Make Early Mornings Work For You
Many of us don’t like waking up early. I’m a night owl by birth; meet my mom and you’ll know it’s in my genes. I always hit snooze at least once, and I can stay up until midnight every night without even noticing the night ticking away.
For years, M suggested we wake up early to exercise. Consistently, I flat out rejected it. I wouldn’t even try. I told him to go for it, but it wasn’t in the cards for me.
Recently, after listening to a few podcasts that brought new perspective on the idea, I suggested to M that we give it a try. And… I love it!
We don’t wake up early every morning, probably 3-4 days per week. We always hit snooze at least once while we lay in bed together before finally rolling out from under the covers. We’ve reserved this time when we’re awake before our boys, which ends up being about an hour, for ourselves. We may choose to exercise together, but we pass no judgment if the other person wants to do something on their own agenda.
About half the days, we do a quiet interval circuit in our living room together. Right outside the boys bedroom, we have to be quiet. Although we follow the same routine simultaneously, we often wear headphones and he listens to music while I listen to a podcast. Other days, one of us goes to the gym or I might read or write a blog post. The sky is the limit, I suppose.
Because I know this can be so hard for already sleep-deprived parents, I thought I’d share a few tips to help make it a reality.
Set a Bedtime Alarm
This sounds silly at first. But just like we set an alarm to wake up, set one to remind you what time to go to bed. Too often, we get sucked into a television show or other mindless distraction and entirely lose track of time.
Maybe you regularly get a second wind and aimlessly, yet tiredly, mosey through some things on your to-do list that really don’t NEED doing. We all need at least seven hours of sleep or so, no matter how many people make excuses to tell you otherwise. So head to bed in order to start the next day energized.
Go to Bed Earlier
This is a no-brainer. But given the importance, it’s worth reminding. (By the way, I’m terrible at this. I’m working on it…)
Wait Until the Baby Sleeps Through the Night
Many of us want to ‘get back on the horse’ as soon as possible after having a baby. We want to get back to working out and feeling great right away. Unfortunately, we can’t always have what we want.
Getting enough sleep trumps waking up early for a productive hour almost all the time. If you’ve got a newborn in the house who isn’t sleeping through the night yet, cut yourself some slack. Sacrificing more sleep when already short on sleep (that’s likely interrupted no less) won’t be productive in the long run.
If you don’t have a newborn waking you throughout the night, awesome. No excuses!
Set An Agenda The Night Before
Know why you’re getting up. It’s far easier to roll out of bed and head to the gym if your workout clothes are lying on the floor and you know exactly what exercises you’ll be doing.
If it’s not the gym on your agenda, have a plan. That way, you can begin the activity right away and even in a bit of daze (if you’re still a little sleepy) and not have to agitate your half-awake brain to do too much heavy lifting before starting your accomplishment. It’s also just a whole lot easier to get up knowing in exactly which direction you’re heading.
Plan Something Enjoyable
Expect to get “stuck” in bed if you don’t want to do whatever you’re waking up for. Many might think exercise is the obvious choice. If you’re not passionate about exercising, bag it for something you look forward to doing. Maybe you spend some time reading or working on a personal project.
Maybe you just feel great getting through a load of laundry and spending some alone time in the kitchen prepping that evening’s dinner. Or maybe you have an extra long breakfast on the patio with your significant other sans babies. The possibilities are endless.
Make a list of things you wish “you had time for” like my List of 100 Dreams. Choose one or two of those activities that will motivate you to get out of bed. Put simply, be sure whatever you choose ultimately leads down a path that makes you happy, not just something that might make others happy.
Multiply Your Time
Consider doing those tasks that you feel like you never have time for but provide a great return on your time investment. For example, we all say we could never take a couple hours to set up automatic bill pay. But if those two hours will save us 30 minutes each month paying bills, accomplishing that task will break even after 4 months and effectively create more free time after breaking even.
As other examples more likely related to work, consider writing a Frequently Asked Questions guide or drafting automated email responses to regular inquiries you receive. Both of these will involve an investment of time up front that will reap great benefits and a fantastic return on your time in the long run. Coworkers can refer to the FAQ before contacting you or you can respond to a handful of emails with simple modifications to pre-written responses saving you loads of time.
Making time to accomplish tasks or actions that save time later can essentially “create” more time in our day. This concept comes from the book Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, and I will be sharing more about it in the future. For now, take a look at your to-do list and critically consider which tasks will provide the most long-term benefit and time-saving rewards. Do those!
Put It on Your Calendar
I live by my calendar. It’s on my phone and computer. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s likely not happening. Seeing my “Productive Hour” on my calendar every weekday constantly reminds me to build time for it and plan activities to make the most of it.
Get An Accountability Partner
Nearly all of us follow through on commitments more consistently when held accountable by another person and not just to ourselves. Encourage your significant other or a friend to join the fun and get up early with you. They don’t necessarily have to use their time the same way as you, but it’s much easier to set the alarm and roll out of bed together than on your own.
Give Yourself a Break
Maybe you had a rough night and didn’t sleep well. It’s ok to skip the morning routine on occasion. Just don’t let it get you off course. One missed morning doesn’t mean the habit is over. It’s not an all-or-nothing commitment. If you miss a day, give yourself a break. Get back on track the next day or when your nights get better.
Start the Habit in the Summer
If you’re reading this when I initially wrote it, it’s summer. I suggest starting this habit during the summer only because it’s so much easier to get out of bed when it’s bright and warm instead of dark and cold.
That being said, if you’re reading this in mid-December and think this would work for you, don’t wait! Give it a go. If you hate waking up in the dark and it’s not working, try again in a month or two. Still not working? Try again a month later when more sunshine and warmer weather might motivate your morning energy.
You really still think this isn’t for you? Watch this Ted Talk from Mel Robbins. She might just convince you otherwise.