I wrote a post last week about how little habits can have a large impact on your overall goals and ambitions in life. In that post, I mentioned that my sleeping patterns were probably the biggest ‘little’ habit that was screwing me up the most. I have been staying up until 3 or 4 AM for the past few months and then getting up sometime between 10 and 11 AM and then going straight to my job. The problem with this kind of schedule wasn’t a lack of time but just a terrible overall flow to my day. Getting up late caused me to rush through what was left of my morning. My eating habits were suffering because I didn’t give myself time to prepare meals and instead was eating on the run. Also, my daily work habits were getting to be very poor. I would immediately go to my job (a place I actively dislike) and then get home and would just want to veg out, as I was drained psychologically and would have to try to pep talk myself into exercise and writing after a long day. Sometimes, this pep talk strategy would work and I would take action, but more often than not I failed and found myself getting lost in YouTube or in a movie.
However, after I wrote that post last week I decided that I had had enough of that kind of schedule and needed to switch back to an earlier riser model. The change has been quite significant for me and I have experience a ton of benefit already, though, it has not happened without a hitch and things that I definitely need to improve upon. The good thing is that I have set myself on a new course and one in which my daily growth is the focus and not trying to decompress after work and then having to gear up to cram all of my daily tasks into my evenings. While I am only on my first week of re-establishing a habit of waking up early each day, I am completely confident that it is going to stick because I have given myself enticing reasons to wake up early and feel excited about changing my life with the extra time that is allotted to me while my energy levels are at their highest. (Another post about sleep: How to Lucid Dream Easily)
How to Get Up Early
The biggest issue for me was not getting up for my alarm clock, that is a slight problem and one I will get into, but the simple ability to get myself to fall asleep earlier so I could get up early was a problem. I would often try to go to bed earlier but instead of falling asleep, I would lay in bed for hours staring at the ceiling and thinking about whatever random ideas popped into my head. It is kind of hard to get up by 7 when you’re still up at 4 AM and your brain just won’t shut off. The first thing I did on Monday, was to avoid any sort of caffeine or other stimulants throughout the day so my body wasn’t being propped up and feeling wired later that night. I also made sure I exercised fairly hard that evening to add a layer of fatigue that would induce me to fall asleep quicker. The last thing I did was to take some Melatonin at around 11 PM that night to help aid me into sleep. I only took the Melatonin for the first two nights just to help push me back from falling asleep at 4 AM to falling asleep at 2 AM. Melatonin doesn’t knock me out but it does help some, I just don’t like that in the morning I feel extra sleepy and a bit groggy.
So, Monday and Tuesday, I woke up around 8:30 in the morning which was about two hours earlier than I had been getting out of bed. This was a completely perfect set up for changing my sleep habits. It was early enough that I would be somewhat sleep deprived but could still function and would be likelier to go be able to fall asleep at a good time and push back the time I rose to even earlier still. What happened was on Tuesday night, I felt tired from the two previous days and fell asleep at midnight, having set my alarm for 6:45. Wednesday morning I was tired, but I got up anyways. Thursday, Friday, and today I have woken up by 6:30 each day. This is where I stand now but I think that I might push it back a bit farther to 5:30 because I feel that it would be optimal for my morning production.
The other problem I mentioned was getting up for my alarm clock. I would get up to turn it off but then go right back to my bed and lay down. I didn’t fall back asleep but on one of the day’s I laid there for an hour plus and didn’t do anything productive, which was one of the points of getting up earlier. On the other days I would get up and get into a routine but I would also spend 30-45 minutes reading sports articles instead of doing what I was supposed to do. Web surfing is fine in moderation, I just have a problem with me doing it at that time in the morning, I need to keep that at the end of the day when I’m already getting sleepy and don’t have the same brain power to write or focus intently. To change this, I need to condition myself to immediately turn off my alarm and head to the bathroom, to do the whole water on the face routine and remove the sleep from my eyes. From there, drink a glass of water and get into my morning routine.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that I don’t necessarily feel sleepy at the same times each night, so while one night this week I was ready for bed at 11 PM, yesterday I wasn’t ready to sleep until 12:15 or so. There is of course going to be some variance in the schedule but I kept my alarm at 6:30 to help establish the habit and train my body to fall asleep faster because I am waking up when the alarm goes off and then sleep is done. Under six hours of sleep I am increasingly useless by the middle of the day but if I get six and a half there seems to be a dramatic increase in my focus and fatigue levels. From past experience, I know that if I keep my alarm clock consistent my falling asleep times will always be within an acceptable range unless I consciously try to stay up later.
