Over the years, many challenges have played a role in keeping me from mastering this habit. First, it was simply not having a reason to get up that early. I've worked at home for myself for most of my life, so I didn't have anyone waiting on me and have often taken full advantage of that. Then, it was being up most of the night with my girls when they were babies and toddlers and, let's face it, even still sometimes. And then, unfortunately, a decline in health which I have since mostly recovered from.
These days, as a published author, business owner, and someone who wants to live a life of intention, my desire to set a calm and productive tone for the day outweighs any obstacles and I'm proud to say that the habit is finally starting to stick and it has transformed my approach to the day, as well as how smoothly my writing goes.
WHY WAKE UP EARLY?
The tactic of waking up early is becoming widely shared amongst professionals and those who strive for optimal health, productivity, and progress toward their goals. In fact, there's an entire book written about the importance of waking up early, how to use that time effectively, and techniques for making it happen, called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, which I highly recommend.
There is one major reason to wake up early and it is this: you set the tone for your day with purpose and intention.
Too often, we let others set the tone for us when we wake up to the alarm clock (or maybe even after hitting snooze a few times) and immediately rush out of bed to get to work or to get the kids to school on time. Be honest...is your first thought of the day, ughhhhhhh? Is your first emotion panic or anxiety? It's hard to have an enthusiastic, joyful, and productive day when you begin the day in reactive mode. Reactive mode always leads to overwhelm and negativity.
When you start the day on your terms, not only do you have more control over your day, you're also more likely to have positive emotions at the beginning of the day and by extension, the rest of the day. Both of these benefits will have an extremely positive influence on your writing.
WHAT TIME, EXACTLY, ARE WE TALKING HERE?
Your first instinct might be to either get up half an hour early and try in vain to be productive during that time, which will very unlikely happen, or to get up two hours early and spend that entire time writing. I would caution against either approach. In the first instance, a half hour will fly by in the blink of an eye and you'll end up stressed anyway, trying to fit writing into such a short amount of time. In the second, when you spend the entire time writing, you're more concerned with checking something off your to-do list than setting the tone for the day. I've tried and learned from both.
What has been successful for me is to wake up 1 - 2 hours before you need to do anything for anyone else, and before you need to get ready to leave the house. This may sound painful or maybe impossible, but once you design this time to fulfill all your heart's needs, and you see the boost it gives your writing, you'll be hooked.
For me, even though I spend only half an hour writing in the morning and maybe accumulate a few hundred words, it has made my writing time later in the day almost doubly as productive. The first week I got up early consistently, I had my highest word count week for the entire year! I credit my morning routine for getting my head in the story right off the bat, which keeps it in the forefront of my mind all day, instead of coming to the page cold.
TIPS FOR WAKING UP EARLY
For me, the hardest part of waking up early is the getting out of bed part. It's not that I haven't gotten enough rest or that I don't want to get up, it's that my bed is cozy and sleeping in feels decadent and who doesn't need more decadence in their life? The trick then is to make getting out of bed more compelling and more decadent than staying in it. Here are a few tactics that have worked well for me:
Use HALF of your morning time for writing.
Listen, we love writing. Obviously. But let's be honest, it can also be a chore. Getting up to work, isn't really compelling. (For those of you who do already write early in the morning, you are magical creatures and we scorn you.) Therefore, use the other half of your time to do something that you enjoy, or better yet, that excites you! Read, run, do yoga, watch a TV show, take a bubble bath--doesn't matter! As long as it makes you WANT to get out of bed and makes you look forward to that time.
The Alarmy App on iPhone and Android.
This is not your ordinary alarm clock that you can hit snooze on and roll back over. In order to turn off the alarm, it forces you to wake up your brain and get your butt out of bed! There are options for shutting off the alarm, such as shaking it vigorously, completing math problems, or my favorite, taking a picture you set the night before. I use a picture of my coffee maker so in order to turn off the sound, I have to go downstairs and line it up perfectly to get the right shot. By the time I'm down there, I'm already up and might as well just get the coffee started. This is probably my #1 tip for making early mornings happen.
Drink water immediately.
This is my #2 most important tip! I have learned a lot about health in my quest for healing but I'll make this short and sweet: your body heals aggressively while you are sleeping because it is finally relaxed enough to do it. This is why sleep is so important. (And why stress and overworking are so detrimental--your body doesn't get enough rest to heal during the day, which it also needs.) Healing requires copious amounts of water, which is why you are almost always dehydrated when you wake up whether you realize it or not. If your bladder can handle it, drink water before bed so your body has a head start on proper hydration and then top it off in the morning. I keep a water bottle by the bed and am already drinking from it before I've fully opened my eyes. SO. IMPORTANT.
Prepare the night before.
It isn't so much about shaving thirty seconds off your coffee routine in the morning so much as it is about setting your mind toward the early wake up. As you go through the checklist--make sure the coffee pot has water and grounds, set out yoga mat and yoga clothes, put a favorite book by the couch with a glass of water--you visualize your morning routine and further cement the habit into your brain. Saving yourself a few minutes in the morning is an added bonus.
Is this a habit you think you'd like to try to implement? Have you tried it before--what worked and what didn't? If you are a magical creature and already have an early morning routine, share your tips!
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Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.