Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Early to bed, Early to rise...

Let me make this clear right off the top. I am NOT a morning person. If I were named the Supreme Dictator of the planet, my first act as world leader would be to make the work day start no earlier than 10:00 AM. I find those natural larks annoying in the extreme when they flutter into the office at 8:00, twittering about the beautiful sunrise while I’m still grunting and stumbling for the tea kettle in the breakroom. That said, my part of the world runs from 8 AM to 5 PM, so I have little choice in the matter. I also have discovered that I simply am not going to consistently do certain activities necessary to meeting my goals if I try to do them after work. 6 PM is not the ideal time for me to head over to the gym in the apartment complex, even if there isn’t a line for the treadmills. In addition, my husband Kevin works a demanding job as a software developer, and while his boss is good about encouraging work-life balance, he works 50+ hour weeks as a general rule and I try to keep my evenings as clear as possible so that we can share the time we both have off.

This left me with a problem. I have several self-improvement projects I’m struggling with, most notably maintaining a daily spiritual practice as well as daily exercise. There simply weren’t enough hours in the evening to cook dinner, go to any meetings of my various activities, keep the house tidy, work on my dead tree and online reading, relax by myself and/or with Kevin, AND do those new practices regularly. I tried multiple variations of evening schedules, and they all left me overstressed and overscheduled. Finally, about 2 weeks ago I realized there was nothing for it but to get up earlier.

Resources on getting up early

In one of those amusing cosmic convergences that crop up in my life from time to time, soon after I resolved to get up earlier, several blogs I follow either published articles on the art of early rising or posted links to them. I’d run into Steve Pavlina’s guide to morning routines some time back. However, within 3 days of that resolution I stumbled across Yahoo! Finance’s article on CEO’s morning routines, Lifehack’s article on the art of rising at 5:00 AM, and my new favorite blog, “Zen Habits” which ran two articles on developing a morning routine and training oneself to get up early enough to complete that routine. Each article had a slightly different twist on the core topic of creating morning routines and getting up early to accomplish them, and all are worth a read. However, they all boil down to 2 basic suggestions: write a list of tasks you want to do every day, and set the alarm clock early enough to accomplish them with ease.

My Plan

The first part I’d done over 6 months before, when I created a 1-part GTD, 2-parts FLYlady morning routine for myself. after a few revisions it had become a great routine, except for the fact that I was still attempting to accomplish 90 minutes of tasks in 60—45 if I hit the snooze button. I knew that if I wanted to exercise, pray, catch the local headlines, tidy up any lurking hot spots in the apartment, AND walk out the door dressed and made-up to perfection by 7:00 AM, something had to give, and NOT the workouts or my time with the Deity.

Step one was to figure out a way to get myself up earlier without depriving my hubby of his sleep—after all, he’s not the one who came up with the mad idea to wake up at 5:00 am to walk across the sub-freezing apartment complex to get on the treadmill! As it happened, I just bought a new pre-paid cell phone after a near-wreck in one of our recent snowstorms brought home the fact that having the means to call a tow truck is not a luxury when you have a 30 mile commute. Said phone offered an alarm function, along with its other bells and whistles. I searched through the various ringtones, found the least objectionable one, and set it at a volume that would wake me but not disturb Kevin. For the next 4 weeks, I would back up my wakeup time by 15 minutes each Monday morning, so I would be waking up by 5:00 am within a month.

Results so far
Last week was week one on this plan. As you can’t do much extra with 15 minutes (at least when you’re still semiconscious), I just enjoyed the luxury of lingering in the shower, cleaning up a few more clutter spots than usual, and generally starting my day in a non-rushed manner. This week I’m getting up at 5:30, and have enough time to do morning prayer, read a little bit, and sip some green tea and journal while watching the local talking heads. Next week I think I’m going to start working out, and I’m trying to decide if I’m going to multitask while on the treadmill via my podcasts or to read stack, or if I’m simply going to pop something fun into the DVD player in the gym. I won’t add anything my final week when I dial back to my final(?) 5:00 AM alarm call but that 15 minutes should allow me to do things at a deliberate pace that will allow me to wake up, be productive, connect with myself and my surroundings and generally start off the day on the right note.

Will she make it? Can this confirmed late riser turn herself into a lark? Well, I doubt I’ll ever stroll into the office on Monday humming show tunes, but if I can transform myself from a hopelessly scattered slob to a time management blogger, perhaps—just perhaps—I can find out why Aristotle and Ben Franklin were so hooked on pre-dawn productivity. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress. :-)