Is your spouse ready to divorce you because you habitually hit the snooze button three times before you can get out of bed in the morning? Was your last knock-down-drag-out all about the fact that the alarm resets to just nine minutes, not really long enough for Ms. Snooze to get any real sleeping done, but just long enough to make you crazy?

Yes, this is the story a divorce consult told me one day. Was it the only reason the guy was leaving his wife? No, of course not. But what were the first words out of his mouth when I asked what his goal in getting divorced was? “A good night’s sleep.”

Believe me, the snooze alarm was not my first thought.

I wondered whether there was another solution to this guy’s problem. (Well, problems.) Was divorce his only choice? After all, they had two kids and had already invested ten years into their relationship.

Can habits be changed? It’s like the old lightbulb joke: “Yes, but only if you want to change them.” So I suggested this guy consider collaborative life planning before jumping straight to divorce.

When he brought it up to Ms. Snooze, per my instructions, he reported she was absolutely open to the idea, having had no idea how desperate he’d become.

Can I Empathize?

I, personally, was never a sleepy head. I’ve never understood the attraction of a snooze button. Even in elementary school, I was far too curious to see what the day had in store for me to sleep in. From the time I first owned an alarm clock, I never used it.

But I will admit that, for most of my early adulthood, I believed that all people are really divided into two groups, “early birds” and “night owls.” Several men I dated finally disproved this myth. While they initially appeared to prefer a heavy-duty nightlife, when they realized that I was an early riser, they, too, rose early to keep company with me.

I guess I made it worthwhile for them to change their habits.

Humans are extremely adaptable and something as simple as a sleeping pattern is merely a habit. Waking early is a choice. Those of us who are ready to give up the comfort of a warm bed to be productive in the morning have a good reason to do so.

What is your “why” to wake up?

Why Wake Early?

Early risers tend to be more successful professionally, as well as in life. After all, there’s a reason for the 400-year-old proverb,“The early bird catches the worm.”

Why? Because what you do in the morning sets the tone for your entire day, playing a mission critical role in what you can accomplish. Early risers lead more structured lives. They anticipate and are therefore more proactive in how they approach obligations, as well as problems.

Rising early, compared to everyone else, at least, is especially helpful if you work from home or have small children, because you can get_things_done without being interrupted by others in your household or your workplace.

In 1982, I took a freelance job in San Jose, California, defending 50 sex discrimination arbitrations against a large machinery corporation. The project was short-term so I retained my condo in DC. And stayed on Eastern Time the entire time.

Every day, I woke at 3:00am, worked out, showered up, made and ate my egg-white only omelet, all while planning my workday. Then I headed to the office to get a start long before the sun rose or anyone else thought to join me. By the time the rest of the staff arrived, I already had two or three hours of industrious work under my belt.

I followed this regimen because I knew that, ultimately, I would return to DC. And I wanted to impress my temporary employer.

What is Your “Why”?

Everyone has his own “why.” And that “why” may well change over the years, as your interests change. When I returned to DC, my “why” changed. I was “unemployed” while I studied for the Florida Bar Exam, waiting for my new job to begin. It was important to me to adhere to a strict schedule because I worried that I would become lazy if I did not.

Solitude and Sunrise

When I began work in Florida, I would wake super early so that I could have my pick of the equipment at my gym, arriving just before 6am to wait for them to unlock the doors. Now that I’m older, I’ve worked out at home for years, wearing out a stairclimber, then an elliptical, and now my fitdesk. So my wake-up time slacked off a bit, to 6:30. –ish.

But six months ago, I started walking in the mornings. And now I’m suddenly awake at 5:45 again every morning, no alarm, ready to jump out of bed. Ready to walk!

What you experience in the early morning is unlike any other time of day, a time of solitude and calm tranquility, when even the squirrels and birds are still asleep and you have only yourself to keep you company. What a great time to think!

So think about this; what is a great reason to get going for you?

Collaborative Life Planning

I first introduced the idea that Mr. Snooze try a planning approach to their conflicts, rather than a divorce. Then, instead of asking his wife to buy into changing her habit, I asked my client “What might be a great reason for you to get up earlier?” I suggested he list all of the chores, and the fun stuff, too, that seemed impossible to ever tick off his to-do list. Around the house. At the office. For the kids. For his own well-being.

Did he want to cook himself a healthier breakfast? Did he want to try meditation? Did he need to start an exercise regimen? How about enrolling in an Aikido class with his son? Did he hope to read more? Did he want to learn a foreign language? Plan a family vacation? Had he ever toyed with the idea of writing a book?

You Can Sleep When You’re Dead.

I suggested Mr. Snooze try an experiment, to wake up at the same time that Mrs. Snooze had been setting her alarm for the next 30 days. For most of us, 30 days is enough to develop a habit, to make a change.

Although there were other problems that they needed to address, Mr. and Mrs. Snooze attacked this one, immediately. Much to his surpise, Mr. Snooze discovered that, when he arose at the time that Mrs. Snooze wanted to get up, she also got up. As she later explained, she couldn’t lie there like a lump when he was already “up-and-at-‘em.”


Mr. and Mrs. Snooze are still married. Both get up earlier than they used to.

If this is you and you need help you decide whether to restructure your family, or, if so, how, visit us at Open Palm Law or email me at We are here for you, and for your family, during whatever change your family is going through! We can help you set your alarm for the right time!

Learn more about collaborative divorce. Follow Open Palm Law.

Need advice now? Contact Joryn!

About this week’s author, Joryn Jenkins.

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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