Good morning! It’s currently 6:30am for me, and I have now been awake for over an hour and a half. It sounds crazy, I know. Why would anyone get out of bed at such an ungodly hour? Heck, many of you might often find yourselves just getting to bed around 5am. I know I used to be one of those people.
In my younger life, I would party until the clubs closed at 4am (thank you New York City!), sleep for a few hours, and then head to my 9am class no worse for wear. Then, once the novelty of being a young adult in a vibrant city wore off, I joined the workforce.
As an independent contractor, I set my own hours. Most of the time I didn’t get out of bed until 10 or 11 am. Then, I would run around all day for work and make it home by 9pm, with my only desire being to order in takeout and binge watch my latest Netflix obsession until the wee hours of the morning. Sleep, rinse, repeat.
I have to tell you, in the last few years of hardcore adulting, there hasn’t been a lot of time for me. It’s all been about chasing a paycheck, trying to get the things I felt I needed. I missed out on a lot. Most importantly, I missed out on the opportunity to spend my time pursuing my dreams, goals, and passions. I needed a fix for my life.
Enter sleep. I no longer fight it. I am a human. I require sleep. Not just any sleep, mind you. No, I need high quality, deep, restorative sleep. I love it. It’s become one of my passions. So, I now work at a day job with a more regular schedule. I have to leave for work before 8am, and I don’t get home until 6. That gives me about 12 free hours during which I will need to sleep and work on anything that I can’t work on while commuting or at my job.
I tried at first to put the things I want to do first, and the sleep second. This meant spending the hours of 6-11pm on class work, writing projects, household chores, business planning, and recreation, followed by sleep. Alas, this schedule was not to be. When I got home I was already mentally drained from the 9.5 hours I’d spent out of my home. The last thing I wanted to do was wash a dirty dish or work on my website or go through my mail or watch a lecture. I didn’t have the energy for much more than feeding myself and my pets, walking my dog, and vegging out in front of the tv.
I wasn’t really accomplishing anything. My goals were ignored, my passions put on the back burner. I wasn’t okay with this. So I decided to make a pretty drastic switch. Rather than continue with a schedule that made it all but impossible to get anywhere with my life, I flipped it on its head. I decided the sleep would come first and the personal development second. I would come home from work, eat, feed my pets and walk my dog. Then I would allow myself 1 hour or personal time where I could watch tv or read. When the show ended or I finished a chapter in my book, I would turn off the lights, close my eyes, and drift off to sleep, awakening 8 hours later, perfectly rested and ready to start my day at 5 am. I would get ready for my day while also spending 3 hours on the things I most wanted to achieve.
Unfortunately the first few nights did not go quite how I’d imagined. Nor the first few weeks. It was difficult to drift to sleep, and even more difficult to awaken. I found myself jumping out of bed to turn off my alarm, only to crawl back in and sleep for another hour or two. I felt I was getting nowhere. Until, that is, I made a mental shift. Instead of dreading the alarm in the morning and making a mad dash to turn it off, I would wait to silence it until I told myself why I had set it in the first place. “My alarm is ringing at 5am because I have goals that I want to accomplish, and I am creating time for myself to achieve them by getting up right now.” Then I would get up and begin my day.
Once I consistently woke up at 5am, it began to be easy to go to bed by 9pm- I was tired! The cycle now fuels itself. This has been my routine for several months, and I have to say that I have never felt more in tune with myself than I do now. This practice has opened me up to a deeper understanding of myself and my needs. It allows me the time and energy to focus on the pursuits that truly bring me joy.
Let’s shift gears. We’ve discussed why and how I have created a schedule of going to sleep by 9pm and waking up by 5am. Now let’s dive more deeply into how I utilize those extra morning hours in a more productive way through the implementation of a morning routine.
A morning routine is very simple to create and to stick with. This is really the main reason why waking up so early is extremely ideal. No one else is awake. You won’t be getting texts inviting you out, no phone calls interrupting your reading, no urgent errands to run because nothing is open. There is literally nothing to distract you from doing everything you want to do during the morning. The only thing that can get in your way is yourself.
Writing a list helps to keep you focused and on task. I personally make my list every morning. Even though I have an established routine which means my morning primarily look the same every day, I like the list because I can cross off each task as it is completed. It ensures I don’t forget anything.
My routing commences with my alarm, at 5am. I mentally recall the reasons my alarm is set, get out of bed to turn it off and head straight to the bathroom. I use the toilet, press cold water on my face followed by an astringent spray and facial oil, and brush my teeth, use my tongue scraper, and mouthwash. I get dressed right away.
Then I put on the espresso percolator and wash all of the dishes in my sink. I only wash dishes in the morning. As I said before, chores are the last thing I want to do when I get home in the evening. I also spend about 10 minutes tidying up the rest of my apartment. Once that’s done I sit at my desk with my cup of coffee, write out my list of things to accomplish, and write one page in my journal, always being sure to include an affirmation.
By now it is around 6am. I will begin to work on the items from my list at this point- typically this includes spending about 30 minutes to an hour on course work, blog posts, website development, and/ or general business development. Once that is complete I move on to preparing for the rest of my day. I feed my pets, prepare all of my meals to take to work with me, take my dog for a walk, and head out the door by 8am.
Your morning doesn’t have to look like mine. We are all individuals, with different passions, dreams, goals, and desires. Right now, my focus is on building a business that I am proud of, and creating content that people find helpful and interesting. As my focus changes, my routines are also bound to change. However, no matter what it is you are pursuing in your own life, taking advantage of the morning hours will give you the quiet, distraction-free time to go for it.