This year I once again decided to be a morning person after numerous failed attempts in the past! I was a morning person up until the end of high school. However the day I moved to Canada for my graduate studies, I suddenly had turned into a night owl. 🌃 Maybe twas the excitement of being in a new place, maybe twas the colder temperatures, maybe twas the new time zone, or maybe just maybe I finally was “free” and was an “adult” and didn’t need to be an early riser anymore.
Even though I didn’t “need” to, I always thought about being a morning person. It’s something I debated internally quite a bit. On one hand, I loved staying out late at nights! I had finally graduated college with excellent grades, was working in tech, socializing in the “real world”, and was in my early 20s! I’ve put countless hours studying, helping, volunteering, and so now is my time to be happy and not “waking up” early like I’m old.
I’m sure if you’re in your early 20s, just saying the phrase “It’s getting late, I think i’m going to hit the hay” before 11 PM on a weekend will result in replies ranging along the lines of “wow, you’re getting old” to “oh you’re fine, just drink some coffee”. Before you say anything, I am fully aware that using the phrase “Hitting the hay”, will probably not help your case.
But on the other hand, I wanted to go to bed by 10 and wake up at 5! All the “successful” people I followed, all my wiring growing up, even anyone I thought was worth listening to would say the same thing:
”Own your morning. Elevate your life.”
”Go to bed early and wake up early. The morning hours are good.”
”Wake up an hour earlier, you’ll be many hours ahead of everyone.”
Basically, GET UP OR MISS OUT. Just like every driven person out there, I wanted my life to mean something! I wanted to continue the grind and I wanted to be happy!
As you can see I had a bit of a struggle with figuring out which one of these paths would actually help me end up the common goal of being HAPPY!. Although the former is a lot of fun, it’s also a temporary kind of happiness that’s to be enjoyed in short spurs occassionally. The latter kind of happiness, as I realized this year, is a more longer lasting fun since the motivation is intrinsic and the benfits are driven by you, for you!
So here I was with a new job ready to take on 2020, but the pandemic had other plans for us all. I now had lots of time on my hands and I decided to use it to switch out my habits to best serve me. As I was brain storming, it occured to me, that this could be the perfect opportunity for me to shift my sleep schedule and finally become a morning person!
Research Phase 🤔
Adapting to a new habit while the world around is falling apart is no easy feat! I needed to make sure I had enough data to convince myself this was a worthwhile mission to spend time and energy on once again. Learning to live in the “new normal” was interesting enough as it is. Did I really need to pile more mental baggage on top of all the uncertainity and madness?
”Early to bed, Early to rise. Makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
This adage is ingrained into us growing up in India throughout our schooling. Its the first quote that popped in my head while I was thinking of quotes for this post and I probably haven’t heard/read it in over 10 years. You can google anything related to “waking up early in the morning” and a billion articles will show up! Countless books over decaded have talked about its importance! Even one of my dearest friends wakes up at 4:30 AM every day 😱. When he told me about it I thought he was insane, but you talk to the guy and you get to realize he’s one of the more disciplined, well-put, have-their-crap-together people out there.
Alright fine, seems like the majority votes this as a good habit that’s been studied over centuries! Who am I argue with its overall benefits. What I needed to figure out next is if its something I can actually do and if it improves my life satisfaction in any way.
So I created a PROS and CONS list ¯\(ツ)/¯
|- More quiet time to myself.||- Gotta leave parties/gatherings/events early.|
|- Can talk to family in India within reasonable time zone differences.||- More tired during the second half of the day.|
|- A long term life habit and goal||- Less evening screen time for games/netflix etc.|
|- I love going on walks when the world is still asleep 😍|
|- Days are longer i.e. more sunshine —> more dopamine|
As my PROS column started to grow larger than my CONS list, I had my answer. It was also was interesting to me that everything on the PROS column was driven only by me, for me and that’s something I really liked. The last point was a HUGE motivator as well! In Vancouver, we get enjoyable sunlight for maybe 4 months and so the timing was perfect! Everything in my CONS list was either not a problem anymore or could be easily deferred/resolved.
So now I had data, goals, and motivation to go for it and stick with it.
Planning Phase 📓
My mother always told me that it takes 21 days to form a habit! Just 3 weeks and you’re a new person 🔥 So ofcourse my first google search was to validate if this is actually true 😅. Turns out, according tothis study that this is not the case.
“The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days; indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity and highlighting that it can take a very long time”
Which is really just a long winded way of saying YMMV.
Now I am a glass-half full kind of person, so for me all I saw was, “it can take as little as 18 days”. Also my mother is one of the most disciplined women I’ve ever known in my lifetime and so who am I to dismiss her teachings without even trying it first.
I created a very simple morning routine for me to stick to.
Wake up anytime between 6-6:30. ( I have an app on my phone that wakes me up when I’m not in deep sleep so I’m less groggy. )
- NOTE: Depending on your lifestyle 6-10 hours of sleep may be necessary! Adjust your bedtime accordingly.
GET OUT OF BED! ( Very important! Once you actually leave the bed, your chances of falling asleep are much lower. )
Brush your teeth, or wash your face with COLD water. ( Cold water increases your attention and it’s quite refreshing when you’re used to it. )
Do light stretching or go for a walk/run. ( Physical activity tells your body that day has started and actually helps to become active. )
NOTE: This is an incremental process! My wake up time before this was somewhere between 7:30-8 so 6-6:30 was an attainable goal. If you normally wake up at 10 AM, try reducing it to 8 AM and slowly keep going.
