I’ve struggled to maintain a regular sleep pattern for most of my life.
In my younger years, I would often game until 01:00-02:00 on weekdays and 03:00-04:00 on weekends, not getting up until 11:00 and midday respectively. This was my normality.
When I first started my freelance business, I carried this through into my work days. I thought I was on to a winner – “I’m more productive when the house is quiet and no one’s emailing me” became the go-to state of mind for why I was working in the middle of the night.
While this sort of worked as a 21-year-old with few responsibilities, my health was a bit of a mess. Physically and mentally.
As my career progressed as a freelance WordPress developer, it became strikingly clear that my sleep routine wasn’t sustainable. Still not getting to my desk until 11:00 (at best), I was too far detached from what a lot of my clients were working and leaving no time to look after myself properly.
Improvements were made in the coming years, but it’s only recently that I’ve finally nailed down a sleep routine that works for me.
In an attempt to go back to basics with my sleep and attempt to establish a routine, I started to test myself.
Going to bed at different times, getting up at different times and trying exercise at varying times of the day. For me, it didn’t seem to matter what time I went to bed; as long as I woke at a set time I’d feel rejuvenated and fresh. I found myself to not be a person who needs X amount of sleep, but much more of a person who needs to get up at the same time most days.
I eventually hit the sweet spot by setting my weekday alarm for 06:51. It doesn’t matter what time I get to bed, I always get up at 06:51 when I have work to do.
It felt right to my body but also felt right to my life. I have a couple of morning commitments before my day starts when I’m working form my home office.
I have four non-negotiable gym sessions per week that I like to take first thing on a morning. I’ve tried after work sessions and it didn’t suit me. The thought of having to go to the gym after a full day’s work wasn’t something I looked forward to. By getting it out of the way on a morning it feels like I’m being productive straight away. This leads me perfectly in to work as I feel like I’m already getting stuff done. Productivity breeds productivity.
Another reason for the 06:51 alarm is that I have to walk my dog. Getting a dog pretty much forced me into becoming a morning person. As someone who works from home more often than not, I can definitely recommend having a four-legged friend that relies on you for exercise. It’s an excuse to step away from the screen for a break and sometimes you need that push. I take my dog out straight after the gym – usually around 08:30.
After that, shower and breakfast; most days I’m at my desk ready to work between 09:00 and 10:00. Having my external commitments crossed off and in the bank before I start gives me clarity and a clear run at the working day ahead.
I can’t stress how much a steady sleep routine has benefitted me. Although I’m a believer in being flexible as a freelancer, having a fixed workday alarm time has made me a better home worker. I’m more level mentally, I’m in better shape physically and my productivity is as high as it’s ever been. To expand on these benefits:
- When I get up at 06:51, go to the gym and walk my dog, I feel like I’ll have a good day in the office. It sounds really simplistic, and I guess it is; once I’ve started checking off tasks, the next one feels a million times easier. And the next one after that and the next one after that. I rarely feel overwhelmed by my workload.
- Getting up earlier allows me the time to look after my physical health. In my experience, this is something that is often neglected by remote workers. I do this much better now that I have a regular sleep cycle.
- Humans are creatures of routine and your sleep pattern is a big part of that. I feel comfortable with the predictability of waking up at the same time. This routine simplifies my life and allows me to do more by providing regular periods of focus.
While these benefits are generic in terms of how a consistent sleep routine will make you feel, the way you achieve this will likely be unique. Just because I perform well with no set bedtime but a set wake-up time, doesn’t mean you will.
Everyone’s lives are different and everyone’s bodies are different. You need to find a sleep routine that allows you to be at your best.
Find your 06:51.
Since the time of writing, I’ve pushed the start of my morning routine further one hour to 5:50 as it better suits my current commitments.
Turning myself into a morning person continues to be directly beneficial to my mental state, physical health and business profits.