(The Making Better Morning Series can be seen in its entirety here.)
In the most straightforward way possible, you simply just decide to wake up.
For the last 19 days I have woken up at 5:30 AM. Three of the times, I woke up before my alarm clock. Even if I worked 14 hour days ending at midnight the night before.
It's early July, so the sun comes up with me. It's much easier this way. Every single day I wake up early, ahead of the hurry, I find a way to squeeze in something that I love. Before showing up to work for the last nine days, I've been able to do some writing. My writing has been for this blog and also for a bunch of other personal projects.
By the time I show up to work, I feel like I have done something quite real with my day already. It's really empowering and it encourages me to keep working with a great deal of focus throughout the day. My work day and the things that I write about are typically unrelated. However, since I've been writing more and more about mornings, I have noticed that my counselling of patients has started to feature the interesting things I have learned about mornings. Getting to sleep on time and waking up is a very common problem. And it seems my writing is also helping my work.
Each day that I wake up at 5:30AM makes waking up the next day easier. Every day I realize more and more benefits of having this time for myself in the morning. I think there are some people that are born knowing about this special time. I am not one of them. But maybe I am becoming one.
I used to think that the magic of getting up on time, or very early, was hidden in some special app somewhere in my iPhone. Or maybe it was going to bed at 9:00 PM. Or maybe it was in some special timing of my dinner. Or maybe I had to procrastinate on my required tasks so badly that I might force myself awake in the morning.
But no. I just decided.
And the first day I managed to wake up at 5:30AM served as evidence that it was possible. I drew on this evidence for the second day. And so on. Day by day.
I have been influenced by a number of interesting books, like What the most successful people do before breakfast by Laura Vanderkam, and any number of magazine articles, like this one from Fast Company. One of my favourites is Mark Twain who said of mornings,
"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen for the rest of the day."
Vanderkam has a similar philosophy but she calls the "frog" her "highest-value activities" which I discussed earlier in the Making Better Mornings series.
I have not turned my mornings into a marathon of rituals. I wake up and I make myself a coffee. Then I turn on my computer and I start to write. Writing is a high-value activity for me. I know this because it makes me feel good. I know that other high-value activities for me include meditation, mindfulness and working out. But neither of those things has yet been sufficient motivation to wake me up at 5:30AM. If I know I get to wake up and write, then I easily slip out of bed. I know that this will be a little more difficult in the winter but I hope by then my pattern will be automated.
I've been really fortunate to pretty quickly be able to transition from my writing time into my studying time. I managed to squeeze in more journal articles in the last nineteen days then I was able to during a similar period of time in medical school. My days are expanded and I have more opportunity to do both what I need to do and what I want to do.
I came home last night after work, brought a book to my deck and just read. I don't think I've been able to create time for leisure reading like that since high school. Usually my leisure reading is squeezed into five and 10 minute chunks everywhere. This was a revelation.
I wake up at 5:30AM because I decided that makes sense for me. It's my personal tendency to wait to do something until it makes sense to me and rarely because it's prescribed by the outside world.
Figuring out how to make this work for me has been a gift to myself. It's interesting to you, consider giving yourself a similar opportunity.