What is the heroic minute and how will it give you more free time?

what is the heroic minute


What is the heroic minute? It’s a classical term for waking up early to have extra time when the world sleeps. M does a heroic minute experiment…

The only sounds are the whirr of my room heater, the syncopated beat of raindrops on the window and the tapping of my fingers on the computer keyboard. No-one else is awake, not even the birds. Not even the Sun has risen; my room is lit by the warm glow of an antique lamp.

For the next hour, everything will remain in static harmony. Eventually my mother and siblings will be waking up, and I will have to leave my cup of tea and get ready for school. But for now, everything is calm and quiet.

I began waking up early because I simply didn’t have enough time to do the things I wanted to do. After thinking about my ‘daily schedule’ of sorts, I concluded that the only way to find more time was to sleep a bit less. I didn’t particularly like the idea; I had – and still have – unreserved fondness for sleeping snug-snug-snuggly under five blankets.

The plot I had in mind wasn’t going to turn itself into a novel on its own… so I set my alarm clock for 5.00. Nothing overly ambitious, just thirty minutes before I’d normally get up. Just in case my current motivation was nonexistent tomorrow morning, I placed my alarm clock on the side of the room opposite my bed, thereby ensuring I wouldn’t simply reach over and slam the ‘snooze’ button.

Five in the morning worked. I had the time I wanted, and time entirely to myself.

During the first week or so of my experiment, I was sorely tempted to just ignore my clock’s digital cries and stay warm and sleepy – but my clock has this fascinating feature wherein, should the alarm not be turned off, it will persistently get louder and louder until rousing the entire house. Of course, after deactivating the alarm, the temptation to slink back under the covers still beckoned to me alluringly. But I was usually able to turn my back on the bed and instead go make some tea.

What is the heroic minute?

Waking up early is called, in several world religions, the ‘heroic minute’. St. Josemaria Escriva, wrote:

“The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.”

This, I think, is true regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof.

My heroic minute experiment – waking a little earlier each week

A new action will become habit, for most people, in 21 to 30 days. By the end of the month, waking up at 5 – Monday through Saturday – was no problem.

If 5 is so pleasant and productive, I thought, wouldn’t 4.30 be even more so? And it was!

I soon realized, however, that waking up early meant having my tea and toast early, which meant that by ten or eleven I was quite peckish. Happily, there exists a multitude of ways to remedy this unexpected side effect, including my favourite: drinking more tea.

4.30 was better than 5.00, so wouldn’t 4 be better than 4.30? The idea of waking up at four has, for me, a Victorian appeal to it. A few weeks ago, then, I duly set my alarm back another half-hour, fell asleep by ten and got up six hours later.

Oh, it was grand. All the time I had – for reading the BBC, doing stretches, writing stories – was simply grand.

Unfortunately, by the end of the week I was regularly dozing off during maths class, physics class, and history. Six hours of sleep was obviously not enough.

Half an hour made such a difference – my general daytime sleepiness did go away when I returned to 4.30.

For now, I have settled at 4.30, but hope to achieve soon the ultimate ‘waking early’ hour of 4 AM.

My friends think I’m a bit ridiculous; I think they’re a bit silly for not starting their days with a jolt of Zen dawn-time calmness and extreme productivity, but to each her own.

And… up!