You got the memo, getting up extra early is a good thing to do. You set the alarm, you peeled your resisting body out of bed, now what? Do you head to your phone and check your email? Do you put on your workout clothes and get out the door? Do you meditate and try not to fall back to sleep? What’s the best use of this precious time?

I don’t know the right answer but after a few years of practice I seem to get the most out of my early morning wake up call, if I do two simple things. 1) Get out of bed. 2) Do not check email first thing.

Getting out of bed is the hardest part. . No reading in bed (been there), no meditating in bed (done that), no hitting the snooze, or laying there for just a few minutes. That’s a recipe for falling back to sleep. If you do that one little thing, the rest is easy.

If I get up and check email I have a lower quality day than if I wait an hour. Checking email first thing no matter what time you wake up means you are effectively jumping into the day ahead before you’ve exercised, showered, dressed, or eaten. I’ve noticed it makes me less present, less patient, and more irritable. I actually start to resist the things I have to do in the morning rather than enjoy them because I now have other things on my mind. I also have the annoying feeling that I’m late or behind when I made the effort to get up extra early. If I’m going to get out of bed that early, I want some serious rewards, I do not want to get up only to feel stressed for a longer period of time than if I would have slept later.

When my alarm goes off, I give myself several options of what I can do with that time. If I’m not terribly sleepy I’ll meditate first thing. Otherwise, I’ll make a quick list of 5 or so things I want to get done throughout the course of the day. Then I’ll close my eyes for awhile and focus on my breathing, nothing more complicated than saying to myself over and over again, “I am breathing in, I am breathing out, ” then catching my mind wandering and returning to those words again. Sometimes I’ll write in my journal, but most often I read a book. My one criteria for the book is that it is  something good for my mind. No 50 Shades at 5am. Then time permitting I get my workout in. By the time the house begins to stir I’m excited to see my loved ones. I feel nourished and awake. I’m more creative and productive and I’m in a better mood.

So if you do want to start getting up earlier, first make yourself actually get out of bed,  and then resist the temptation to check your email. Use this time for you, be completely selfish, the rest of the day will be for others, for completing, producing, and sharing. This is your time, personal time, and it will be well worth it.