Why I get up at 4:30

15th August 2023

In the morning is when I have all my creative energy. What I mean by "creative" is that I have spontaneous ideas which I feel passionate about, and want to explore them now.

It is important that I express this creativity and get it out of my system by 9am, otherwise it will be very distracting from my work.

The work environment does not typically require or reward creativity. It's more about obedience or conscientiousness depending on your role.

Getting up at 6

So what will happen if I get up at a "normal" time like 6am? I work from home so typically it might be like:

  • drink coffee whilst reading the news; upto 6:15
  • exercise in my home-gym upto 7:00
  • have shower, make and eat breakfast; upto 8:00
  • miscellaneous chores upto 8:30
  • turn on work laptop, read email and plan my work-day upto 9:00

Now I have all this creative energy which I haven't expressed. This causes me to be "scatter-brained" and unfocused. So then I am not productive. And because I am not productive so then I start to feel that I am not performing my responsibilities which causes anxiety and stress. And that probably makes my productivity even worse.

Getting up at 4:30

What about getting up early? It is 4:30am and I have a hot coffee in my hands. What now?

Essentially the "up at 6" routine is still in effect, just I have an extra 90minutes before I start that.

How can I ensure that I spend that time effectively? It's important to note that the way I use this time is intentionally not pre-planned. But that doesn't mean I can't think about how best to spend the time.

Essentially, if I find I have ideas that I want to explore, then I just go along with it.

However, occasionally I will wake up and find I don't know what I want to spend my 90 minutes on. What then?

Well, I think creativity is exploring new ideas so I just need something to create a spark.

The first thing to do is to go through my notes, todo lists, draft blog-posts, browser bookmarks. Do some organising and see if anything catches my eye.

Alternatively, exposing myself to ideas outside of my normal field-of-interest is mind-expanding and a great thing to do with this time:

  • reading books
  • watching lectures and other talks
  • podcasts

The evenings and weekends

Alright so I am getting up very early. What effect does that have on the rest of my life?

Well in the evening I need to be in bed by 9pm. If I feel tired perhaps as early as 8.

And I do need to take care of my chores in the evening. And when I say chores that includes groceries shopping.

This does put certain time-pressure on my evenings. Let's say it's my shopping day:

  • finish work at 5:30pm
  • make & eat dinner, tidy up afterwards, upto 6:30pm
  • groceries inventory and shopping trip, upto 8pm
  • do something restful for an hour until 9pm

This means that I only have 1 hour in the entire day allocated specifically to restful activity.

However I will say that I think restful activities such as watching TV or gaming are largely a coping mechanism for stress (via escapism) so that shouldn't be a problem if I keep the other elements of my life in-order.

For example on my weekend I need to do stress-relieving activities such as exploring and walking. I need to find some way at the weekend to enjoy life otherwise I will get fatigued over time.


I think it's important to note that just because my 90minutes is intentionally unplanned doesn't mean I have to do something different every day. If I spend several days in a row pursuing the same project obsessively then that is fine also.

Another thing I will add is that sometimes my 90minutes overflows somewhat, normally upto 2hours. This cuts into the time of my 6am-onwards routine. In this case I can just go through that routine more quickly. Several of those things can be shortened if necessary.

How long have I been doing this routine?

My first experiment with this was last summer for 12 weeks. But that was not exactly for expressing my creativity, it was lazer focused on studying Clojure. Ultimately this ended because I had essentially achieved what I set out to do and I was becoming fatigued.

Then I did it for 10-weeks this spring. This time I was a bit more flexible with it, using the time in-part as a more general creative outlet rather than devoting it entirely to study. I stopped because I was planning my house-move and needed to prioritise making my life less stressful. Also I lived in a maisonette and I think it annoyed the woman living beneath.

But now I am getting back into this routine as I have begun to notice my creativity spiralling out of control and disrupting my focus at work.

Copyright 2023 Joseph Graham (joseph@xylon.me.uk)