I often feel like there are not enough hours in the day. Can you relate? Then I have some good news: you’re most likely sleeping away some of the most valuable time of your entire day.
Being a graduate student and a father of two kids (a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter) is really hard. Having ADHD really doesn’t help either. Finding time to do homework assignments, marking, research, writing, and attending meetings is a constant uphill battle.
Many of the most productive people I follow online all have one characteristic that I wish I had: they are morning people. I have been impressed by their ability to utilize the hours of the day when most of us are completely unconscious. For parents, the morning is even more precious because kids are asleep.
Last week, I made a commitment to myself that I would work toward becoming a morning person. I spent almost an hour doing some brainstorming and researching, and came up with a strategy on how to become a morning person.
Step 1: Prep for Success
If you’re going to be successful, you need to make sure that everything is ready before you start. Here are a few things I have started doing to make sure I will hit the ground running.
Get to bed at a reasonable time. I had this great shift in thinking last week. When you don’t have a specific time to report to a job, it’s really easy to turn your mornings into a flexible schedule determined by your sleep needs.
If you’re tired, you need to sleep in, right? WRONG! Learn to listen to your body, and go to sleep as soon as you feel tired. Getting up early consistently is going to retrain your brain into seeing your bedtime as the flexible part of your schedule, not your wake-up time.
Set out clothes and school bag out before going to bed. I can’t tell you how many times I have woken up and wandered around the house aimlessly for an hour. Where are my books? Where’s the power cord to the laptop? Maybe I should get dressed. By doing a lot of the organization tasks the night before, you’ll be able to cut some serious time off of your morning routine.
Step 2: Get Up When Your Alarm Goes Off
It doesn’t really matter what time you decide you’re going to wake up. What’s important is that it’s a realistic expectation of yourself. You may need to play with this a bit, but be specific.
Never EVER hit the snooze. This is only going to make it easier to sluff off your goal of getting up early. If you want to wake up at 6:00, set your alarm for 6:00.
Visually remind yourself of your goal. If you’re like me, your brain doesn’t work quite right in the morning. I printed off a piece of paper that is on the wall in my bedroom that says “I AM A MORNING PERSON!”
Wake yourself up by turning on all the lights and downing a cold glass of water. Both of these are useful ways of kicking your brain into gear and giving it signals that it’s morning.
Step 3: Start Your Day With Exercise
I am lucky enough to live a block away from a beautiful man-made pond. There is nothing better than going for a quick walk around the lake to wake me up in the morning.
Get Outside! There is something I’ve noticed about actually going outside that wakes me up more than just going upstairs.
Listen to something uplifting and motivational. I find that listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or upbeat music is a great way to wake up my brain as I wake up my body.
Elevate your heart rate. By picking up the pace during your morning walk or jog, you send additional
Step 4: Quickly Prep for the Day
Don’t slow down! There are few things more relaxing than a shower in the morning. If I let myself, I could probably fall asleep standing up in the shower. However, by making a conscious effort to not waste time lolly-gagging with my morning routine, I am able to keep a good pace.
Step 5: Quick & Healthy Breakfast
Your brain needs brain food. Seriously. It is so easy to fill your body with crap food first thing in the morning, but you will feel so much better if you eat something healthy.
Zac’s Morning Shake. I’m no nutritionist, but a protein breakfast shake is a relatively healthy, convenient, and delicious way to start the day. This is always a work in progress, but for now here’s what my shake consists of:
- 1 scoop of whey protein powder
- 1 heap of frozen fruit
- 1 glob of Greek yogurt
- 1 sploosh of milk, juice, or water (for consistency)
Avoid eating crappy breakfast cereals if at all possible. I have kids, and breakfast cereal is sometimes the go-to option when they’re awake. I often end up hungry and tired around lunch time if I do this, however. My morning shake is just better.
Clean up after yourself. It can be really easy to just leave the blender filled with crap on the counter. Don’t do it! This is equal parts cleanliness and marital maintenance. 🙂
Step 6: Just Get Started
The only thing between you and an early start is procrastination. There are a million things that you can do now that you’re up! I have set a goal to be out of the house by 7:45 AM on days where I only need to worry about myself.
Learn how you work throughout the day. When you’re scheduling your day (I promise I’ll write about this at some point), make sure to assign yourself tasks to do in the morning that you will be able to get done. You may find that you have a hard time wrapping your head around intellectually-taxing tasks first thing in the morning. If so, start off with the mindless tasks that still need to get done.
Be mindful and observant about your mornings. If you find something that works really well in your morning routine as you get started, make a note of it. If something isn’t working for you, feel free to stop and try something new.
Stick with it! Finding the best morning routine is a process, and you need to give yourself the time to develop the habit. Commit to getting up early for 3 weeks, and you’ll notice that it becomes easier.
QUESTION: What strategies do you find work best for getting going in the morning?