Every day you begin on equal ground.
What separates the movers and shakers from the dreamers is when you get up. Rising out of bed is the first challenge you face. Morning has a real influence on the rest of the day. Happily hustling is an excuse to justify chaos. You are not prioritizing goals and values. Mornings can transform the day and your life.
Last week, I was on some short deadlines and committed to a conference. After pounding the snooze, I rolled out of bed, did a splash, shave and go, skipped breakfast, and dashed out the door. Rain means bumper to bumper traffic in Washington, D.C. When I approached James Madison Bridge it took me 45 minutes to travel three miles. Arriving at the conference five minutes late, I was that guy, sitting at the first available seat, everyone staring. I was not myself the remainder of the day, made a poor impression and was irritated about my entrance.
Yesterday, I got up at 4am. My bag was packed the night before, listened to music, while making coffee, spent time in prayer, my Bible, reflected in my journal, and while listening to a favorite podcast my commute lasted 20 minutes.
The clear advantage is waking early.
I eliminated any chaos or distractions and cashed in on the best two hours of anyone’s day. You own your morning. You have silence, no distractions, the family is asleep. Morning is a time when you may concentrate on your personal priorities.
Journaling, reading The Good Book, praying, and exercise are my personal priorities each day. When I do not wake early, my personal priorities cease to exist. I will keep pushing them aside, because demands and responsibilities overrule after 8am.
When is the best time to get things done?
When the family wants your attention after work or at 9pm when you are tired?
How about 5am?
Between February and August I woke up at 4am. I accomplished my personal priorities before arriving at the gym. I managed to overcome a prolonged back problem, accomplishing feats of strength and endurance never experienced before. More motivated, happier, and productive, adjusting my wake-up time allowed me to pursue the important things in life. Realize those tasks are easier in the first two hours of the day.
Willpower depletes throughout the day.
Like a tank of fuel, you can run it empty. I found a way to build off my morning success and became more productive. A stable morning set a positive tone, which made me want to get up at 4 am. It was a reward by itself. I was able to care for myself physically, mentally and nutritionally, which benefited the people I interacted with each day, because I could give them a better me.
An early commute reduces the stress from traffic and shortens time traveling from place to place. Having breakfast gives you added nutrition to power through the day. I am not going to lie, it is difficult. The reward from waking up early before other people is worth every minute. Having two children, spouse, pets, writing for two blogs, officiating baseball, attending graduate school and a full-time job as a victim advocate requires a lot of time, energy and discipline.
You must commit yourself and make incremental changes.
Fifteen minutes to bed early and fifteen minutes up earlier for a week at a time or longer until you find the right amount of time to accomplish all your personal priorities. You will discover you have more time and energy in the evenings. I was able to focus and give my family the attention they deserved. Days become more productive and less stressful. I spent the first couple hours on my marriage and children, rather than attempting to rationalize time. Night time entertainment is a drawback at going to bed earlier. However, embrace technology by using a DVR or on demand type of programing so you do not have to miss out. You just will not be able to hang out with the crew at the water cooler or they might spoil your favorite television show.
All you must do is plan your mornings.
Create routines before bed and during morning hours, such as laying out clothes, packing a lunch or have the coffee ready to go. Stop procrastinating and start preparing. Make certain your personal priorities are things you enjoy. This could be meditation, exercise, reading, journaling, et cetera.
The snooze is your enemy.
You really like the stimulation your brain gets when you hit it. It is addicting to get an additional five minutes every time you push it. Are you a snoozer? Have you tried multiple alarms, an alarm on the other side of the room, in another room? I bought an alarm with pulses of light and vibrated my pillow. I finally found an app with an alarm which required you to stand and walk twenty steps before it would disable. There was no manual override. Once you rise to your feet and move, it is difficult to climb back into bed.
Try these quick tips to help you crank your morning up in the right direction.
- Set a fixed time for bed. No caffeine after dinner.
- Reduce exposure to lighting such as phones, computers, and television.
- Dim the light after the sun goes down to a soft glow.
- Evaluate your sleeping environment, sounds, light, and comfort.
- Exercise, nutrition and hydration go a long way.
- Avoid heavy dinners and night-time snacking.