Execution Phase 💹
So day 1-3 were great! I was motivated, I was happy, I was energetic, and I felt so productive! However, on day 4, I did my morning routine, lied down on the couch and did a self check-in and I channeled my internal Scott Pilgrim similar to the gif below:
I needed a boost, I needed an external stimulant to help get over the hump. I decided to go back to my dear old friend caffeine. In order to increase my water intake a while back, I weaned off of coffee/tea and started carrying a water bottle with me. It helped me maintain energy throughout the day instead of short spurts, get better sleep, and better workouts.
However with the my current problem of low energy in the morning, I needed to supplement it with a Step #5.
5. Make a cup of tea. (Earl Grey or Grand Cru Matcha are my go-to.)
The results were great! Not only was I less lethargic, I felt more focused as one normally does with stimulants. So I decided to start off my work days early and get anything related to focus (coding, reviews etc.) out of the way. By the end of week 2, I was able to finish most of my focus work by 10 AM and could dedicate the rest of time to meetings, administrative work, documentation etc.
By end of week 3, I had successfully adopted a new habit 🎉 The results were measurable and significant as well!
- I was able to take some time to chat with friends and family in different time zones.
- I had finally started to meditate and loved the calmness that followed.
- Getting most of my focus work and workouts done in the morning allowed me to feel like I have more time during the other half of the day!
- I had more time to read, play video games, and do things I was normally too “busy” to do.
- I was able to learn a lot more about day trading and stocks by waking up before the market opens on the east coast.
- I could take in all the sunshine that the short Canadian summers had to offer.
At the time of writing this, I’m proud to say that I’ve been a morning person now for about 6 months and my wake-up window is between 5:30-6 and I have no plans of shifting it any earlier than that anytime soon as I am very happy with it 😄. Some additions/replacements were made to the morning routine including but not limited to, reading a book, breathing excercises in bed, sending texts to friends/family reminding them that they are loved. These things allowed me to feel great even before the day had really even started! The important part is to keep switching it up or the morning routine can get quite boring and that’s a surefire way of falling back asleep.
Setbacks and Solutions 🤕
In case anyone had any doubts, I am a human being and I do run into setbacks all the time. Even now waking up in the morning at times is challenging but I have found ways to accept them and take relevant actions. Let me know if any of these sound familiar:
I’m generally not tired enough to go to bed at 10PM or earlier.
I hear you! I have had my fair share of lying in bed sleepless trying to fall asleep without much success. The following has helped me quite a bit:
- No screen time an hour before bed-time. That means, no laptop, no mobile, nothing that emits blue light. Many studies have shown that blue light is not good for our eyes or sleep.
- Create a bedtime ritual! I generally do a little relaxing stretch, brush my teeth, get cozy in my bed and read a book before I fall asleep.
- Make sure your bedroom lights are dim and temperature is on the cooler side of things.
- Use additional help, but don’t make a habit of it. Occassionally i’d listen to piano music, white noise or take a small piece of a melatonin to help me fall asleep.
- Most importantly! Be Consistent. I cannot put enough stress on the importance of going to bed on time.
Getting out of bed is haaardddd.
No arguments here! It’s a perfect example of Newton’s 1st law of motion. You will continue to stay in a position of rest unless an external force is applied. Turning off the alarm is easy, getting out of the sheets is HARD. What has helped me, is I keep a bottle of water next to me on the nightstand so that when the alarm goes off, I sit up straight and practically chug a bunch of water. I’ve also programmed my google home to turn on my smart lights so I am forced to get out of the bed and I have the bright daylight bulbs to make it bright.
I want to attend an event in the evening and cant sleep at 10
Ah yes! Preplanned events. The very first thing you should ask yourself it you actually really “need” to go. If it’s something you do need to go for personal reasons or otherwise then there’s a couple of things you can do. If I know there’s an event, I take a nap in the evening/afternoon so I can shift my bedtime to 12ish and still wake up early the next day. However if you can’t, just sleep in the next day :) We all fall off the wagon, the important part is getting back up.
I can’t leave my apartment to go for a walk
If it’s too cold out, just layer up and go, its’ the only solution! The cold will incidently help with being more alert and to help you wake up. If you are unable to go out due to any other reason, walk around your apartment! Yoga is immensly beneficial as it doesn’t take a lot of space, helps you get centered both physically and spiritually.
I feel alone in this and not motivated
- Get yourself an accountable buddy! Inform them or ask them to check-in! Use social media and post something on your story everyday.
- Read amazing books, watch a motivational video or listen to a podcast to keep you on track. One of my favorite reads is the 5 am club by Robin Sharma
- You can also send us DMs at Instagram or Facebook and we’ll support you in this.
Last words 💬
First of all, thank you so so much for reading it so far! I am full of gratitude and I thank you for your time and interest 🙏.
I hope my experience of this has helped you with your goal of wanting to #DoBetter with your life. If you have any feedback or would love to get in touch, please reach out! I’d also LOVE to hear what you have done in your morning routines to have it not go stale and improve your lifestyle.
I have spent a lot of time in the past few years introspecting, meditating and learnt that I was chasing all these external validations when really the motivation had to be internal for any of it to work. Funng enough, the process of figuring that out was actually very simple but the execution and adaptation was really hard! I’m sure you’ll read about it sooner/later on here. 😄