Get More Sleep — Without Going to Bed Earlier

There is one thing that every young lawyer wants more of. You guessed it: sleep. As a night owl working in a firm of early risers, I have tried to adapt to the lifestyle of a “morning person”— i.e., being on time for work — without sacrificing crucial extra minutes of shut-eye. Here are some easy strategies for spending a bit more time counting sheep without having to hit the hay earlier than usual.

1. Set your alarm for when you really get up. I sometimes set my alarm for an aspirational time with the plan of waking up early. But I usually end up spending 20 minutes playing one-sided tag with the snooze button in the morning. Setting your alarm for a time that will require you to pop out of bed or risk being late maximizes your time actually catching Z’s. (Time saved: 20 minutes.)

2. Eat breakfast at work. I have a drawer in my office for tea, instant oatmeal, and granola bars. That way, I can eat breakfast at the office while I check email or read the news online. I get points for being physically present at work, even though I may be focusing on my Maple & Brown Sugar Quaker Oats. (Time saved: 5–10 minutes.)

3. Work from home. Working remotely cuts out the need to look presentable, and staying in PJs reduces the time needed to get ready and eliminates commute time. Just make sure you have a reliable remote server and bring any hard-copy files home with you the night before. And also make sure you have an environment — and ability to focus outside the office — that makes working from home productive for you. (Time saved: 1–2 hours.)

4. Wash your hair the night before. It takes me about 20 minutes to blow-dry my hair every morning. On days when I do not have to look spiffy for a client or will be holed up in my office briefing, I have been known to make it a Ponytail Day. Don’t judge. (Time saved: 20 minutes.)

Sleeping Cat from Ella Mullins on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons BY 2.0 License.

5. Build your wardrobe.I don’t like to plan my work outfits ahead of time. (Where’s the excitement in that?) But now that I am no longer a broke law student, I have a much broader collection of work-appropriate clothes. Having a range of sartorial choices makes it easier and faster to get ready in the morning. If adding new items isn’t an option, take advantage of the clothes already in your closet. For example, make sure your “dry-clean only” stuff doesn’t end up living in the bottom of the hamper. Getting your shoes regularly re-heeled means less time digging through your footwear collection for something that works. (Time saved: 5–10 minutes.)

6. Stockpile lunch options. Putting a lunch together in the morning takes time, while eating out is expensive and often unhealthy. After grocery shopping, I bring non-perishable lunch items — like single-serve soups and frozen meals — for busy days. Then I can just grab my bag of baby carrots and a yogurt at home in the morning. Better yet, store fresh items in your office fridge. Making dinner or lunch leftovers into the next day’s lunch also saves time on day two. (Time saved: 5 minutes.)

7. Plan ahead. If you are low on gas and drive to work, take care of that before you go to bed. Pack your gym bag and put everything you are going to take with you by your keys in the morning. (And make sure you know where your keys are.) (Time saved: 5-10 minutes.)

Getting more sleep without going to bed earlier may require some advanced planning. But when setting your alarm for the next day, you will probably thank yourself in the morning for making the extra effort.

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