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Wall Street Journal

Early Bonus Hours

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago about the advantages of waking up early. Naturally I found the story to be accurate and profound because it reaffirmed something I already believed.

A quote from the second paragraph pretty much summarizes it:

Russ Perry, the 33-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona, resident and founder of graphic design firm Design Pickle, says that 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. is “the most planned, most organized and most scheduled part of my day. It’s a crapshoot from there.”


There are some days I feel I do more between four and six in the morning than I do during the rest of the day. In those pre-dawn hours I'm not battered by the phone calls or the emails or any of the other distractions of adulthood that somehow seem to eat up so much of my time.

I don't wake up early because I am some super-disciplined machine: on the contrary it's because I don't have the discipline to turn off my phone and not check my email that I can't be as productive during the rest of the day. Waking up early is also easy when you're naturally an early riser. I never set an alarm but almost always wake up between 4:45 and 5:15 alert and ready to start the day. This is in contrast to my wife who tends to rise at a more typical human hour (although when she does wake up she is really, really angry). 

The net result of the two early bonus hours I have every morning is that I get a total of fourteen hours - nearly half an entire "extra" day - of productive, distraction-free time every week. This is a good thing. But of course those two hours are not always completely without distraction.

A couple of months ago my youngest daughter, Darcy, decided she was done with sleeping. At least relative to her older sister Darcy was historically our "good" sleeper but towards the beginning of the summer she took to getting out of bed at all hours of the night to roam the halls and/or crawl into bed with her parents (i.e. elbow Mommy in the face and knee Daddy in the groin). Although we eventually developed some strategies for getting her to go to sleep in the evening, she was still (and is still) waking up far too early in the morning.

And this leaves me torn. Although I still cherish my early bonus hours of unbridled productivity, I also cherish having one-on-one time with my daughter. One of the great things about working when your family is asleep is that you don't feel guilty about not spending time with them. The fact remains that I still have lots to do at 5:00am when I look up and see Darcy in her pajamas, clutching her stuffed animals in one hand while she waves at me with the other.

Like so many aspects of parenting, I know there will come a day when I sorely miss these "interruptions". I long to see the three-year-old version of my baby waving at me from the doorway. But that doesn't change the fact that my baby still needs clothes and haircuts and health insurance and contributions to her college fund. It's not that I don't want to hang out with her nor is it that I don't want to work. The issue is that I want to do both of those things. Unfortunately there are only a set number of hours in a day, a set number of days in a year, and a set number of years in a childhood.

In that sense I'm lucky to be given a few early bonus hours to experience Darcy's childhood. And for that I am grateful.