The Early Bird
By Scott Westerman
“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.” – Richard Whately
For the last six months, I’ve been stumbling out of bed every weekday at 5AM. It’s not my nature. I’m a person who likes to dance across the time zones, staying up past midnight and pulling every last ounce of energy out of every day. Making the shift to mornings was (and still sometimes is) a challenge.
Why get up early?
Success coach Dave Navarro says. “..when you wake up early, you get to start the day on your own terms. You get time to ‘warm up’, to let your thoughts settle, and relax before it’s time to spring into action. You get to be proactive – rather than reactive, which gives you a greater feeling of control (and cuts your stress during the day).”
You can take Ben Franklin‘s “early to bed, early to rise” mantra to heart, but actually changing your habits will require concentrated effort. Here are five tips that Lifehack recommends, with my notations:
1. Choose to get up before you go to sleep – It’s way too easy to hit the snooze button, unless you’ve resolved that you’re going to get up, no matter what.
2. Have a plan for your extra time – My new routine has me at the gym before 6AM and at the office by 7:30. I’m a zombie when I arrive at the club but am totally energized by the time I leave.
3. Make rising early a social activity – During fall term, I held a breakfast club two days a week at one of the MSU dormitories. It started out with me gate crashing on tables where there were more than three kids eating evolving into a habit we all enjoyed.
4. Don’t use an alarm that makes you angry – I built a custom radio station that plays all my favorite records all the time. That frequency is programmed into my alarm clock. It’s much more fun to wake up to the Four Tops or an Eric Clapton deep track than it is to rise to the stupid ring tones that are built into my iPhone.
5. Get your blood flowing right after waking – You may not be the fitness fanatic I’ve become. Try an early morning walk. There is a wonderful feeling about taking the dog for a spin during a sunrise. Avoid plopping yourself in front of a computer. Find a way to get moving.
Remember than any behavior change requires consistency to stick. Florida International University recommends a 21 day game plan. Here’s how they put it:
1. Write down your goal. There is magic in the written word when it applies to you. Experts recommend stating your goal in positive terms, such as “I want to be lean and physically fit,” instead of “I’ve got to get this flabby body out there huffing and puffing.” So, begin with writing down, as a positive goal, the habit you will change.
2. List your reasons for changing or eliminating your habit. Writing it down will force you to think out in specific terms what this habit represents in your life and the meaning you believe your life will hold for you upon changing the habit. This will also help with your commitment toward taking positive action.
3. Find substitute routines. For example, if you are changing eating habits and you have identified a particularly difficult time of the day when eating habits are poor, create an activity, a new routine for that time.
4. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself you’re making progress. Remind yourself that you are moving closer to your goal.. Talk to yourself throughout the day about how you are going to avoid triggers that can get you off track and make healthy substitutes.
5. Recruit helpers for support. Explain to them why you are making this change. Ask for their support. Their support may be needed encouragement.
6. Be prepared for people who may sabotage your change. Be assertive and tell them what they are doing.
I’ve discovered that I’m actually more productive, have more energy and can deal with a higher level of stress as a morning person. It’s great to get to work before the rest of the world. The traffic is lighter. There are no interruptions. And you have the chance to review your day and get mentally prepared to face it.
That doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to answer that 5AM alarm. But if I can drag my butt out of bed and get rolling, I’m always glad I did!
Try an earlier wake up call for a month and see if it works for you.
Have a great week!
Feedback welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org or @MSUScottW on Twitter.