day jobs. Nell Fredeunberger, a writer I’m very impressed by, mentions that while she was working full-time at the New Yorker Magazine, she would write out a short story in the mornings before she arrived at work. Her short stories have been published, and won prestigious awards; her second book, a novel, has also been recently published. By waking up early, you make time for yourself, and for things which are important to you, but might otherwise be crammed out of your life. Even if you choose to work at your usual job, you can get more work by the end of the day. Your personal productivity goes up, if you wake earlier.
  4. Mornings are a great time for work, since they tend to be quiet and uninterrupted. During the day, you might not be able to devote all of yourself to a pet project: you might need to keep an ear open for your phone even while you meditate, your kids might walk in clamoring for attention when you’re trying to type out witty dialogue for your screenplay. Waking up early is a great way to find a chunk of peaceful, productive time. Once again, even if you choose to do some “regular” work in this time, you’ll be much more productive than  you would normally be during the day, when coworkers and bosses would demand your time every few minutes, as well as your spouse on the phone and friends on IM. In the morning, you won’t be exhausted from work or burdened with worries, so it’s easier to get work done faster, too.
  5. Waking early allows you to actually have breakfast. Many people are used to skipping breakfast, and may think that breakfast isn’t such a big deal. But once you start waking early and having the time to have a nutritious and healthy breakfast, you’ll notice what an energy boost it is, and how much more alert you seem throughout the day.
  6. Finally, waking early means that early appointments are easier to meet and will be more productive. Whether it’s a class, or a client, if you wake early you won’t need to be groggy and half-alert. Class attendance has been proven to have a strong positive correlation with grades, and if you can meet a client before your competitors, or even before he gets to his other work, you will have a strong competitive advantage. 

Many people mistakenly believe that they’re night owls and that waking early has no real benefit for them. This is a rather widely-held misconception. Anyone can wake up early, once they’ve gotten used to it. It’s true that the first few days of suddenly waking up early are likely to be difficult, but once the routine is set, it’s not that difficult. And being a night owl is not really that productive, it just mistakenly seems that way– a fact that becomes evident once you’re used to the habit of starting your day early.

If you’re already an early riser, congratulations! Waking up early is a difficult habit to establish, and as difficult to re-establish once you lapse. In the next post I’ll mention my tips for how to actually get out of bed, at an hour that might initially seem quite ungodly. Of course, those’ll only help you if you’re convinced by the advantages.

If you disagree, or if you have any additional ideas that you’d like to mention, I would love to hear from you.

Picture credits: “Hogback dawn” by mike_ormsby


How to “buy” happiness

September 20, 2006

Yes, you can buy happiness.

According to a 2004 poll by Associated Press, 56% of people earning more than $75,000 a year say they are “very satisfied” with life, while only 24% of people earning $25,000 or less a year say the say thing about their lives. However money can’t guarantee happiness.

After all, according to those numbers, 44% pf people who earned more than $75,000 a year didn’t claim to be “very satisfied” with life.

There are certain things in life which are more important to happiness, than money: good health, a happy family life, good relationships, friends, a stress-free (or less stressful) life. Money can help to improve many of these factors, but first, a brief mention of the two most important things that money can’t buy:

  1. Hearts: Just like the song, you “can’t buy me love”. Getting someone to love you takes a lot of things, including plain dumb luck. Never try to spend your way into someone’s heart.
  2. Respect and Admiration: Your new luxury car or huge plasma TV will not make people admire you. Yes, they will think you are trying to impress. And of course they will wonder about just how insecure you are. But if you want someone to look up to you, you’ll have to make use of what you have inside yourself, not what you have inside your garage.

Despite the fact that money can’t guarantee happiness, there are some ways in which money will make you happier:

