Want the TL:DR version?
Get. Up. Earlier.
I’ve gone through a shift over the last two years or so where I’ve focused in on personal development as a method to reaching goals that were once so far out of my grasp that they were more like dreams than actual, attainable statements. Most recently, I’ve been dipping into a period of ‘optimizing’ my current systems to get more out of what I’m doing. I suppose I should start by explaining that I like (read: love) a systems approach to anything. Any task, idea or event can, in my mind, have a system developed to tackle it. Systems let us plan, execute and rewind to debrief and, here’s the best part, change our approach.
You’ve got to be good with change if you’re looking for progress. There’s a lot to be said about trying to improve yourself and your situation, but it’ll be super hard for you if you’re not actually willing to change. Sure, I’m struggling, just like everybody else. I’m still working on my nightly eating routines and controlling my reactions to stress. I use the word struggle here not to compare my day to day against anybody who is ‘actually’ struggling, but more in the meme version of the word.
The struggle is real.
About 2 months ago, I wanted to focus in on my morning routine. The very first thing I did was, on a single lined piece of paper from my notebook, wrote down everything I needed to do in the morning. See, it’s not what I wanted to be able to do – it’s what I need to do. Shower. Eat. Pack Lunch. Get my son ready for daycare. Then, I placed them in an order that makes sense. Another little ‘rule’ I use, stolen directly from the great Joey Diaz, is to never walk around empty handed. If I’m cleaning and tidying, I’ll grab a toy that has to go to my son’s room on my way to the closet where the broom is and drop it in the hallway, ready for when I walk down that hallway to be delivered to his room. On my way back to the kitchen from the closet, I’ll grab a tea mug, placed on the table from when I was bringing laundry upstairs. I’m doing what I need to do while I’m doing what I need to do.
Here, I’ll write out my morning routine so you can see what I mean. It’s kind of convoluted but it’s been trimmed down over about 4 weeks. See if you can keep up to this stream-of-consciousness type schedule;
-Get up at 5am. Just started doing this a few months ago and it has added very valuable time to my day to get shit done. Exit the bedroom WITHOUT my phone, grab the towel off the back of the door and enter the kitchen.
-Get two bowls and one 1/4 cup measuring cup, head downstairs.
-Fill both bowls with 1/4 cup blueberries while shower warms up. Pee.
-Have a shower, wake up. Take bowls upstairs and deposit in kitchen on my way to my room, to get dressed.
-Get dressed, get back to the kitchen. Boil water for oatmeal and tea, arrange books on counter for coursework.
-While water boils, allow for 10-15 minutes of ‘internet time’. When tea kettle is boiled, make tea, get to work on course.
-Cook, eat steel cut oatmeal while working on course. Take dishes to sink when done coursework for the day. Take supplements – Fish Oil, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium and soon, Nootrobox stuff.
-Wake my son up, begin the morning routine with him – cereal, get dressed, get ready to go, pack bag. This is normally when I tie off with my wife about the day ahead and figure out who’s getting my son from daycare that afternoon. If I’ve got time, I’ll start a blog post or work on something else in the creative sphere to get my mind going for the day.
-Out the door by no later than 7:10 to drop off my son at daycare, get to work before anyone else, settle in and get ready for the IT shitstorm that seems to start brewing up about an hour after I get there.
I guess, when it’s all written out like that, it’s really not that crazy. It’s just taken me a little while to get used to something more than a wake up – begin crazy type morning routine. By leaving myself all kinds of time to work, play and plan in the morning, my days have gotten exponentially better. I tried to be one of those ‘workout in the morning’ types, but I get a much better grind in after I’ve been awake for a few hours, while I find my mind firing much quicker in the quiet of the morning, so that’s just the way I run it. Try it. I promise, if you don’t see an immediate gain in your day to day mood, effectiveness and drive, you’ll at least be up early enough to figure out why.