I don’t know when it started exactly, but at some point, I became an early bird.
Maybe when I was at university and habitually leaving things to the last possible moment?
At that point, the maths was pretty clear – get up at this time and work your butt off, or you’ll fail.
That was a good constraint* to have. I got good at burning the candle at both ends, and saw in many dawns hunched over a keyboard while I pulled together a submission.
Over the years, work got serious and then kids arrived and the equation changed – get rest or you’ll keel over. Sleep quickly became an untouchable, non-negotiable asset.
But recently, I’m getting up well before dawn again. And loving it.
Earlier this month I started Seth Godin’s altMBA** – an intensive 1 month opportunity to “level up” my skills. Since the course kicked off, I’ve been voluntarily getting up at 2 or 3 am most mornings to get some focused work done in my office while our young family sleeps.
It’s like discovering another world.
I wake up, make a cup of black tea and creep out the front door (without slamming/creaking) anything and start down the stairs. 50% of the time, when the night is clear, I stop and turn into a little kid at this exact point.
The stars are everywhere.
After the grogginess of sleep, it hits me like smelling salts.
Inevitably I’ll go grab my camera and traipse around the yard and street trying to find a new angle. I like to combine the suburban stalwarts – the apartments, Queenslanders, the bushes, the vehicles in their own sleeping states – as they sleep under the thousand bright lights that fill our skies down here in Australia.
The result is I spend 15 or so minutes all alone in the pre-dawn quiet, wandering around playing with a camera. It sounds weirder than it is. After that, if the stars were out, I’ll do some quick adjustments, pick a photo and send it to Instagram (I post as @hamishwyatt).
And that’s the first “fun” creative thing done and dusted for the day. After that, I’ll jump into work and maintain deep focus – whether it’s making a website or writing an ad – for a few hours.
By the time the kids wake up and the breakfast/coffee hours happen, I’ve got a 3 hour jump on the world. Even better, I’ve created something fun and I’ve made a dent in my work. I can drink my coffee and be a parent without rushing or freaking out that I’ve missed something for a few hours.
When the altMBA course ends in 2 weeks, I am pretty confident I’ll be keeping the early wake ups. If I can just throw some exercise in, too, 2017 will be a year of good things.
* For more information on how to use constraints, check out A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden. Who knew that I knew all that way back in 2004!
** If you’re in any way involved in business, management or communication, this course is a real shot in the arm. I’ve found my productivity, focus and energy soaring simply by doing this one, new thing.