Why Many of the Best U of A Students Wake Up Early, and Why You Should Too | By Emerson Csorba

Most university students are busy. Between four or five classes, part-time jobs, family life, sports and whatever else might be on your plate, it’s easy to get caught in what Robert Kiyosaki calls the “rat race.” It’s as if you’re a hamster caught on a wheel, moving quickly, constantly in a rush, but going nowhere. Sometimes, it seems that there’s no personal time to relax, watch tv, read a book, etc.

However, I can assure you that this is not true; you can create several hours of quiet, personal time, every day of the week. How do you achieve this? Simple: wake up earlier. In an excellent article by Jocelyn K. Glei of 99U, Glei outlines the work process of some of society’s most prolific creatives, such as Ernest Hemingway, an early-riser himself. Glei’s piece is well worth reading, especially if you’re a U of A student that struggles with fitting many volunteer endeavours and endless school work into each week (i.e. you have poor habits).

To put more of a personal spin on Glei’s piece, I’ll briefly share my morning routine, and reference the routine of a highly-productive friend, who manages to fit more into a day than many think possible.


1. In terms of my morning routine, it’s key to set the alarm for 5:00 am or 5:30 am, and to wake up immediately once you hear it go off. I find that the more I stay in bed, the groggier I become for the rest of the day. (Keep in mind that you need to be going to sleep early, by 10 pm or so, if you want to be up this early. That’s why I almost always turn down invitations to stay out late. I do almost all of my socializing before 2 pm, or after school in the 6-9 pm range. You really need eight or so hours of sleep, or else you’ll feel bad, look bad, fail to recover from workouts, etc.)

2. If you want to get up quickly, you need something to look forward to. For me, that would be breakfast! Each morning, I make myself some delicious coffee from Sunterra, a mix of Vector cereal, Liberte vanilla greek yoghurt, chopped bananas and a pack of maple oatmeal. I enjoy this breakfast so much that I actually look forward to going to sleep.

3. While munching on breakfast, I quickly catch up and get ahead on e-mails. Sometimes, it helps to tell yourself, “I have 20 minutes to get all of my e-mails done.” That way, you accomplish more in 20 minutes than what many people do in two hours. Once e-mails are finished, I edit articles for The Wanderer and read several key websites: Good.is, Deadspin, The Globe and Mail and Gawker.

4. Sometimes, I get some studying in, but that usually amounts to about 30 minutes. Not too much, but usually enough time to review yesterday’s notes and refresh for discussions in upcoming classes. By 7 am, I hit the road and river valley for a 10-15 k run, and I’m back home by 8 am.

5. If you set your clothes out the night before and pack a lunch for yourself, the shower-get dressed-get out the door portion of the morning doesn’t take too long. The only challenge is navigating a small bathroom with a mum, two brothers and small dog that always seems to be sitting behind your feet.

As you can see, it’s not too difficult to make your mornings highly productive. Just as Hemingway is quoted in Glei’s piece, the morning is something to look forward to: It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through. With a productive morning, you can accomplish more by 8 or 9 am than what most people do in a day. And that’s an empowering feeling.

Maybe you’re saying, “But Emerson, you’re a sick human being for wanting to get up that early. I just want to sleep!” To that, my response is as follows: you can do whatever you want, but life is short, and each day brings tremendous opportunity. I choose to make the most out of it by waking up early,  because it gives me alone time conducive to creativity and incredible productivity. I’d rather be in motion than wasting my time sleeping in.


When I think of productive peers, there’s one person whose name immediately comes to mind: Max. Back in first year, Max and I were in the same Histoire 120 class, I think it’s safe to say that he earned an A+ in the class, along with similar marks in every other class. What’s really amazing, however, is that he also ran for the Bears cross-country team. Oh, and he wasn’t just a solid runner; he was among the best in Canada.

Throughout the year, I got to know Max pretty well, not only in Histoire 120, but while playing on the Campus Saint-Jean dodgeball team in Campus Cup, and then through undergraduate research during the summer. I remember that Maxime would bike or run to campus from his downtown apartment five days per week. He’d arrive at the research office by 8 or 830 am, going straight for the coffee, while providing his body with some healthy recovery foods: carrots, apples, bananas, etc.

By 8 am, Max accomplished more than what most people do in a day. And that doesn’t include the research he did from 9 am till 4 pm. Today, Max has his Masters from Queen’s, he’s one of the top-ranked Canadian long-distance runners, and yes, he’s only in his early-twenties.


The morning is one of the best times for productivity. When you wake up early and start your day before the sun rises, you feel good about yourself. Yes, waking up early is something that takes time, but if you believe that you can do it, you will. (For an in-depth read on the science of habit, check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.)

If you have any questions, post them in the comments box below, and I’ll be happy to answer them. 

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  • Anonymous

    Emerson, you consistently make some of the best articles for this project that is The Wanderer. Thank you for that.