Medical School, pre-med, Wellness

Early Bird Gets the Best Parking Spot: The Benefits of Being an Early Riser

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Author unknown

Becoming an early riser is no easy feat, albeit it comes more easily to some than others. Ultimately, waking up early is just like any other habit; it will take some time to develop.  Regardless of where you are at in your schooling or career, there are a multitude of benefits that accompany the “breakfast club” lifestyle, a term that us earlier risers at my medical school have started to use. This article will cover some of the benefits of waking up early, an example of what my schedule looks like, and some tips if joining breakfast club is something you want to try!

Benefits

  1. Beat traffic and save time. When less people are awake less people are on the roads. Not only does this cut down on transit time, but grabbing that good parking spot can also cut down on time spent walking to and from your car. Although the time saved may be minimal, every bit counts and they add up over the long run!
  2. Set the tone for the rest of the day. For me, waking up on my own rather than waking up right before class gives my day more purpose. I am much more productive at the start of the day when I feel that I am starting the day on a productive note.
  3. Hit the ground running once M3 year comes along. Once clerkships roll around, you lose the option to sleep through morning classes if need be. Already having an established morning schedule will help ease that transition into the hospital and can give you some time to prepare for rounds (see #5: preparation).
  4. Create more time for things that fall by the wayside. Extending your day by starting in the morning can allow you to make time for things that usually fall out of your schedule first. Try to make doing things you dread first a habit so that they aren’t hanging over your head all day. If working out is something that tends to fall off first, try to fit in fitness into the mornings!
  5. Preparation. Doing work early in the morning doesn’t have to be to catch up on things you didn’t finish yesterday. Preparing for your day, whether it be for class or doing assignments ahead of time, can go a long way in aiding in how much you get out of your day.
  6. Quiet time. If you are like me and like a peaceful environment to work, there is no better time than in the morning.

Example of a morning schedule.

If you need an example to see what a typical day looks like for an earlier-rising medical student, I’ve included a general overview below. Know that these times are averaged and some days will start at 4:00am while others 6:00am.

  • 5:00am – Wake up. Again, some days earlier and some days later.
  • 5:30am – Get to school and put in a solid 2.5 hours of studying. Usually keep some oats at school so I grab breakfast there as well.
  • 8:00am – Go to morning classes.
  • 11:00am – GYM GYM GYM!
  • 12:30pm – Lunch.
  • 1:00pm – Afternoon classes.
  • 4:00pm – Begin afternoon studying.
  • 8:00pm – Head home.
  • 8:30pm – Stretch, eat, read, relax. Passive studying if need be.
  • 10:00pm – Lights out. I shoot for 7 hours of sleep so this changes depending on my plan for the next morning.

Tips for joining breakfast club.

Starting a morning schedule cold-turkey can be difficult. Like any other habit, it is something that is attained over time, and it can be months before your cycle hits its rhythm.

  • Write down your goals. As mentioned in our previous blog 10 Healthy Habits to Survive Medical School, writing down your goals on paper can help you identify the WHY? behind your goal, as well as help you plan out specific ways to achieve that goal.
  • Set a goal time you’d like to wake up at. Over the course of a month slowly subtract 5-10 minutes each week on your alarm. During that month, you should be able to get that alarm time to 20-45 minutes earlier than before. Repeat the each month until you’re waking up consistently around your goal time. Don’t forget to move your bedtime up similarly so that you’re still getting enough sleep.
  • Give yourself one day each week to sleep in. While it would be best to wake up early every day, moving up your schedule can be draining and you will need to recharge your battery. Ideally, try not to sleep in more than a couple hours past your goal time.
  • Utilize unique alarms. There are some alarms out there they can help prevent the snooze-sleep-snooze-sleep cycle that I’m sure many of you struggle with. The Ruggie alarm clock that you have to stand on to turn off. A little pricey, but if it’s something you think will help and you’re willing to put the money in it could be a valuable resource. There is also a sweet app called Math Alarm Clock by j labs in the Apple App Store. This one makes you complete math problems to shut off the alarm.
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