  1. Comfort: Money can buy you a sense of security. Not having to worry about the details of survival is a wonderful things. Insurance and health cover remove some of the uncertainties that would plague us otherwise.
  2. Education: We’re happier when faced with a challenge, and we have an immense capacity to grow. Whether it’s learning about art history or taking cooking classes, most of us have interests which we’d be happier pursuing.
  3. Travel: Travel broadens our horizons and lets us experience the wonder of something new. The funny thing is, even if a trip is bad, we tend to remember a lot of great things about it, later on.
  4. A life full of experiences: I am definitely a person who’d prefer to save the money than to splurge on Starbucks, but small daily pleasures do add up, whether it’s gourmet coffee, great home-cooked food, or a glass of nice wine. For some people, life is better when it’s enriched with the arts: reading a daily poem, or visiting the museum, might be your cup of tea.
  5. Memories: Life is better when you have something to remind yourself of your wonderful past. Take pictures, buy silly souvenirs, and leave things that remind you of where you’ve been, nearby.
  6. Beautiful surroundings: Money can buy you a nice home, nice interior decoration, and expensive flowers. As humans, we tend to appreciate the beautiful things in life, so it’s worthwhile spending to make our living spaces a joy to look at.
  7. Beauty: We may be fickle, but study after study shows that attractive people are happier. I’m completely against obsessing with looks, but spending a bit for a good haircut, comfortable and stylish clothes, and mood-enhancing perfume, certainly pays off. And any woman will tell you that shoes are a girl’s second-best friend :)
  8. Nearness to work: I can’t remember the exact studies right now, but I once read about how the daily commute adds to our stress. And I don’t think that anyone loves their commute. So, live near your office, or work at home. If you can’t do those, try to make the commute less horrible, be it with an i-Pod, or a chauffeur-driven car.
  9. Health: Money can’t buy you health, but you can certainly spend on healthy things that will make you feel better, including organic food, a swimming pool and gym membership. It’s up to you to put the healthy things you buy, to good use. Of course, money can also buy treatment options, but a good health plan should cover those.
  10. Relaxation: Soothing music, yoga classes and massages: don’t dismiss them before you’ve tried them.
  11. Friends: In no way can money buy you friends. But we’re happy when we’re social, and money spent on friends and being friendly, makes us happier in the long run. So, that Sunday brunch, your best friend’s birthday gift, and the dinner party you were planning to host, are all worth the time and effort. And money.
  12. Kids: Obviously, I’m not suggesting you buy kids, or even attempt to buy their affection. But they’re expensive brats, and spending on them goes a long way (as any parent will attest). I feel like this is a self-explanatory point, but whether it’s spending to get the kids out of the way (baby sitting) or to make them more tolerable to be around (education, entertainment, food, etc) kids tend to make us happier.
  13. Pets: Furry friends make our lives fun, and studies show that they lead to lower stress. Unfortunately, just like kids, pets tend to be expensive: apparently, they’re worth that expense.
  14. Romance: Your relationship with your s.o. is the most important one in your life, so spend what you need to, to make it work: from flowers to diamonds to a second honeymoon.
  15. Time: This, in my opinion, is the single most important thing that money can buy. None of us have more than 24 hours in a day. Trying to extract the most out of each of those precious hours is one of the most difficult things to do. Money can help you to do it, be it through gadgets, a chauffeur or a private jet.

I’m a very anti-consumer-debt person, so I don’t think any of the above is worth buying on credit. Although buying something on credit might make you happy temporarily, in the long run, you’re likely to have to cut back on your lifestyle in order to repay those loans.

Many of these items are not applicable to people trying to live on a stringent budget, for whatever reason. However, if you’ve got the cash and are considering whether to buy a yatch or a luxury sedan, don’t. Spend the money on a chauffeur instead, or use it to visit your local cafe each day, where you can enjoy gourmet coffee and meet new friends.

This post is part of the group blogging project at Problogger. It’s also a continuation of my series on how to be happy, the first of which was on happiness and health.

I’ve added this post to my new blog, Happiness Creator. Please visit it :)


Using Waiting Time

September 10, 2006

The truth is, most of us spend much of our lives waiting for something or the other: the plumber, a taxi, our new boyfriend to call. If we could only fill up waiting time with work, then our days would be so much more productive. David Maister has a really good post about waiting lines and the psychology behind them; he mentions some things which make waiting seem longer. It’s a very insightful piece written from the perspective of businesses, and I agree with all the points! Especially the one about waiting alone being longer than waiting with others.

From a personal perspective, there are a variety of things we can do to be productive, enjoy ourselves, or at least make the wait seem tolerable: listen to music, hear educational audiotapes, read, write, etc etc.

I am the first to admit that although filling up waiting time with work seems great in theory, it’s sometimes a bit hard to practice. Often, the anxiety of the wait makes concentrating on something else next to impossible.

For less stressful waits, you should always try to use up that time well. In fact, I think that’s why “waiting in groups” makes waiting seem less time-consuming: when you’re in a group, you can always interact socially.

But even if you’re not waiting in a group, you should always be prepared to wait, with a list of “do while waiting” kind of tasks. These days, thanks to GPRS on my cell phone, I can check my mail and my favorite blogs, while I wait.

What do you do when you wait?


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