In a prior blog post, Routines: The Struggle is Real, I briefly discussed the difficulty of establishing a routine. Although establishing a routine can be difficult, the feedback that I received from that post indicates that it is certainly worth the effort.
I was having dinner with a friend last night and I brought up the fact that my Fiancee has started waking up at 5:30AM to make sure that she has enough time for breakfast, meditation and exercise before getting ready for work. This is a new habit that she has been working on since the start of the year and she has been very dedicated. I, on the other-hand, remain in bed sleeping until the last possible minute before having to get moving for the day. This usually involves hitting the snooze button on my phone several times.
“Why don’t you just wake up when she does?”, my friend asked. He went on to say that my sleep is being disrupted anyway and the extra rest that I think that I’m getting may just be an illusion. The same goes for the false sense of rest that hitting snooze provides. Instead of hitting that snooze button repeatedly, just get up. You’re really not getting more rested. You’re just shoveling on the anxiety feeling like you’re not getting enough sleep and condensing the amount of time between getting out of bed and when you need to hit the ground running for the day.
I went on to explain to my friend that I feel like I am running full throttle all day and by waking up early I will simply be extending my work day. Extending my day even further could push me into over exhaustion long-term, and I cannot afford a shutdown due to being overwhelmed. It’s important to maintain a balance of emotional, physical, and mental health. I have already been struggling with finding me time to give my mind a rest. My friend had some really good recommendations on this as well. Things that I already knew, but sometimes it helps to hear it from someone else.
The first step to getting out of bed early in the morning is to get to sleep at the right time the night before. Everyone has a slightly different sleep pattern and the amount of sleep that is right for you could be different. My friend said that he needs only 5 hours of sleep, but I need a solid 8 hours or my day will result in a zombie-like version of me just going through the motions. With that said, I would need to be in bed and ready to be asleep by 9:30PM in order to wake up, rested, at 5:30AM.
Below are some tips to help get to sleep at your ideal time:
- Try to avoid caffeine after 2:00PM. If you are someone that is heavily impacted by caffeine, you may want to avoid it even earlier in the day or avoid it completely.
- Plan your evening around your predetermined bedtime and commit to it. Everything that you do should help drive you towards climbing in bed on the time that you committed to. This is not necessarily easy and will likely take practice. Try not to get frustrated if you don’t master this right away.
- Disengage from electronic devices at least one hour before going to sleep (ie. phones, tablets, laptops, television, etc…) I’ve read that the light from the screen could inhibit the creation of melatonin; which is a bodily chemical that helps to promote sleep.
- Use a pen and paper to write down anything that is one your mind that you want to accomplish tomorrow or things that you don’t want to forget. It’s not necessarily a journal. It’s just a scratch pad to dump your thoughts onto so that your mind can let them go.
- Listen to sleep mediation. This can be really helpful if you have a lot on your mind. The meditation helps you to focus on your breathing and clear your thoughts and anxiety.
- Relax and let it happen.
So now that you’ve got a restful night of sleep, now what? My first meetings of the day usually begin promptly at 8:00AM. Waking up at 5:30AM gives me an additional one and a half hours to fill in the morning. The goal is not to start working an hour and a half sooner. This additional time in the morning is meant to be personal time and therapeutic. If used properly, it should be a time of day that you look forward to.
My fear is that by waking up early, I am just extending my work day. My friend gave me some ideas to fill the time productively and ways to ensure that I don’t do myself a disservice by getting straight to work.
Below are some tips to get your day start off on the right foot:
- Don’t open your email right away. Wait as long as you reasonably can. In my case, I will not log into email until 8:00AM. It’s probably best to find a way to completely leave your cell phone behind until you’re ready to officially start your day.
- Prepare yourself coffee and breakfast.
- Write down 10 things about the day using a pen and paper. This could be things that you wish to accomplish or simply things that you’re grateful for. This will help to get you in the mindset to navigate your day and everything that you do consciously and subconsciously will comeback to this list that you created in the morning.
- Get some form of exercise to get your heart pumping and juices flowing. It’s wonderful how much a little bit of cardio exercise can improve your mood and clear your head (I guess that I should mention that you should reach out to your doctor before starting a workout routine or making a significant change in your physical activity).
- Read something for 15 minutes that gets you motivated or educates you on a specific initiative that you’re looking to achieve.
The next step is to put this practice in place! The morning me time could be what I have been missing to help maintain better work / life balance. What are some other suggestions on what do with available personal time in the mornings? What are the things that you do which work for you?