If you’re naturally a night owl, dragging yourself out of bed early is challenge enough. There’s no need to add meditation, journaling, a five km run and a head start on emails on top of that. If mornings are hard, your morning routine should be easy.
People who are naturally early risers should skip the rest of this article, because I’m talking to my fellow night owls, sleep-deprived folks, and other snooze button lovers. A few months ago I noticed how much better my day goes when I finish my workout before I start in on any other obligations. So I started getting up at 6:30 AM (This is super late by morning lark standards, but screw them.) Here is how I survived.
Don’t be too ambitious. Over time, you can work toward earlier wake-up times and a longer morning to-do list, but for now, just get up a little earlier and make use of that time.
Now, it’s no big deal for me to wake up at 5:55 AM and head to the gym for a 90-minute workout of lifting and treadmill running. But when I started, I was getting up at 6:30 and promised myself that a half hour’s workout would be enough.
This is an important confidence builder. If you’re in bed thinking about how difficult it will be to carry out all your morning plans, you’ll probably just give up and sleep in.
Recognise that your brain takes a little while to turn on
The moment my alarm buzzes, my immediate thought is always: “oh fuck, it’s morning.”
Fortunately, it gets better from there. I stand up and stagger into the bathroom, because what else am I going to do. While I’m there, I might as well brush my teeth. That takes exactly two minutes, which my toothbrush times for me. And by that point — maybe three minutes after the ritual swearing at the alarm clock — that sense of horror and dread at daybreak has begun to dissipate.
Next I get dressed and go to the gym. If I’m still not fully awake, I plop myself down on a recumbent stationary bike — the kind that look sort of like an easy chair with pedals — and scroll through my phone for five minutes while pedalling slowly. It still counts! After that, I’m usually as awake as I’m going to get. It’s enough.
Make all your decisions the night before
You have to be able to do mornings on autopilot. As you’re getting ready for bed, allow your night owl self to take care of future you. Lay out your clothes, your coffee supplies, anything you will need in that hazy time that you’re not 100 per cent awake.
This also means committing to plans. Don’t trust ‘Morning You’ with the job of judging whether it’s too cold for a run or whether there’s really enough time to cook breakfast and write morning pages before work. Check the weather, do some calculations, and give ‘Morning You’ some hard-and-fast rules to follow.
Get enough sleep
If you’ve had eight hours (or whatever amount is right for you), morning tiredness only really lasts for a few minutes. Power through it, and you’ll get through the day just fine.
But if you’re waking up in the morning and you haven’t gotten enough sleep, your brain may not feel like it ever fully wakes up. Go easy on yourself the first day you wake up easy, and allow yourself to go to bed early that night to make up for it. But don’t plan on powering through tiredness every day; in the end, you can’t really cheat sleep.