I remember the first time I encountered a rundown of Ben Franklin’s day. I was in college, and I thought he was insane. I could probably go to bed by 10 if I had to, but get up at 4? On purpose? Who does that?
I recently revisited his schedule when I stumbled across this article about it, and realized with a start that it’s actually really laid back. A schedule I’d enjoy following. Easing into the day. Taking two hours for lunch — reading, not working. Dedicating two small but energetic windows of time to the day’s work. I hope to someday be able to scale back to this model.
It made me think, though. I used to be such a night owl. Part of what appealed to me about editing was the ability to do the work any time, anywhere. I envisioned myself sleeping til late morning, then working in the afternoon and evening and having my nights to myself. Until I had a child that woke at 5 a.m. without fail. Now she sleeps in (til 7 or so — she’s still an early riser), and I get up at 4:30. I can count on one hand the nights in the past two years I stayed up past 10 p.m. The times, they changed.
What was so great about being up all night? You can’t do anything. Nothing’s open, no one’s awake, and you have to be quiet so you don’t wake them. Then I realized that was the point. Nighttime was my own, to spend as I wished. I couldn’t cook or clean or do anything productive without disturbing housemates and neighbors. I didn’t have to share my time with anyone. I could read, play games, binge-watch a show only I like, maybe work on a creative project. Nothing productive, though. There are no to-do lists at 2 a.m.
An hour of free time is a luxury these days, so I can’t even wrap my mind around having that kind of freedom. But I now understand why I don’t mind getting up before dawn. Sure, I’m working, but the setup remains the same: hours of cool, quiet solitude, in which I can take things at my own speed. It’s such a welcome contrast to the rest of my day.