Long Before Sunrise

A compilation of data and lessons learned after keeping a journal of my morning productivity for an entire year

Original artwork by the author

It’s a tiny sliver of a moment when the sun peeks out just above the eastern horizon as the stars hang in the dark shadows of dawn across the western sky. The geese fly overhead announcing the new day has begun and the moment is over. The stars fade, and the sun’s glow swallows the earth whole.

Each morning falls into what feels like the same pattern over, and over and over again but when I look back I realize how much has actually changed. I know this because I’ve kept a “morning cup” journal since my late teen years. Articles and such claim, “before bed as to reflect on the day!”

But I’m not a fan of same day reflection. I can look back at a year or a decade but I believe looking back at this morning will only cause me to experience the same panic I felt then. I need more time to process before I can reflect. My normal baseline is a ten and I typically react. I can admit it, and I’ll only end up with a long winded collection of reactions to reflect on if I don’t wait to journal until tomorrow morning.

I’ve been waking up long before sunrise, long before it started to trend. I never considered using my journal as a productivity tool for my creative work. Then, overnight, articles started popping up on the internet which read, “I wrote 70,000 words before breakfast,” and “I jogged a quick 30 miles and wrote two chapters before sunrise,” and “I read all 1729 pages of the book “How to be Perfect at Everything” before work this morning.”

I might be paraphrasing a bit.

Since I’d already been keeping a journal of life related stuff, I added a page with each day to track my morning productivity, as well. This way, I sort of have all information needed for a whole health overhaul. I kept up with the morning productivity log for an entire year. Here’s a compilation of the data and lessons learned along the way.

  1. I have major attitude issues in the morning. For real, tho. I’m a bitch. It’s not an action, it’s my mood. I burnt up the first 60 minutes of each day being hormonally pissed off.
  2. Drinking nine cups of coffee makes my stomach hurt. I wake up by 4:00 AM every morning and simply lose track of the fact there is still eight hours of morning left. I see “AM” on the clock and think, I’ll have one more! I’ve since cut back.
  3. I learned if I wake up before 4:00 AM I tend to fall asleep on my laptop keyboard in the middle of the day and wake up covered in a pool of drool. This was not a productive way to accomplish anything.
  4. I hate running. I’m not sure why people think running is cool. I had an epiphany during the first run. It’s not the physical aspect people are attracted to. It clears and cleanses the mind, but so does eating an entire bag of Snickers minibars in one sitting. I stopped running and walked to the store.
  5. I think I’m addicted to morning brain cloud. The kind where you stare into space until someone redirects you. It’s the space where you’re so deep in thought you’re thinking about nothing. I want to be let alone to embrace this euphoria, but I’m often interrupted.
  6. Insomnia leads to grumpy, evil morning scribbles where nothing is productive because I just spew venom.
  7. If writing first paragraphs were a sport I’d be an Olympic champion. 365 days = 196 rough drafts for essays started.
  8. I absolutely did not experience any type of ‘once in a lifetime’ creative breakthrough.

9. I realized nothing I do as far as “creative” work has an organization system and with that knowledge I was able to tighten up the structure of my office and my day (though, I still take naps).

10. I discovered I’m content with the fact that my morning routine is “ultra unproductive” as far as “work flow” goes. The morning is my time to connect with myself.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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