I’ve always been a morning person. When I was a student, I found that waking up in the wee hours of the morning to study worked far better than staying up late. It’s a combination of being refreshed from sleep (followed by a cold shower to wake up), and the silence of the pre-dawn hours was conducive to focus. I’d have a mug of hot chocolate and a heated buttered bun while I went through homework, or reading. I discovered coffee soon after, and it’s been part of the ritual ever since.
I would only alter this timing for events. I was young in the era of discotheques and nightlife and beers with buddies so sometimes staying out would prevent an early start the following day. I have no evidence or statistics, but I feel that there are far more nightowls than early risers, particularly among teens and twentysomethings. I maintained my preferred schedule through grad school.
When I started working, a side benefit was that when I commuted (and later drove) to work, I avoided rush hour. I’d arrive in the office at 6:00 to 6:30 am, way before most people, and could read and answer emails that came in from the other side of the work during the night without interruptions. Starting the coffee machine became part of the ritual, until Starbucks happened and I’d just drive through and grab a venti extra hot cafe mocha on my way in. A sort of “club” formed among the few people with this kind of habit at almost all of my career stops, chatting in the morning and preparing for the day ahead. It’s a great way to ease into the day. It also ensures that I’m never late for morning meetings or presentations, and I go into them calm and focused.
Lastly, I found that I write most effectively before dawn breaks. When I was still doing morning pages, the prescribed timing meshed with my habit perfectly and it was far easier to achieve stream of consciousness flow onto the page than it would at any other time of day. I still try to do that today, though I do want to be able to write regardless of the time. A craft is only a craft if you can do it on demand.
The final benefits of being a breaker of dawns – I never miss breakfast, and I’ve seen many, many sunrises.