The Power of Mornings
I am just not a morning person. I decided a long time ago that my ideal job would be that of a stage actor, working at night, relaxing leisurely after work, going to bed way after midnight and then sleeping in the following morning.
Most of us do not have that luxury, however, and we struggle with getting enough hours in a day. It is a constant battle for many people to get enough sleep, rise early and get "stuff" done before they start their long, hectic day.
I just completed reading a book called "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast," by Laura Vanderkam, a self-described time-management guru. She is a huge advocate of rising early and deliberately
accomplishing certain tasks before breakfast in order to better manage our entire day.
Citing several busy executives and other successful people who have re-engineered their schedule to take advantage of early morning hours, Vanderkam explains the seeming magic of those early morning hours. You are less likely to get distracted in the morning. A busy person's day fills up fast. If you wait until the afternoon or evening to do something meaningful for yourself such as exercising or reading, you're likely to bump it off the to-do list altogether. "There are going to be lots of reasons why you can't tackle a personal priority at 4 p.m.
Things have a lot less likelihood of coming up at 6 a.m.," says Vanderkam.
You have more willpower early in the day. Even if you aren't a morning person, you may have more willpower in the early hours than later in the day. "Willpower is like a muscle that becomes fatigued with over-use," says Vanderkam. During the course of the day as you're dealing with difficult people, making decisions and battling traffic, you use up your willpower, leaving you feeling depleted toward the end of the day.
Mornings give you the opportunity to set a positive tone for the day. If you've ever slept through your alarm, been late for an important early morning meeting or even had a minor disagreement with a colleague you know that starting off the day with a "failure" can bring down your mood and affect your productivity at work all day.
Vanderkam says waking up earlier allows you to start the day with accomplishing something you want to do (a victory) and sets the tone for a happier and more productive day.
So how do you make that difficult decision to rise earlier than your current time? Vanderkam has suggestions for that as well.
1. Keep a time journal. Vanderkam says one of the reasons people say they don't like mornings is that
they stay up too late. She recommends keeping a time journal for a week to show where you may be using your time inefficiently. She suggests that when many self-professed night owls look at their time journals, they are often surprised to find they aren't spending their evening hours productively or doing anything particularly enjoyable when they stay up late.
2. Imagine your perfect morning. Imagine what you would do if you had an extra hour in the day. Would you exercise? Make a healthy breakfast? Pack lunch? Meditate? Getting up earlier isn't about punishing yourself
or even making a sacrifice. It is about accomplishing something. But you will not get out of bed if you don't have a good, specific reason to do it," says Vanderkam.
3. Plan your morning. Once you have decided what you want to do with your extra time, plan how to execute it, and set as much up as possible the night before. For example, if you want to exercise in the morning, lay out your clothes the night before, or gather the ingredients for your breakfast.
4. Build the habit slowly. Vanderkam says you will likely hit the snooze button and sleep in if you try to switch your habits drastically. So instead of setting your alarm for 5 a.m. when you normally get up at 7: 30 a.m. set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier each day. To make sure you don't lose sleep, go to bed 10 minutes earlier each night. If you have trouble hitting the sack on time, set a bedtime alarm.
This last suggestion of setting a "time to go to sleep" alarm is something I have do for myself and have recommended to coaching clients for a while. It works!
I am not nearly where I want to be in terms of going to bed at a decent hour, waking early and using those morning hours more productively and beneficially. But I am better than I used to be. Try it; you might be pleasantly surprised.