I have a confession: historically, I have been terrible at waking up early.
I have been a night owl since I was a little kid- my parents would have to pat me for hours just to get me to fall asleep, which is not their happiest memory of me. My late nights continued through high school, where I would stay up late doing homework and struggle to fall asleep before midnight, only to be up around 6am or 6:30am to get to school by 7:30am. This is not recommended by the way- my book review yesterday on Nurture Shock talks about the surprising consequences of just one hour of lost sleep for children and teens.
Given I have always been a night owl, I've always been able to do some of my best work at night. Nothing changed in college, where sleep was often under-prioritized while trying to balance being in the business school at Indiana with leadership roles in my fraternity, roles in other campus organizations, and also having a social life. I think I took just one 8am class in college, knowing that I would be staying up late (sometimes pulling all-nighters for tests- again, not recommended at all).
COMMITTED TO (TRYING TO) CHANGE
But then, after graduating from Indiana in 2012, I decided that I was going to (try to) make a fundamental shift in my schedule to begin my life in the professional world of finance. I have been pretty dedicated to working out since high school, so my plan was to wake up at 5am, run to the gym, workout, run back, make breakfast, shower, get dressed, and get to the office between 7:30am and 8am. My very first morning, I woke up on time, ran my 1.4-mile round trip to the gym and back, made breakfast, and got to my first day of the training program on time. Let's ignore the fact that I was sweating profusely in my suit on a hot summer day in Chicago...
So I had done it! One morning down, and what a great start!
For my remaining three years at the bank, I don't think I woke up earlier than 7am more than three times, and it was often later. I would squeeze in a workout, but I was getting to work later and later despite trying to wake up early. Granted, I was extremely busy with work and often staying very late at the office. Even waking up at 7am or sometimes later, I was not getting enough sleep.
And then I left banking in 2015 to work full time as Co-Founder of 220YL with Joseph. I was so excited to model after some of the amazingly successful people on the Tim Ferris Podcast I had listened to that did not set alarm clocks, got their eight hours, and woke up when they wanted. I thought I wouldn't be hurting myself too much since I would work out when I woke up and then work late into the night as I had always done, but would finally make sure I was getting enough sleep. I felt like I was finally taking care of myself. And that was amazing for awhile! I had more energy, less stress, and I was able to focus longer and work more efficiently.
LET'S TRY THAT AGAIN
But then after several months, I realized that I was not getting as much done as I wanted during the day, and the days seemed to just fly by. I wanted to be journaling, blogging, reading, exercising, and working a lot every day but was not able to get it all done. I once again tried to make a shift in my schedule to get more time during the day by going to bed earlier and starting my day at 6am with a workout. This lasted about 1.5 weeks, and the snooze button was hit at least a few times per morning. And then 220YL got very busy and the late nights came back again, with late mornings quickly following. "Maybe this is just how I am and how it has to be", I remember thinking more than once.
ONE MORE TIME...
And then, I had two different triggers that happened very close together that got me thinking I need to try again. But this time it felt different...
- I read this article on LinkedIn that had been posted to one of my LinkedIn groups: How My Morning Routine Changed My Life. It is funny to me that this was a trigger because I have read, listened to, and studied morning routines and know that a lot of successful people start their day early. I think this article just found me at the right time.
- I listen to The Tim Ferriss Show podcast just about every day. I recently listened to his podcast interview with Seth Godin, an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker. He also happens to have one of the most famous blogs in the world and talked about how fulfilling it is to write something worth reading every day. I had been wanting to write articles for our blog more regularly for some time, and this podcast really motivated me to get going.
I decided that I wanted to be up at 6am every weekday and write a blog post before starting my work day. I thought for awhile about how I could best set myself up for success to do this since I've tried for so long now. I realized that ironically, one of my biggest obstacles to waking up in the morning was starting with a workout. It is ironic because I love working out and always make it a priority, but my workouts are pretty intense and so it has always taken me awhile (including several snoozes) to get psyched enough to get out of bed and be ready for that intense workout. So I decided to table the workouts until later in the day, and since fitness and nutrition are such a high priority for me, I knew I would just work out later in the day.
My plan that is going to make this stick is as follows:
- Every weekday, wake up at 6am and just get in the shower. Just getting in the shower is makes it easier for me.
- Make breakfast and listen to my Tim Ferris podcast. I love making and eating breakfast so much that I think this might be what actually gets me out of bed...
- Make coffee, journal, read some news, quickly browse email, and start writing my daily blog post.
- Waking up earlier consistently should help me move up my bedtime so that I'm getting more sleep.
- I want to establish this routine for 30 days to make it stick. After 30 days once I'm wired to wake up at 6am, I will try to move my workout back to first thing in the morning and add a 5-10 minute meditation practice.
So here we are, on February 18th, just my 2nd day in a row of waking up at 6am and writing a blog post before I start my work day. After just two days, I feel fantastic and will definitely be making this my routine going forward. I will say that I am very lucky that I love what I do, which makes all of this a lot easier. I also love writing so getting up to make time for blogging has been amazing so far.
I'm obviously not writing this post as an expert- the opposite in fact. I want to take you on the journey with me. I want to keep you updated on my progress towards establishing a habit that has eluded me for some time now.
With that said, here is what I want from you if you're reading this:
Ask yourself: What is something you've tried at more than once, but have struggled with, haven't tried in awhile, or have given up on? Is it still important to you?
Think of what that something is, and I challenge you to join me to make this go-around the time that your something sticks for good.
Here are some proven key steps that will help you make some big-time changes:
- Envision Yourself Achieving Your Goal: If you can't see it, tangibly picture it in your mind, and truly believe it, it will not happen. Make sure you really do want it, ask yourself why, and if you really do care about achieving that goal, take time to picture the feelings, emotions, and images you'll feel and see when you accomplish your goal.
- Don't Give Up: As you've heard before, most people give up on their goals and dreams when things get difficult, after failing once or more than once, or sometimes because of the fear of failure after putting in the effort. Stick with it- this may be the time you break through!
- Break it Down: If this is a goal you've set in the past and have not achieved, take some time to reflect on why and when it broke down. Think about how to actively prevent those instances by changing your action plan for achieving your goal.
- Have an Open Mind: Be creative and flexible when coming up with your strategy to achieve your goal. Trying the same exact thing that did not work before is almost never a good idea, so be willing to adjust, learn, and even take advice from others on what works best.
- Figure Out What Works For You: Everyone is different. What works for someone else may not work for you, and no one knows you better than you. Use what you know to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed, no matter how unconventional it might be.
- Tell Someone!: One of the most effective steps you can take for accomplish a challenging goal is to tell someone else what you are trying to do. They can be a great source of additional accountability, but more importantly, they can support you so much more effectively if they know your goal(s). We often tell our students who are struggling academically to make sure their teachers know what their goal for is for that class specifically as well as overall, and ask for advice on how to succeed in that class. Do the same thing for those important people in your life- let them know what you're doing and how they can help.
Let's do this together. Join me and start today!