Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

Up Early. One Sure Way to Increase Productivity.

One day, some time ago, I woke up early and did not do that thing I do so well to start my days—rolling over and falling back asleep for another two hours. 

Instead I’d set an alarm so I was up and making breakfast long before anyone else had stirred.  To be fair we were at a cottage and part of the pleasure of being in nature, in the woods, on a beautiful lake, with birds and animals abounding, is sleeping in and missing all of that.

But as I discovered, the calm of a sunny dawn is a pleasure too. The quiet. Stillness. Perhaps it is why so many students with ADHD stay up late to do their schoolwork. The dorm is quiet. No interruptions.

Although we were at a cottage, it wasn’t really a vacation.   We were working.   With our second documentary, ADD & Mastering It!, debuting on PBS, and having to create 3 additional videos that would be available with it, plus a ton of new stuff being developed for the Totally website, we were busy. I had accepted that a real vacation, with real time off, was at least three months away.

In fact, it was two years away. But then it’s nice to be busy.

Now, I want to make one thing clear about the fact that I was up hours before my usual time–I was NOT thrilled about it.  This wasn’t the culmination of a dream.  Or the start of some life-changing master plan.  Rising early was something I’d actively avoided since I left school. Unlike the early bird, I had no desire for a worm.

However, feeling overwhelmed by all we had to accomplish, I had read several articles over the past month about productivity. They all claimed that one sure way to increase productivity is to get up earlier. Ugh. But, at this point, with so much to be done, increased productivity was very much needed.

Needed. But not wanted. The thought of getting up earlier was about as appealing as broken glass in my slippers.  Heck, I got into show business, with touring and live performances, because it meant I could sleep till noon, start my work day 8:00 when the curtain rose, and head out to dinner at 10:30 pm after the curtain fell.

But I was curious, and concerned enough, to seek answers..  Would rising early make a difference in accomplishing everything that needed to be done? Could this help us complete the 1,001 tasks and details in time for the launch?

The result was, yes! That wasn’t a complete shock, because the experts all agreed that rising early would make a difference. But it was definitely a pleasant surprise to have it confirmed. 

Sitting by the calm blue lake in the golden glow of sunrise and watching a blue heron glide across the water was definitely soothing to the soul. We were not on vacation, but for half an hour I was embarked on a mental vacation.  My mind took flight with the heron.

Rick Green reading a book by the lake

Looking out over the lake for the Blue Heron

And then I went to work.  Without begrudging it! Willingly getting down to the many tasks at hand. I was drawn to start! Something that I had not felt since things started to pile up and deadlines loomed. By the time everyone else was stirring I had written the description for the DVD cover and created some graphics to edit into the bonus videos. 

Considering that I had normally started my days struggling to overcome procrastination by doing a dozen little trivialities and sundry fripperies, this was worthy of celebration.

And this morning?  At the crack of dawn, I awake to the noise the garbage trucks thundering around the neighbourhood, house to house, grabbing up garbage and compressing recyclables.

A symphony of clattering cans, thudding bins, separated by brief spurts of diesel engines and sharp squeals of truck brakes as the trucks spurt from one house to the next, then the whine of machinery and crackling crunching of trash being compacted.

Why didn’t I haul everything to the curb last night, you ask and sleep in? Why was our trash was ensconced in the garage? To be safe from the foraging raccoons, possums, crows, and the skunk that chased us off the front porch last night.

Now I could hear the trucks were coming! Knowing I would score major bonus points I whispered to Ava, “I’ll take care of the trash,” and slipped out of bed to haul the bags and recycling bins to the curb. Everything was out just as the truck approached. The driver returned my wave, and his partner at the back of the truck emptied our bins, then called to me as I reached the front door. Uh oh. Did I not separate the metals and plastics from the paper and cardboard?

“Aren’t you on The Red Green Show?… I thought so!” A brief but cheerful conversation followed. Heaven knows what the driver was thinking. Thus, to my slightly groggy delight, I found myself up earlier than I have been in ages.

Now, I’m on the porch, writing away, pausing periodically to identify whether it is a hummingbird or a  gigantic mutant bumblebee zipping madly over my head.

What’s the lesson? Or the ‘take-away’ as business executives say.

Perhaps I can start a new good habit without a huge amount of planning and self-motivation and drama. I can just do something simple but mildly unpleasant.

I pushed myself a little, ignoring the pouty, whiny voice in my head that is complaining, “I don’t wanna!  I don’t feel like it.  My bed is warm.  I’m not a morning person.” 

I’m not saying rising early will work for you. But this kind of small change can resonate for the whole day, the whole week, or longer, and lead to a breakthrough in what you believe you are capable of doing.

As you’ll hear Patrick McKenna explain in ADD & Mastering It!, sometimes success involves simply starting small and letting the momentum build.



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  1. Wgreen June 29, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Bring that skunk inside. That should keep you motivated…

  2. Rick July 20, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Ha ha. It’s several weeks later. And I have been up early about 1 day in 3. Now though, with the good weather, I’m getting up early every day, and enjoying breakfast on the dock by the water… and my body is starting to like it. I’ve made a promise to my coaching group that I will be up early every day for the next week. (I figure by then I’ll have trouble sleeping in.)

  3. Offtopic July 25, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Getting out of bed in the morning has always been the most difficult part of my day. If you can change habits, I’ll be impressed and more than a bit envious.

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