Lady waking up in bed

Teachers: The Truth About Waking Up Earlier

By Ashley Previte

The internet is swimming in advice on how the world can wake up earlier and find more time to lead more productive lives. CEOs brag about their early morning rituals. Celebrities tout crack-of-dawn routines that help them focus throughout the day. Fledgling novelists swear it’s the only time to get writing done.

That’s all fine and dandy. But what if you’re a teacher and you already get up before the birds? 

Is an even-earlier alarm clock really the only way to a productive and successful life?

Here’s the truth: 

You don’t have to wake up early. 

A 2017 Harvard study found that it doesn’t matter whether you wake up early or wake up later. The most important thing is that you’re consistent with your sleep schedule. Irregular sleep patterns are the biggest hindrance to productivity and performance. To ensure a focused and productive day, it is better to set a regular sleep schedule in which you go to bed at relatively the same time each evening and awake at the same time each morning. Whether that’s early or not. 

Find out what works best for you.

Mornings can be good for spending some time with yourself to manage some tasks before the day begins. Many people find themselves exhausted at the end of the day. Their mind refuses to do more. An additional hour or two before the day begins could be exactly what is needed to write, read, meditate, and keep chaos at bay. Opting for a morning routine might be just the thing that’s needed.

But what if you already are waking up earlier than you’d like? Ahem. Teachers.

You’re already forced to rise before the rooster crows, and pushing it earlier is not the smartest or healthiest way to start your day. In fact, waking up early will be a waste of time if you aren’t waking up for the right reasons.

Some creative people find their best inspiration in the quiet of the night. Think about it: most of those morning benefits can be found at night as well. The world is quiet, there’s a lack of email and work-related phone calls, and others are sleeping, leaving you time to reflect and reorient. These moments can be stolen as a way to finish up unfinished tasks from the day, take the time to put in some writing, meditate, or plan for tomorrow. 

Work smarter, not harder. 

The advantage of setting aside time for yourself is being able to get more done in your day. Maybe — just maybe — you would find more time in your day to be productive if you thought about ways to work smarter, not harder.

  • Complete the most important tasks first. Most of the time, we attempt to complete the smaller, easier tasks first. But this has a tendency to move us down the slippery slope of procrastination and hurt our productivity. Decide which jobs are most important. Identify those few things that absolutely need to be done. Check those off your to-do list, and you’ve already had success. 
  • Learn to say no. This advice has been around since Adam and Eve. And there’s a reason. Too often we feel compelled to help others. We want to be noble, understanding, compassionate. But when you say yes, there is often something that has to take a back seat. Prioritize what you have to do and when it needs to be done. Anything else will just have to wait. 
  • Stop multitasking and focus your mind on the task at hand. As a teacher, you always have multiple tasks and projects started and waiting to be finished. It’s the nature of the beast. But multitasking does not mean that multiple tasks are being completed at exactly the same time. True multitasking is nearly impossible. Your brain literally can’t do two things at once. Instead, understand the intention behind multitasking. 

Multitasking is having more than one task part-way through completion at the same time. Focus on one task, knowing the other is waiting, partially finished, to get its turn.

The idea of multitasking is to get more work done but, as the old saying goes, sometimes it’s more about quality than quantity.

  • Turn key tasks into habits. Instead of tackling each day anew, if you have certain tasks you are responsible for completing each day, make a set time to complete them. For instance, attempt to address your emails every day during your planning time. Habitually plan lessons during the first hour after school each day. Grade larger assignments every day for 30 minutes directly after that. Continuing the act will enforce it as a habit; one that may make your time management more controllable. 
  • Turn off all distractions. We know that watching TV or videos is a distraction and music is most often the go-to for concentration. But a study by Cambridge Brain Sciences indicates that music can often distract us, as many of us use the same area of the brain for memory as we do for interpreting music. The best bet is to turn off Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, silence Spotify, and find a nice quiet corner to work in.
  • Go to bed. Whether you choose to wake with the rising sun or sleep later, you need to make the healthy choice for you. If you’re used to plundering through the internet late into the evening or bingeing on Netflix before bed, you may be wasting your time and sacrificing your productivity. There are negative health benefits to being a night owl. But many of them revolve around staying up late and waking early. 

Mark Wahlberg wakes at 2:30 am. But he goes to bed at 7:30 pm! Whatever time you set your alarm, be sure to go to bed at least seven hours earlier. Your health is a key factor in productivity. And really, isn’t that your goal? Find the schedule that is going to increase your productivity AND ensure you have the right amount of sleep.

It should really be about productivity, health, and battling a chaotic life. 

The key is to find the right time that works for you and use it productively. If you can plan your mornings and have enough time to get out the door without chaos, rushing, or forgetting something, then you’re part of the way there. If you find the peace of the evening, when the kids have gone to bed and your partner is snoring on the couch, then set your alarm a little later and find your personal time in the evenings.

But whichever avenue you choose, make sure you are making the healthy choice. Be sure you have: 

  • 7-9 hours of sleep each night. 
  • A relatively consistent sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. 
  • Proper hydration.
  • Healthy meals. 

Ashley is an award-winning copywriter and content expert with more than a decade of proven results for national and local clients. From brainstorming high-end conceptual content to styling sentences that engage and convert, she’s got a knack for shattering the status quo. When she’s not in full-on writing mode, she’s hanging out with her rascal of a puppy and discussing the plausibility of unicorns with her 8-year-old daughter.

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