Like many of my 20-something peers, I enjoy the luxury of sleeping until noon. I can’t find many feelings comparable to that of waking up completely on your own, sleeping until your body sends the signal that it’s not tired anymore. It’s a luxury that becomes increasingly rare as time propels us further into adulthood.
When it comes to getting up for work, we have a habit of pressing snooze until the last possible second, rationalizing a million things until the inevitable moment arrives when you just can’t come up with anymore excuses. “I’ll just go to the gym after work.” “I don’t need to eat breakfast; I’ll just buy something again.” “I haven’t been late all month; I can be fifteen minutes late today.” The list goes on forever.
I had been like this until I got my last job, where I realized if I was going to stay with the company, or make any mark in the fast-paced environment on the web, I would have to make some sacrifices.
I soon realized that time doesn’t move faster in New York; it just takes longer to do anything. In the sprawling metropolis of six-million people, getting anywhere in New York means counting on a minimum of a 30-minute commute. Time gets away from you before you even realize it’s dusk and you have yet to finish your coffee from that morning. Maybe it’s because we’re busier; maybe it’s because we’re older, but time has most definitely sped up.
With your job taking up at least eight hours of your day, you must pick and choose how you spend your time out of the office. Watching television is a conscious decision to spend an hour out of the short few you have left before you must force yourself to engage in a few hours of sleep. Getting drunk means not only wasting multiple hours spending money, but also paying for it the next time you have any free time.
By the time I got home from work around 7 pm, I was already too tired and brain dead to think about working on something extra for the office, something that would add value to my position. I avoided anything that involved making an effort, even if that meant something as simple as writing in a journal. I would guiltily engage in some mindless television, usually the likes of “Top Chef” or “Shahs of Sunset,” until my mind had completely turned off, relaxed and absorbed in the lives of someone else's drama.
I knew there wouldn’t be anything inspiring or motivational happening until my brain turned off for a few, engaged in mindless activities, and just generally cooled off. By the time I felt relaxed and completely unwound, I would be fighting off sleep. If I couldn't keep my eyes open, how was I going to do everything I needed to do to get ahead in work?
I planned to revert to college tendencies of exam week, where I could get up at 5 am and cram for my 11 am exam. Six hours right before the deadline left everything fresh in my mind and the adrenaline was always motivating enough to keep me from procrastinating any further. I decided to apply this method to my own work, my professional life.
Every day for the next five months, I got up at 5:30 to do everything I told myself I would do to improve my situation. I would eat breakfast so I didn’t have to pay for it once I got to work. I would do my own personal writing that I was always too tired to try after 6 pm.
Maybe it’s because I was passionate about my work, enjoyed my job and was motivated to succeed in my own professional environment, but I realized I had become one of those people I never understood, those people who got up at 5 am.
I realized there was an entire gap of extra time in the morning that I wasn’t using, time that was going to differentiate me from my constituents. While everyone else was saying there wasn’t enough time in the day, I found three extra hours.
Now, I’m not saying you need to be one of those people who needs to rise early; you can be one of those people who can’t fall asleep. If you’re one of those people who can’t go to bed before 1 or 2 am, that’s your window of opportunity. Rather than lying in bed and watching Netflix for six hours, work on what you need to get to the next step in your life. Start planning out your strategy. Work on your screenplays or study for that CPA exam you think you’ll inevitably end up taking. Read the book you always wanted to finish; be productive.
I’ve realized something about life that separates the successful from everyone else. There’s a pattern to it, and we all get tired. You're not the only one who feels like getting up is the hardest thing you’ve ever done come Wednesday morning. It’s the people with the drive and the strength to still get up early on Wednesday morning who make it further than you ever will. It’s the people who don’t waste their time hitting snooze on the alarm and wasting an entire Saturday afternoon in bed.
Because time is precious and fleeting, and if you haven’t already realized, there isn’t much of it.