My life is a miracle. Do you know why? I forced myself to become a morning person, that’s why. My former wake-up times were always about thirty minutes before I needed to leave the house and I was constantly spinning and hurrying and scrounging around for crumbs of peace. All my waking moments were filled with noise and kids and cooking and working and meetings. I love to study but it seemed that every hour was jammed with interruptions and I was bordering on the edge of burnout in my job as a pastor and a mom.
So, with much fear and trembling (because I know how much I adore sleep) I made the decision one Sunday that I would get up early on Monday and that I would do that for one week and see how it went.
That was six years ago and I’ve never gone back.
To this day, I can say: I don’t just tolerate these morning hours, I adore them. I allow myself three hours before I need to leave the house (3 hours and 17 minutes if I don’t stop for coffee!) and that time is filled with my most productive thinking, dreaming, writing and planning. At least 85% of the material in my book was born in those pre-sunrise hours.
I know that lots of people would like to use mornings to their advantage, but they don’t know how. To be honest, I don’t know how either – but I will tell you some things that have really helped me. And I sure don’t think anyone needs to become a morning person, but I do believe – even knowing what I know first-hand about old dogs and new tricks and such – that anyone can become one. So, here goes:
1. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself when the alarm rings at 5:15, and to start feeling really lucky instead. This is a choice. The clock isn’t holding a gun to my head: I am called to this because it’s a privilege to be alive and awake before the rest of the world. This time belongs to me alone. It’s quiet-yet-noisy with possibility, but it’s a decision to embrace it without sorrow for lost sleep.
2. I made a space in which to spend my mornings. It’s mine, it’s perfect and it’s sacred. It has the perfect chair and lighting. My “heart” is there: the walls are lined with family pictures, quotes I love and words that inspire me. It’s stocked with all that I need to live a happy life for hours: good pens, good highlighters, an abundance of sticky notes, fat commentaries, lots of reading glasses and a coffee pot. I spent very little money making this space and it only takes up a small, hidden corner of our house. It has a re-purposed desk and a collection of mismatched picture frames (my favorite kind) gathered from closets and garage sales. An old flower vase holds dear memories and all my pens. My point is: it doesn’t have to be perfect to feel perfect.
3. I started going to bed earlier. The only way to make more time on the front end of the day is to take it from the back end. Unless you’re my dad, who kept logger’s hours for fifty years, you can’t successfully stay up late and get up early. You can do it, but not successfully. Something will suffer and that something will probably be whatever is happening at about 2:00 p.m. And then you’ll have an excuse to say, “I’m just don’t have a schedule that works with this early-morning thing.”
4. I resourced my systems. Cozi for time planning. YNAB for budget planning. Evernote for dream planning. It helps so much to have everything in one place and have some time set aside to plan the day, check on the budget and do a little dreaming for the future. This small investment of time (just a couple of minutes each day in Cozi and YNAB) has saved us countless mistakes with our minutes and money which adds a lot of value to this chase-the-morning adventure.
5. I devised a kick-start. This is non-negotiable for me. I would never make it if I got out of bed and went directly to my desk. I need a buffer. First, I make coffee and unload the dishwasher. If I feel particularly sluggish, I do a couple of sit-ups or jumping jacks – not for the purpose of working out (because I would never, ever get up early to work out…ever) but for waking up.
Fact: the very worst feeling in the world is the moment (or moments) between the alarm ringing and the getting up. That moment is consistently awful. Nearly every day, I have to remind myself that being up is not bad…it’s the idea of getting up that’s bad. Once I’m on my feet, the torture is over and the adventure has begun. I wish I could say that the feeling goes away, but so far for me it’s still something I have to choose to control by reminding myself that sleep is not the boss of me, and the snooze button is a fickle friend – it gives a little, but it takes a lot.
So, that’s how I’ve done it. How about you? Are you naturally a morning person (maybe keep that to yourself – I don’t want to resent you), do you have cool tricks for siezing the day, or do you feel hopeless that you’ll ever be able to carpe diem effectively? Share those thoughts here and let’s encourage one another.