3 Things Reading 20 Minutes Before Getting Up Taught Me

Jordan's Words
6 min readJun 7, 2020
Source: Sincerely Media (on Unsplash)

It seems like time controls us, or rather, other people control our time. Last year, I began to feel as if time was not my own. It was centered around my job. Since I had different shifts every day, my sleeping time verses my waking time was lopsided.

I would get up at varying hours of the morning or afternoon because one day I would have a shift starting at 8am and the next I would have one starting at 12pm. I’m not an early riser but I don’t like the feeling of sleeping in past noon, so that leaves me in a confusing place when it comes to time.

I began to feel out of sorts because I felt I had no control over what I did with my life, that someone else told me when to get up and when I should go to bed. It made me feel like a servant to someone else’s schedule that didn’t coincide with my own.

I suppose a lot of people feel this way. Fortunately, I have learned that we shouldn’t accept dissatisfaction and keep going as if we’re happy. Instead, we should always try to find a better solution.

So, I decided to test out reading 20 minutes before each of my shifts. This is what it taught me.

  1. My Time Is My Own

Yes, of course, I still had to go to work, but those 20 minutes did something. I found that once I began reading, my mind began to clear of all clutter. I didn’t lay there worrying about the day and how many hours I had to put into my upcoming shift. I didn’t think about how tired my body felt or how mentally exhausted I was due to health issues. And I didn’t constantly remind myself I was almost 30 and was still an aspiring writer.

None of those little negatives floated around in my mind during these 20 minutes. I simply read. The book I chose was actually one I read back in middle school about a world of fictional cats called Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter. I loved those books as a child, not just because it was fantasy, but because it starred one of my favorite animals, cats! This was a light, friendly choice to read before facing a challenging day.

I thought it would be difficult because I hate shaving time off my sleep, but after only a few days, I began to feel so much better about my control of time. I chose when to open my eyes to the day. I chose what I would do for that time that had nothing to do with work. Even for just 20 minutes, I was in control of what I did with the time I was given. It made me realize the kind of life I want in the very near future, a life where I dictate what I do every day, and not someone else, because we are not meant to be servants. We are meant to be free.

2). I Missed Reading More Than I Realized

Buying an actual book and not a digital one for my Kindle was a good thing for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle. It got me through most of my years at university and it was always very convenient and cost-effective for me. Still, it didn’t compare to holding an actual book in my hand. It couldn’t replace the feel of the crisp pages beneath my fingers as I turned each page and it was better for my eyes (though I like Kindle’s night mode feature).

Since university made it difficult for me to do leisure reading, I hadn’t been reading as much. When work replaced university, I had more time but somehow still ended up not reading as much as my past self. There was also a time where I couldn’t concentrate enough to read and only read three books that year. It was due to depression, a feeling of purposelessness, and constant mental stress because I overthink everything. I lost my love of reading during this time.

When I started reading 20 minutes before work, I realized how much I missed hopping into a imaginary world of intriguing characters and events. Since I was a child, I loved that aspect of reading. To me, reading is essential to a writer’s life. When I feel writer’s block coming, I ask myself, “Are you reading enough?” or “Maybe it’s time to do some more reading.” Seeing words splayed out on a page draws me in and makes me want to write. The effortless flow of words is something that always captivated me, even as a child. Those 20 minutes gave me back my love of reading and I was suddenly a child again, enjoying a light book to start my day off positively.

3). Consistency Is Key

This is one thing I’ve learned in very recent years. Without consistency it’s difficult to keep up with things (as you can see, this post was uploaded 2 months after my previous one; still working on being more consistent). I feared I would stick to my reading schedule for only a few days and then not have the motivation to keep up with it. This didn’t happen, thankfully, and I believe it’s because I chose to do something I knew that I loved to do. I could have chosen to write, but that would have taken a bit more brainpower and I was still functioning on a “just woke up” brain.

When I felt too sleepy to read, I still did it. I opened the book, read very slowly as my brain adjusted, and I eventually woke up fully. As the days went on, it became easier and easier to wake up without that sluggish brain fog. My brain and body got use to waking up and doing the act of reading before getting up to start the day.

Without that consistency, I don’t think I would have succeeded. Our biological makeup seems to be based on consistency; a stable time to wake up and go to bed, times set aside for eating, for working, etc. As a child and teenager, I always stayed up late on the weekends, but my body always seemed to quickly adjust to the week’s schedule once Sunday hit. It was the same way at university. A set schedule is healthy, but I feel it’s only 100% more effective if you dictate your own time, knowing what your mind and can handle in one day.

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In the end, it all comes down to what we decide to do with our time. We’re given one life, we’re given 24 hours in every single day, and there’s so much that can be done with that time. I started out small with just those 20 minutes, but it will expand and blossom into my entire life, because we are the authors of our lives. Why take only snippets of time to do the things you love?

All this reminds me of a quote from The Lord of the Rings that always resonated with me. Gandalf said to Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Since childhood that quote has stuck with me.

Will it be easy to do what you want? Probably not. But, as they say, things that don’t require any effort is usually not worthwhile in the end. After all the sweat of climbing the mountain, you’ll feel accomplished once you’ve reached something you’ve been fighting tirelessly for, but you have to start at some point.

I found a way to start taking my time back so that, in the near future, I can finally say that no one controls my time but me. You can do the same. Start small and build up. Plant a seed, like taking 15–20 minutes to do what you love each day, and that seed will grow into more hours until it becomes days, weeks, months, and then your entire life. All this thinking came from reading just 20 minutes before work each day. Soon, I’ll be a full-time writer, spending my time writing, reading, traveling, and discovering because it’s what I was put here to do with the time I was given.

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Jordan's Words

Creative writer bringing awareness to the importance of having empathy, compassion, and authenticity of the self.