The whole sleep cycle is interesting to me and all but the real reason I’m making this change is to get more things done while I am awake. My favorite addition to my daily routine has been my morning walk. Waking up, drinking a glass of water, and then heading outside for a 2.4 mile walk is awesome. There are several benefits in doing this. First, it is exercise first thing in the morning. No, it is not a huge calorie burner but 200-300 extra calories burned each day can shed some significant fat and there is a reason that many bodybuilders do their cardio by walking for distance and on an incline. Second, being outside clears my mind and helps to appreciate the world around me. Fresh air, sun, and getting my blood flowing have really accelerated my creativity and work ethic during the ensuing hours. Thirdly, I listen to motivational podcasts and speeches during my walk which floods my brain with positivity for 40 minutes first thing in the morning. My goals and how to achieve them and change my life is the first thing my brain focuses on each morning which sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Also, I wanted to start writing each morning to establish some consistency and improve my skills in this area. I wrote a 2,000 word post the other day and am currently writing this post on this beautiful Saturday morning. It feels like my brain is seeing things through a different lens. Just last week, I would get home from work and not really want to do everything that was on my task list. Now, I’m just hoping I can fit it all in before 11 AM. The key to mastering anything is consistency over long periods of time. I am hoping that I can not only get better at communicating through my writing but also accomplish goals of making at least part of a living through my words and also doing creative things like novel writing.
Lastly, I have established a set time in which I will read each morning. I have about 18 books currently on my Kindle that I have either yet to finish or that I downloaded but have yet to begin. Yesterday, I finally sat down and finished Friday Night Lights, which was an easy read. Also, this morning I have continued my reading of Byron’s Don Juan. I love to read and I haven’t been giving myself enough time to do so to the extent that I’ve wanted. I enjoy thinking in different ways and exploring different styles of writing because I know that it will only serve help my own and bolster my own creativity. Entertainment and thinking all rolled into one.
Negatives Thus Far
I mentioned earlier in this post that I haven’t always kept to my schedule in terms of production during this first week. This is a simple fix and really requires me to simply push back the web surfing and whatnot to the evenings before I go to sleep and have accomplished everything that I have set out to do that day.
Another, negative that I have noticed is that I tend to crash in terms of energy right around 8 PM. I’m willing to bet that most of this has to do with adjusting to the new schedule but I don’t like how irritated I’m becoming at this time. While doing an Insanity workout the other day I was in a bad mood and would get easily frustrated at my declining coordination due to being tired. Also, putting off my work out until the night seems like it will cause consistency problems for me if my mood or energy level isn’t going to be great.
This leads me to needing more time in the morning to be able to fit in a weight lifting routine or Insanity workout sometime after my morning walk and probably following a light breakfast. Maybe a shift back to 6 AM will handle it, which I was planning on moving towards already but I need to experiment and find the optimal schedule to handle my work load for the day.
Making the change to getting up earlier has been wonderful for the most part so far. The transition is still not complete and I will need to get up earlier yet still but I can definitely tell that this will be the most important part of changing my life that I will make for a long time. I get more work done each day and have it done before I even head to my day job. My evenings are now free and I don’t feel under the gun to accomplish things that I have set out to do. The question after I complete the transition and early rising becomes an established habit for me is what to do with the extra free time. Do I increase my writing work load? Do I take on new hobbies? Meet new people? New challenges? The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to have the luxury of ‘having time’ to do fun things. If you are like me and have a long history of poor sleeping habits then I encourage you to decide today and make the shift towards getting out of bed earlier. I think that you will be very pleased with the progress you make in your life.