I used to despise mornings. I believed that certain people were born to be morning people and I never was, nor ever would be, a morning person.
When I was in college, I would prioritize my class schedule around sleeping in. If an interesting elective course only met before 10am, I found something else to take (sorry “Humanities 401: Solving World Hunger” – maybe next quarter).
Mornings and I didn’t get along, so I would hit my snooze button time after time to avoid them. I was attempting to solve my problem with mornings by maximizing sleep and minimizing the time it took me to get from my bed to wherever I needed to be. That meant rolling out of bed, out the door, and straight to point B.
Once I graduated college and began my career, my general approach hadn’t changed. I would still sleep in until the last minute, jump in the shower, and go. After awhile, the morning rush began to really wear on me and I began to realize that my approach was in desperate need of improvement.
So, after months of trial and error and seeking advice from the wise and all-powerful internet – I finally found out how to fix my mornings.
Now, I wake up at 6am – nearly 4 hours before work – and go for a jog. Afterwards I make breakfast, then catch up on the news while I get ready to head out the door. It takes me roughly 2 hours to commute to work via bus and train, and I spend that time learning about the stock market, reading a book, or just listening to music. I couldn’t be happier.
Here’s how I did it.
Step 1 – Break Bad Sleep Habits
The biggest problem I had was a number of bad sleeping habits that were preventing me from feeling properly rested and ready to take on the day. After a significant amount of online research and reading articles much like this one, I’ve narrowed down it down to one factor: Consistency.
Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Some people need more, some need less, but this is a good place to start. Keep in mind that more sleep isn’t always healthy, but joining the sleepless elite isn’t for everyone, either. Take the Goldilocks approach and find the amount that’s just right for you.
Find your circadian rhythm.
This boils down to going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day. Staying up late one day and sleeping in another makes it difficult for your body to get to into a pattern of falling asleep and waking up when you want it to. If you stick to a schedule, you’ll find your body naturally getting tired or waking up naturally at the right times, which makes for a much better night’s sleep.
Stop hitting snooze.
Seriously, just stop. This habit is referred by sleep scientists as drockling, and it’s not good for you. Do yourself a favor and put your alarm across the room, do some jumping jacks, or play some Death Grips when you wake up – whatever it takes to get out of bed and stop convincing yourself that the snooze button is helping your morning. Remember, a good night’s sleep is about consistency, not about squeezing in an extra 10 minute nap each morning.
Step 2 – Wake up earlier.
Waking up earlier is going to come in handy for Step 3, but on a more general note, a lot of people have trouble with mornings because they are rushing.
One of the worst parts about my morning was that I was minimizing the time I had to get ready, which led to stress because of my rush to get where I needed to be. Even worse, I was immediately focused on work because my late start didn’t give me enough time to get my thoughts in order.
The good news is, it’s an easy fix. I’ve already mentioned that an extra 10 minutes of sleep isn’t going to make or break your sleep – so, shave 10 minutes off your alarm time and use it to stop rushing.
If you want even more time, simply adjust your sleep schedule to accommodate. Over time, you can build 10 minutes into 30 minutes, which can give you time for all sorts of different activities. This leads us to Step 3…
Step 3 – Make mornings about more than work.
This is the most important step and is a big reason why the first two steps are included in the first place. Breaking bad sleep habits can help you get a good night’s sleep, a good night’s sleep can help you start waking up earlier, and waking up earlier can help you take back your morning.
I believe the real reason most people don’t like mornings is because they make their mornings all about work. When you focus solely on work in the morning, you jump right into that 8-hour grind and rob yourself of your last chance for personal time until the end of the day when you’re no longer as motivated to be productive.
Instead, if you make a deliberate effort to set aside personal time for yourself before going to work, I can guarantee that you would no longer hold the same feelings about mornings.
Now the fun part – what should you do with your the personal time you’ve set aside? Whatever you want! You don’t have to be the early bird gym rat or the peppy roasted-tomato-and-goat-cheese-egg-white omelette chef. Fly a kite, write strongly-worded letters to local eateries – it doesn’t matter! What matters is that you’ve set aside time for yourself.
That being said, there is no shortage of ideas of how to spend your morning in a healthy, productive manner. Allow me to prove my point…
- Make a healthy breakfast
- Catch up on current events
- Start a journal
- Make a to-do list
- Finish up chores
- Learn to play an instrument
- Watch TV
- Find a podcast
- Go for a walk
- Go for a run
- Do yoga
- Stop for coffee
- Listen to music
- Get in an easy workout
- Get in a quiet workout
- Spend time with friends
- Spend time with family
- Read a book
- Make a lunch
- Learn a new language
- Rethink your commute
Elon Musk probably knocks each one of these items out every day. You can start with just one or two.
My problem was that I used to rush, I used to feel tired, and I used to think that sleep was the best part of my morning. Furthermore, I attributed all my negative feelings about mornings to a lack of sleep.
Although my poor sleeping habits did contribute to it, the real trouble was that I wasn’t giving myself a chance to learn how to enjoy my morning.
By breaking bad sleep habits, getting up earlier and setting aside some “me time,” I was able to completely turn my mornings around in a significant way.