The Pre-dawn Power Hour

All my best mornings share a singular commonality: they began at least an hour before my children’s. All you night owls hear me out, because I am oh so one of you. You can do this and you will like it. Lee and I call this the pre-dawn power hour. What time this magical hour starts will vary from person to person, but I will give you the guidelines. What you do during this hour will vary even more, but I have some great suggestions—some from personal experience, some from others’.



Lee and I both spent several years staying up late and enjoying free time after the kids were in bed. This comes most naturally to us night owls. But the truth is, we were tired and unproductive. We reluctantly tested this early bird thing and we’re reformed. (Lee’s husband Sam is an enthusiastic convert, too.)  Plain and simple, getting up a full hour (or more!) before you must gives you more control. You are starting the day on YOUR terms. We all know deep down that those mini humans dictate most of our day, so owning that time before the dictating begins is empowering. I find myself feeling more patient and less rushed and less assaulted in general.


There’s no way around it, unfortunately, you need 7-8 hours of sleep to pull this off. Which means you must count backwards from when your children wake and get yourself to sleep on time. This takes some for real self-discipline if you’re in the night owl club. And to be perfectly honest, the yellow in Lee’s and my personalities requires a few mornings off, so we’re not judging. Helpful hints:

  • Set an alarm or tell Siri to remind you when it’s time to get ready for bed. An alarm at your lights-out time is already too late.
  • Lee and others swear that a pre-bed ritual sets you up for a successful pre-dawn ritual. Do the same thing each night, create a flow. I’m not quite this disciplined, but I believe it.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. A consistent bedtime routine is actually part of this. Another big one: turn off the screens (TV, phones, etc.) at least 30 minutes before sleep!

A photo by Sunset Girl.


  • Exercise. This is the most unimaginative of course, but if it’s your only or best time to get it done, do it! I am one of those people that feels like a million bucks running my miles before 7 am, but my husband currently leaves for work at 4:45 am, so I have other arrangements for a few years (more on that another time). No need to be a hero—even a brisk walk will get endorphins flowing. Exercise with friends if you’re an extravert!
  • Spiritual/religious study or meditation. I have a goal to read one chapter of scripture each day. Most of us feel better connected to a higher power when it’s quiet and an expanded perspective is a great way to face a busy day.
  • Fun reading. I don’t know about you, but reading a book for fun started feeling like a luxury after I became a parent. Starting a day with luxury is the best start there is, right? (On that note, don’t miss Lee’s next post on how to fit more reading into your life!)
  • Writing. A college friend of mine who is now a busy actor recently participated in a 21-day challenge that required waking at 6 am to write. He checked in on social media a few times along the way, once reporting from an airport where he’d arrived an extra hour early to make time for his writing! Six weeks later he reported that morning writing had become a habit and he’d finished two drafts. Fascinating! I know I have some writing projects that need attention. If you don’t currently have any novelist aspirations, try a journal!
  • Other artistic pursuits. Painting, quilting, practicing a musical instrument. You get it.
  • Work. One of my cousins is a successful film editor and does the majority of her work one hour before her kids wake and another hour after they go to bed. She expresses satisfaction in feeling so productive early in the day and not choosing between work and her young children while they’re awake.
  • Go outside! If you can combine any of the previous with going outside, I highly recommend it. If you are content to just sit and enjoy the calm of an early morning, even better. The highest I ever was on life was during my Forest Service summers when I woke at 5 am in the middle of that week’s remote forest, refreshed after the previous day of physical exertion on a fire. Cool morning air is my drug, guys.
U.S. Forest Service. An early morning near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
  • If nothing else, shower and dress for the day. I can’t believe the difference between the days I’m dressed before my kids and the days I’m not. It’s the difference between Kate Middleton and Lord of the Flies.


Do not spend this time doing things you can easily do with children at your feet! Obviously exceptions will be made, but starting your day with last night’s dishes isn’t terribly rejuvenating. Use this time to embrace a sense of well-being.


If you’re curious, this is how my pre-dawn power hour is looking recently. This summer my husband started waking at 4:45 am for work and I started painting again as a contributor to my parents’ newly opened art school/gallery. Rich’s earlier bed time admittedly made it much easier to go to bed and wake earlier myself. When I’m working on a commission, which was most of this summer, I paint during my morning quiet time. I write between paintings. My power hour has changed before and it will change again; let yours be fluid and adjust for your needs.

Most recent commissioned watercolor, painted while children slept.

What do you do with your morning hour? Do you have any brilliant suggestions to add?