I’m currently typing this post at 4:15 am… not because I couldn’t sleep, not because one of the kids woke me up, not because I have too much to do, but simply because this is the time Dave and I have CHOSEN to get up at 4 am every weekday for the foreseeable future.
I know… it’s sort of crazy!
We are both very much “morning people” and are naturally more productive earlier in the day versus later at night. However, for the past (almost) 7 years, we’ve had to continually tweak and evaluate our daily routine based on how well (or how poorly) our current babies and toddlers are sleeping.
This meant often staying up later than we’d like to finish everything we had to finish that day… and then being too tired to wake up as early as we’d like to the next morning.
Who can relate to that?!
Over the past several months — essentially since Clara magically started sleeping really well — Dave and I have set our alarm earlier and earlier in an effort to regain our morning productivity.
We began our early morning routine with a 5:30 alarm and eventually transitions to waking at 4 am every morning.
So here we are… with a 4 am early morning routine Monday – Friday, and diligently getting to bed by 9:30 or 10 every night.
NOTE: We wake up around 5 on weekends.
Although this might sound completely insane to some of you, it honestly was not that hard of a transition for us to make.
If anything, we’re actually getting a bit MORE sleep now as we make every effort to be IN BED by 9:30 — otherwise, we’ll feel too tired the next day.
Why The Early Morning Routine?
You might be wondering the obvious question of WHY we would want to wake up this early… especially since our kids go to bed super early and we have several glorious hours of uninterrupted quiet time in the evenings.
Well, there are several reasons — one of which is that we now have several hours of uninterrupted quiet time in the morning, when we feel more awake and refreshed from a full night of sleep!
- we are both morning people and enjoy waking up early (as mentioned above)
- we are both much more “with it” in the morning versus later at night
- we are now able to get a good jump-start on our day by plowing through several of our to-do’s before the kids wake up and before Dave heads to school
- Dave likes to go running early in the morning versus late at night
- I like to have time to prep that day’s meals before people wake up
- we both prefer to be awake and 100% ready for the day before any of our kids wake up
What do I do at 4:00 in the morning?
Obviously, you won’t find me vacuuming or doing any sort of noisy construction project at 4 am… but there are SO many things I can easily do without disturbing our sleeping children:
- Look over my to-do list and mentally prepare for the day ahead
- Laundry — I can usually have 3 loads finished before the kids wake up!
- Respond to emails and blog comments
- Write blog posts
- Work on my VA jobs
- Schedule social media posts or respond to comments and messages
- Prep dinner (especially if I need to marinate meat, chop a bunch of veggies, or assemble a casserole)
- Get dressed and ready for my day
- Stretch and/or do my physical therapy exercises
- Go for a walk outside
- Read or listen to a podcast
- Wrap gifts or write cards (I do this for a committee at church)
- Water my potted plants
- Pick the vegetable garden (it’s usually light enough by 6:45 to do this)
- Pack any bags we’ll need for the day (we usually pack lunches the night before)
- Get groceries (thank-you to Meijer for being open 24-hours a day!)
- Start breakfast
Even if you are not a morning person, I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on how fantastic it feels to accomplish the majority of my day’s to-do list before anyone else’s day begins!
I feel so much more awake and “with it” by the time my kids come downstairs (between 6:30 and 7:00), I’m more-than-ready to serve breakfast and get the kids off to school, my entire day home with the younger kids feels less chaotic, and everything seems to run smoother.
There have been several mornings when I have completed 90% of my to-do list before our kids wake up… the only reason I didn’t finish it was because it involved making phone calls, making noise, or running errands to places that weren’t open until 10 am!
This means my brain is freer to focus on my family during the day (which was increasingly difficult for me to manage when I had so many other to-dos on my list each day).
Our Strategy for Getting to Bed On Time:
Obviously, if we’re waking up at 4 am, we NEED to get to bed on time, otherwise we simply won’t get enough sleep to make it through our day. So when Dave proposed his idea of waking up at 4 am, we both decided we had to get serious about an earlier bedtime.
Since our kids are usually all sleeping by 7 pm, we dedicate to wrap up our own day around about 2 hours later. We spend those 2 hours doing things like
- finish picking up the house and yard
- pick the garden if necessary
- clean out the dishwasher and/or wash and dry dishes
- pack lunches for the next day
- write out our to-do’s for the next day
- look over the menu plan for the next day and defrost any food items I’ll need
- respond to necessary emails, messages, voicemails, texts, etc.
Around 9 pm, we take showers and get ready for bed between. Depending on how tired we feel, we might watch a short Netflix show, read, or chat about the day/week ahead.
Then it’s lights out as close to 9:30 pm as possible.
Early Morning Routines are NOT For Everyone!
I certainly can’t write a post about waking up at 4 and going to bed at 9:30 without a HUGE DISCLAIMER that waking up and/or going to bed early are NOT the best choices for everyone!
I realize that “waking up early” and “productive mornings” have been trending topics for the last several years … and early morning routines are a great way to boost productivity. However, as a born and raised morning person, I am living proof that there are seasons of life when it is unfathomable to wake up by 7 am, let alone 4 am!
If you aren’t a morning person, embrace that and don’t try to force your body to do something so unnatural. Find your groove late at night, and enjoy some quiet productivity during the evening hours instead.
I also realize many of you with older children (and more evening commitments) are potentially laughing at the idea of 2 grown people going to bed by 9:30 every night! I know, it is somewhat comical!
And for those parents struggling through a long period of sleeplessness, thanks to a baby or young child who just doesn’t sleep, give yourself a free pass on this topic and sleep whenever you can (I do have some tips that might help you in this area though!)
I’m sharing this post, not as a guilt trip for anyone who loves to sleep in and stay out late, but simply as another option to consider if you’re currently struggling with a lack of productivity.
The beauty of our 4 am wake-up time is that IT WORKS FOR US… FOR NOW!
It’s 100% OK if it doesn’t work for you (I know it won’t work for many of you!)
I doubt Dave and I will wake up at 4 am forever, especially once we have more evening commitments with older children.
If/when it stops working as well, we will re-evaluate at that time and probably try something new. But for now, it’s working… and we do what works!
Looking For More Productivity Posts?
Here are several of the Productivity Posts I’ve shared over the years — in chronological order so you can get a feel for how our productiveness has morphed and changed over the years!
- How I Changed My Most Productive Time of Day (from morning to evening)
- Why I Need a Paper List to Be Productive (it’s an older post, but still SO true for me!)
- 7 Tips for a More Productive Morning… and Why I’m Not Following Any of Them (when we were in the trenches of Nora’s sleep issues and Simon was a newborn!)
- Why I Choose “Productive” Instead Of “Busy” (sometimes, simply using a different word can put a new spin o new perspective on the situation.)
- When You Have the Time… But Not The Energy (a good read for anyone struggling with lack of energy and motivation)
- Creating Change When You Just Feel Too Busy (a good lesson for any of you who’d like to change anything in your life)
- My Morning Productivity is Making a Comeback! (at least for a little while it did!)
- Creating Routine When Every Day Is Different (helpful information for those of you with non-traditional jobs)
- 2 “Secrets” to Being Productive AND Being a Present Parent (I’m getting wiser as a mother to 3 children now!)
- Why I Prepare to Be Productive (It’s amazing how much of a difference this makes for me!)
- How I Create More Time, More Simplicity, and More Peace
Just for discussion purposes, I’d love to know what time you wake up!