Clarity

April 2, 2007

I think the number one thing you need when first starting out (in anything) is clarity. I’m raising this issue because I seem to be seeing more and more people who aren’t really clear about what they want.

I mean, they think they know what they want. They want a bite-sized snickers bar. But is that really what they want? No: they want something sugary, but not so big or high in sugar content. Once they realize this, they might be happy with fruit that’s sweet tasting, whether fresh, dried or canned. Or they might actually be craving chocolate, in which case they could opt for dark chocolate, which is higher in anti-oxidants and flavinoids, and more healthy than other chocolates. They might even just be hungry, in which case any healthy, filling snack would be good enough.

Too often we get wrapped up in the details. Is this happening to you lately? Are you frustrated because something seems out of reach? Do you find yourself becoming satisfied even when you receive a substitute of what you initially wanted?

Sometimes, we achieve the greatest clarity when we manage to step back and look at the big picture.

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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