And like most people who aren’t keen on waking up before dawn, I believe that mornings are best spent in bed, under the sheets, far, far away from loud noises and bright lights. So why have I made it my mission to wake up at 5:30 am for the foreseeable future (even when I have no commitments that would otherwise require me to get out of bed at such an ungodly hour)? Easy, it’s because I am not a morning person.
Because I’m not a morning person, I’m now on my fourth round of Damn Early Days, a program I stumbled across in January of this year designed to help anyone find more time during the day to focus on the things that matter to them.
Each of us has a side project that we’ve been meaning to get off the ground, a book we’ve been yearning to write (or even just read!), a shed that’s waiting to be built, a skill that we’ve been wanting to learn, or an exercise routine we’ve been dying to start. But with only so many hours in a day, and with so many responsibilities pulling us in different directions, it’s hard to find time to focus on what matters most, ourselves.
That’s where DEDs comes in. The premise? Wake up really bloody early every day from Monday to Friday for 21 days. That’s it. What anyone decides to do with his or her extra time each morning is up to them.
In part, because I felt the need to break old habits, and in part because I was looking to start 2017 with a challenge, I signed up. While I was right about it being a challenge, I was oh so very wrong to think that’s all it would be.
During my first round of DEDs, from January 3rd to 31st, I failed more times than I succeeded. I frequently slept in until 8:00, woke up at 5:00 only to fall back asleep after 30 minutes (I’ve since revised my wake-up time to 5:30), and often spent my mornings adrift in a daze of YouTube videos or Facebook posts. How many days did I achieve my goal of getting out of bed at 5:00 am (and actually stay out of bed)? A grand total of one (yes, that’s one as in 1) time. I committed to something and didn’t follow through (surprise, surprise…), and in all respects, this experiment should have been an abject failure. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was transformative, enlightening, productive and gratifying. I learnt more about myself and my limitations in that first month than in the entirety of the previous year. I also became a morning person (sort of).
I’ve previously written about the power of routine, and how sticking to a schedule can help us bring more creativity into our lives. By why so early? Why can’t I just be creative at night when I’m normally awake anyway?
If you can set aside creative time in the evenings and stick to it day after day, good on you. But that just doesn’t work for me; believe me, I’ve tried. By the time 7 pm comes around, I can barely muster enough willpower to clean my dishes let alone do anything else productive.
The truth is, each of us starts the day with a finite amount of brain capital—willpower or attention, if you will. And as the day progresses, our brain capital decreases; each decision we make and every stimulus we encounter decreases our creative ammunition bit by bit. Which is why even when I start the day with the happy intention of setting aside time to write after a full day at work, I’m much more likely to grab a beer from the fridge and binge watch Stranger Things until the sun goes down.
By shifting my “side-project time” to the mornings, I’m much more likely to sit down and make consistent progress on the personal projects that are important to me. Not only that, but my brain capital is at it’s highest point in the day, which means that I typically find it much easier to get my creative juices flowing.
Now, if you’re not a morning person, you’re probably still skeptical about the whole notion that waking up early could have any effect other than turning you into a sleep-deprived zombie for the rest of the day. I was also of that persuasion not too long ago, but I’ve since experienced first-hand how life changing a simple change in your routine can be (I’m not the only one who’s experienced the power of early mornings).
So, to you, I say try it. Just try it. Even for a week. Pick a personal project you’ve been meaning to work on and commit to making progress on your goal for the next five days. Then come back and tell me how it went.
But if you’re still not convinced, I’m going to detail just a few of the things I experienced and learnt while taking part in my DED experiment over the next few posts. So stayed tuned.