I am a morning person. I have realised this in the last four years. Before this understanding dawned on me, I went through years of swinging between the early hours of the morning and the ticking clock at midnight. While children become morning people automatically due to school, I have a father who is a committed morning person, and that passed on to me because he could not see me sleep beyond seven in the morning, even during vacations.
Things changed when I moved to college, and a life of indisciplined fun began. I would stay up till three in the nights chatting away (or studying) with newfound friends (now my extended family), and then crawl to classes in the morning, napping in the afternoon and then begin socialising and studying again come evening. This cycle continued for half a decade, cementing in many bad habits that continue to haunt me.
However, as professional life beckoned, the school-going routine returned, and I steadied my hold over my day. I have been following Robin Sharma for years, and he has been harping on the treasures of early morning through his career. This knowledge is not new. My father has always operated at his best since his childhood in the early hours of the morning. For years I would wake up early to study and would round up the morning with a dose of news. But following my father’s dictum was done because it was convenient and required. However, I never harnessed the morning as I should until the September of 2015 when I realised the value of a well-lived morning.
But you might wonder what changed in 2015? Was there an epiphany? Not really.
In September 2015, I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, promptly left my job as a research assistant to a lawyer in the city I currently live in and began working for an educational agency that had a strict 9 am to 6 pm work time. It was only after I graduated that I started writing a novel that came fully formed to me (it is still being written). Away from the constant deadlines of graduate school, the story decided to blossom, now that I had only my work to attend to.
During my time in graduate school, I was told that if I wrote 350 words a day for a year, I could glide to the first draft of a novel. This demanded some perseverance and not writing that came in bursts fuelled by inspiration, something that is unreliable at best.
And I began. I would wake up at four in the morning, pray, settle in the kitchen for the first tea of the day that my father would make (and continues to), and then with a fresh brew of my own, I would begin writing.
The beginning was fantastic. I would go beyond the stated word limit and write steadily till about six in the morning, and then take an hour to read a book and the newspaper. By seven I would begin preparing for the day and then after a little family time, leave for work. By evening when I would return home after a run by the lake that we adore in our city, I was famished and ready to enjoy some family time followed by a little television before snoring away to glory.
In the months that followed, I read books with a passion and wrote with a dedication I had not felt before. The collective education of my degree began showing itself in my writing, filling me with confidence, and I had never felt more at ease with what I was putting on paper. And as I reflect on those months, I realise my happiness had as much to do with my writing as it did with the structure I had created for myself.
The middle of the process hung on my shoulders a little heavily. The idea to commit every day to sleep on time and then wake up early came with its own pressures. There was a sense of fastidiousness to remain allied to the routine, but life also needs to be lived. Thus, a balance between staying loyal to my goals while taking some time off for some fun with my friends was a constant tug of war. Yet, I counted my blessings that I had found a project I was passionate about, and that was a gift in itself.
Waking up at four in the morning was cathartic. The silence in the world calmed me down. I was able to breathe with a cup of tea. I sat outside on the porch of my home, taking the fresh air, and exercising time not only to dream, reflect on the days past but also hope that the day ahead of me remained kind and warm.
The silence of the morning also fuelled my inner voice to boom in my head with ideas and thoughts that ordinarily drown in the chaos of the ever-busy day. And as a person who inherently enjoys solitude, the quiet of the early morning can be the greatest of friends.
Over the years, I created a routine for myself in the mornings that has served me wonderfully. Being able to pray, exercise, meditate, spend time with my dreams, write, and perhaps get some reading done has been a boon. I will confess that there are days when I wake up early and cannot get my checklist done (possibly having a list is the problem).
There are days when I wake up and the sluggish me fritters away time. And yet, starting my day early has on the majority of occasions given me a sense of purpose that I find I am at a loss when I wake up late (7 am at best). Somehow, losing my morning makes me lose the momentum for the rest of the day despite my checklist being ready and chores that await me. Any extremes are difficult to manage, and over the last few months, I have been working on trying to claim my day even if I wake up at seven and when I am not able to get my routine in order.
By August 2016, a full year after I began my morning routine, I finished a novella that has added to the novel I had begun four years back. Since 2015, I have enrolled in another graduate school and began and ended professional commitments, and yet my morning routine has remained at the core of my day. I commit to recommit to claim my morning every night, and while I fail on several occasions, I attempt to rectify myself and pick up the pieces the very next day.
I urge you to reclaim your mornings as well. However, if you do your best work in the pitch darkness of the nights, then, by all means, do so. At the heart of the idea remains, the need to claim hours in the day that are exclusively our own and where the mind is refreshed and is ready to do work that has a purpose and is a life project.
I hope you find your hour and the project that fills you with ambition. I know I am lucky to have found both.