I have a confession to make. Andi and I are trying this new thing, with the aim of changing our lives — being more productive, having more energy and generally feeling like we have forward momentum.
The new thing is … getting up every day at 6 am.
Everyone who is reading this and has ever met me just stopped reading right there because they know I’m lying.
I have never in my life gotten up before 7:30 am. Not when I had 8 am German class in college. Not when I had a newborn, or a toddler. Not when I was on a fitness craze in my twenties. Not for any job, ever. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten up before 7:30 am; two of them were for television appearances and three were for international flights.
But it’s true. As completely as outlandish as this is, we really are getting up at 6 am each day.
HOW COULD THIS BE?!
If you’ve ever witnessed the pathetic, whining mess that is Lindsay in the morning, it seems impossible. I’m just not even willing to entertain the possibility of getting up even five minutes earlier than I absolutely must.
I have one person to blame, and her name is Renee.
Renee is completely lovely, and she accomplishes a lot. She is a good friend of Andi’s. She homeschools three kids, is an incredibly talented (and versatile) musician, runs a business out of her home (teaching Suzuki music lessons) and manages several rental properties with her husband. Basically, she’s inspiring. And she never has that harried, desperate vibe of someone who has way too much on their plate. She’s calm. She seems happy.
So, recently, Andi asked her how she does it. Yeah, yeah, that’s apparently a dirty phrase… “How does she do it?” I’ve read plenty of articles online proclaiming “You just do it because you have to!!” Well, fair enough. But I don’t think that does justice to people who manage to accomplish a lot. They actually do have strategies, and habits for being efficient, happy, accomplished. They do things like set goals, make time for themselves, give back, and honestly I’m not too sure what else because I’m still aspiring to be one of them. I do believe there is value in asking “How do you do it?,” if we ask in the right way. Taking the best life tips of someone we admire and wish to emulate is just good sense.
So when Renee told us that the key to her life balance is getting up at 6 am, consistently, we were willing to listen, even though we were extremely resistant to the idea.
We spent an afternoon talking with her about our goals and challenges, and the conversation just kept coming back to the 6 am idea.
“How do we balance making enough money at our current jobs, with moving in the direction of our bigger goals?”
(Getting up at 6 am will give you more time in the day and allow you to strategize and therefore be more efficient in moving toward your goals.)
“How do we find time to work out?”
(Work out at 6 am.)
And so on. Waking up at 6 am was the answer to every question!
We left that day, about three weeks ago, convinced. The next morning, we were going to attempt to get up at 6 am. Well, we did. And with the exception of our business trip to Vegas (seriously) and a couple weekend mornings when we’ve let ourselves sleep in (usually until 8 or 9), we have been doing it every day since.
It goes like this.
The guru who prescribes this, Robin Sharma (though he says you should get up at 5 am — but who does that?! Come on, there has to be a line.), outlines a 20-20-20 formula for general success. He says that you should spend the first 20 minutes of your day exercising. The next 20 minutes are spent learning, ideally about something that pertains to one of your current goals. This can be through reading a book or article, or listening to a podcast or audiobook. Technically you could even do the workout and listen to a podcast or audiobook at the same time. The final 20 minutes are spent writing. I think you’re supposed to write about your dreams and goals. Frankly I’m still getting the hang of all this and we’ve been more focused on the getting out of bed and doing something part than adhering strictly to any plan. It doesn’t seem like it would be helpful to try to do everything perfectly right off the bat and then beat ourselves up for doing it not-quite-right.
So, we made a morning movement plan. Andi has been doing yoga or strength training each morning, and even a bit of hooping. I decided right off the bat that if I was going to get my ass out of bed at 6 am, it would need to be for something enticing. For me, that is getting outside. I knew the fresh, cold air would wake me up, and I always love to get outside (and it’s something I don’t always do often enough). It worked! Each morning the thought of going outside gets me out of bed. It seems unlikely — what’s appealing about stepping out into the freezing cold darkness before anyone else in the neighbourhood is up and about? I’m not sure. This is so not like me, and I can’t explain it. But I will tell you that most morning at 6 am, if the sky is clear, I can see a very bright planet right beneath a very bright star in the eastern sky. That’s something I hadn’t even known was there. And now I’m running in the morning instead of walking, and it makes me feel great. When I get back to the house I’m awake, feeling optimistic (a welcome change from my usual morning anxiety), and ready for step two: learning.
This is another thing we have to look forward to. We each pick out a podcast the night before, and we each have a list of podcasts that are engaging and get us thinking first thing in the morning. This American Life, Radiolab, 99% Invisible — these are some of our favourites. I am now reading in the morning — my library book on building a writer platform. This gets me inspired for the day. I’ve also put a couple of audiobooks on hold at the library and I’m excited to try those in the morning.
Last comes writing. We don’t necessarily write for 20 minutes (nor at the same time). Sometimes we scrimp on this. This was actually the greatest struggle for me for the first couple of weeks at least. What do you write about at 6:40 in the morning? My hopes and dreams? At that time of day I don’t even know what to eat for breakfast, let alone what I want out of life! Renee said that what matters is to just write, even if it’s a list of all the reasons you want to go back to bed. I have tried writing my goals for the day (not a to do list, but the positive things I hoped to accomplish); reasons the day would be great; gratitude lists; and pages of complaints. Renee told us it would get better with time, and it has. With each passing day, the morning process gets more clear and feels more productive.
I’ve now started the Artists Way 12-week program which includes daily Morning Pages (three pages of free writing in longhand), so I’ve been doing that for my writing component.
So why do we like this so much? Why do we keep doing it? Every day I wonder whom I’ve become, and how I’m doing it. But I am, we are, and we are dedicated to it. We haven’t even had to struggle with it (aside from the first couple of days for me)! Here are the things that we’ve noticed keep us going:
- We really do have more energy for the rest of the day. Yes, some days I’m tired, or sleepy, especially in the afternoon. But even when I’m sleepy, I’m more energized overall. I’m not dopey or unmotivated like I was before. If I’m sleepy, I can have a 20 minute nap — and feel completely justified!
- We are eating better. We eat a healthy breakfast around 9:30 am (until then we might have a banana or piece of toast if needed, and a cup of tea or coffee), then a small lunch, and a reasonable supper. We usually don’t get around to an evening snack because bedtime comes too quickly. Big change from last winter’s habit of nightly nachos! I do need to start remembering to have a spoonful of almond butter or something before bed, to take the edge off at 6 am.
- We’re moving more efficiently toward our goals. We are finding time and inspiration for the things we want to accomplish. We’re getting clear on what we want our future to look like.
- There is a definite ripple effect as Renee promised. We don’t really have to think too hard about where to go next because the ideas and goals are just sort of coming naturally.
- Suddenly we like mornings and we look forward to getting up! This is nuts to me.
- My morning anxiety is mostly gone. It used to keep me in bed for up to an hour after I’d initially wake up then often plague me until lunch. I rarely have anxiety in the mornings now.
Are you a night owl who has learned to love mornings? Why and how did you do it?