About 6 weeks ago, I read this blog about getting up early in the morning. I want to be more disciplined about my wakeup time. Reading this raised my awareness that I had slipped back into a pattern of fighting the pillow every morning (and the pillow was winning too often). I was getting up at the last possible moment and rushing out the door almost every day. I decided to do something about it. I would get up at a specific time every morning 7 days a week for one month and then evaluate whether or not it was working for me. I did it and this is my evaluation…
I quickly realized how untrustworthy my will is at 5:15 in the morning. As soon as the alarm goes off, I start whining (on the inside) about needing five more minutes. In the moment, I truly believe that five minutes will make all the difference in the world. Just a little more rest and I will be ready to get up. Of course five minutes really makes no difference at all and if I give in, I’ll be whining for five more. The key for me is that I put my feet on the floor immediately when the alarm sounds. I can sit for about a minute before my backup alarm goes off. Yes, I have a backup alarm. I am sneaky and untrustworthy at 5 AM and I love to sleep. Here’s the wakeup alarm algorithm. I have a fancy radio/CD/alarm clock that my family gave me for Father’s Day a few years ago (Thanks ladies, I still like it). It has two independent alarm settings. I set the first one to go off at 5:00 AM softly playing NPR news. It gets gradually louder until I reach up and turn it down. I am still mostly asleep. At 5:15, my phone alarm sounds. This is the “real” alarm. When this one goes off, it is time to put the feet on the floor. No excuses. I mechanically sit up and put my feet on the floor. After about another minute, I get the backup alarm. My Father’s day alarm clock changes from news to an annoying buzz (just to make sure I didn’t talk myself into sleeping in again).
Even then I am still not really awake. I could easily lay back down and snooze away. So, I go brush my teeth, shave and either shower, or get ready for my morning run with the guys (depending on the day). Only then can I trust myself to stay up. So that’s the routine. Boring, eh? Some of the toughest things for me in life are the boring, repetitive tasks that have to be done.
Each morning, the goal was to get up. that’s it. Not to have a quiet time or to read my bible or anything else. Just get up. I’m a simple man with simple needs. I know how easy it is to take on too much and fall flat on my face. At 48 years old, I know that there have been times in my life that I have been good about waking up early, but they didn’t last. I wanted to evaluate getting up alone, so I limited my focus to the getting up part.
So what did I do? Some mornings I read the web, books, read my bible, meditated, reflected on stuff, prayed. I wrote in my journal and I wrote a blog or two. There were a few mornings that I was still very tired and sleepy even after my wakeup routine… so I took a nap. If that sounds like cheating, I didn’t see it that way at all. I made the decision using my rational, awake mind. The cool thing was that I could be up for an hour, take a 30 minute nap, feel refreshed and still not have to rush out the door.
The first Friday night after completing the month, I stayed up late and decided that I wanted to sleep in on Saturday. Again, this is my rational mind doing the decision making. So, off with the alarms. I slept in until about 8:30 and it felt great! I needed the rest and I didn’t feel like I violated any promises to myself by sleeping in. Later that day, I realized how much I missed that time. The day just flew by even faster than ever.
Sleeping in helped me come to make the decision to continue to get up early. I am making a few changes though. Fifteen minutes of radio is too long. It is just long enough for me to fall back asleep. So I am cutting the “gentle wakeup time” from fifteen minutes to five. The other change is that just getting up is not enough for me now. I am ready to kick the discipline heat up a notch. Now that I am sure that I can get up out of bed even when I don’t feel like it, I believe that I can add one little thing to that routine. I have decided to begin writing every morning for 20 minutes. I can write here, on my blog. I can write in my journal, I can write a letter… anything I want to do, the promise to myself (and anyone who’s reading) is to write for 20 minutes every day. I will try this for a month and evaluate it.