Highly Effective People | This column champions the building of good habits and the destroying of bad ones. Success is simply a collective series of small, repeated accomplishments so, naturally, it quite literally pays to have a productive and positive routine that comes second nature.
The hard part here is that most of us are not naturally equipped with productive and positive routines that come second nature.
So to combat my humanity, I have taken a pledge to mindfully approach habits, good, bad and lack thereof, by cultivating them to work in my favor. We hope that our endeavor to build positive habits triggers your own consciousness to turn the switches on (or off) accordingly.
I will expose my process of positive habit cultivation so that I can employ the benefits of community. The best parts about collectively addressing a habit is:
I will be approaching habit-building through mindset shifting under the understanding that a habit can take up to 66 days to naturalize. (Not 21 #sadface.) You don’t necessarily have to use our topic. If you choose not to, here is a universal template to do your own.
The hardest part of beginning anything is just getting started. We face this beast and become immediately discouraged by its magnitude. But if we work on subtle mindset shifts and break our habit into rational steps, conquering it is a matter of inevitability. My overall goal is to shift my mindset around sleep because my mindset is the foundation for my behavior. I don’t want spurts of fleeting action because action easily expires at the influence of the mind.
Improving yourself is a long term solution that overflows to other areas of your lifestyle while improving upon a singular task is a temporary band-aid that will expose the same wound as soon as it peels off.
For the next 66 days, I will be working on:
waking up earlier
An early morning, and especially a morning that is not rushed, can set the tone for, not just your day, not just your week, not just your month, but your whole life. And there is nothing more satisfying than feeling accomplished before 10 am.
I know, I know. For all you fellow night owls, I completely agree. I am not a morning person either. In fact, sleeping in general falls near the top of my list of favorite things to do. Furthermore, I would go as far as to describe my entire personality as “sleepy,” because I can literally always sleep more. So this is a beast of a habit to let go of.
But I recognize that a formidable morning routine can make all the difference on the entire outcome of the day.
I have come across infinite amounts of success-oriented advice articles that suggest a wake-up call of 5 am or earlier, but, I will be starting small. My goal will be to (not angrily) wake up at 6:30 am.
Here are my building blocks:
I have about 4 alarms and I’d wager that I sleep until the last one goes off simply because I subconsciously know I have 3, 2 and 1, alarms left to wake me.
My first one starts at 7:07am-(does anyone else do this airport take-off time alarm? As if 7 minutes of more sleep makes a world of difference.) (Quietly whispers, “it definitely makes all of the difference in the world, thank you very much!”) and the last one chimes at 8am.
So the template I will be using to slowly introduce a new, earlier lifestyle is to:
Identify my excessive sleeping to actually be a problem.
My teenage and college years made a strong case for excessive sleeping to be normal and necessary. And now that I am on the other side of 25, sleeping as a pastime is simply incongruous to my goals.
Remember that the hardest part is the beginning
Sure, getting up can be excruciating. Getting out of your warm covers. Lifting your eyelids when they feel like you have weights tied to your eyelashes. Entering the cold breath of the morning that your bed is sheltering you from. But all of this perceived discomfort is so fleeting. If you can stomach the 5 seconds it takes to open your eyes and set your feet on the floor, all of that discomfort fades seamlessly away.
Make it easier to get up
That being said, it can still be a pain to rip yourself away from your cozy fortress, even if it is only 5 seconds of acclamation. And that pain, no matter how fleeting, can keep even the most rational mind biased to preserving this comfort. So if you know that greeting the cold is what keeps you burrowed until the last possible second, keep a robe within arm’s reach. Trade those blackout curtains for some blinds that let the sun sneak through. I have never awoken as naturally as when the daylight begins gently speckling my room.
I will implement an activity to look forward to in the mornings.
Right now, I give myself just enough time to get dressed before the work day. There is nothing about my morning that I genuinely look forward to. I hit the ground running, mindlessly going through the motions until I look presentable. I would love to enjoy a slow morning, sip my coffee in a mug rather than a to-go thermos, read or write for about 20 minutes, do some stretches or low-intensity workouts, before switching into work mode.
Simplify your morning tasks through preparation
If I am to fully glean the benefits of a slow morning, I should set a scene to better integrate these activities. By rotating eligible tasks to the evening, I can preserve precious time and energy in my morning. Rather than cleaning out my coffee maker and filling it up with coffee and water, I can save 10 minutes by preparing it the night before so that all I have to do is press a button. To further simplify my morning routine, I can begin choosing my clothes the night. Coffee and clothes are two tasks that exhaust my morning without me even noticing their burden. The majority of my morning routine is devoted to getting dressed and drinking coffee. So preparing both of these items at night saves me about 20 minutes.
My next step will be to delete all except one of my alarms.
Knowing that I have the safety net of three alarms gives my subconscious the confidence it needs to snooze until the last possible alarm. I literally never wake up, even if well-rested, by the first or even second alarm. I think it is simply because I know I don’t have to. But the funny thing about this is that when I snooze my alarm only to fade back into a half sleep, I am groggier than if I had just gotten up in the first place.
I will set that one alarm for 30 minutes earlier
(We’re at 6:37 now.) I am still holding onto those weird integer minutes for some reason but I think that shifting my alarm a half-hour forward with my above incentive in mind will help me look forward to getting up. My mornings will serve more purpose than a time in which to get dressed.
I understand that I may not run to my new alarm with open arms.
There may be some faltering and some snoozing. But I will implement a rule that I can not snooze that alarm more than once. Giving myself room to fail without being too complacent will allow me to maintain momentum and encouragement.
After these mindset shifts have taken hold—I expect halfway through my 66 days—I will adjust my alarm to 10 minutes earlier (6:27).
So if you would like to join me, I will chart my results or thoughts in express honesty and please feel free to do the same in the comments.
If you are sitting back and enjoying the show, well, we’ll see you for a late brunch right?
I will check in on day 33 (October 3rd) in order to let you all know how this mindset shift is working out for me.
Tell us in the comments:
Do you have a morning routine? Will you be waking up earlier too?