Compared to the last confuse-fest, this month’s habit was a simple one – get up early. And honestly, I did for a while consider whether I could just claim that I already do this and have a month off. As the mother of a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old I’m not exactly enjoying long leisurely lie-ins. Every weekday I get up at 6am, I would have thought that was early in most people’s books. But, being committed to the cause (my ‘Pride of Britain’ award is in the post I would expect), I resigned myself to getting up at 5am every day instead.
Now, I don’t think there are many people who wouldn’t appreciate an extra hour in the day. It doesn’t matter what life stage you’re at, I would imagine that it always seems as if there is not enough time to get everything done. I certainly know that that’s true for me, trying to manage a company and two children (not to mention a netball team, industry extra-curriculars, a healthy social life, and a Netflix obsession that I’d rather not admit to). And on the face of it, that’s what this habit seems to offer. An extra hour in the day. Great, I think. I’ll eventually get to that mountain of ironing that’s been sitting in my living room so long it warrants its own polling card.
The theory behind this habit isn’t getting up early simply so you start your normal day earlier though. The idea is that you are mining for “hidden” time that you can use to focus on valuable things; things that otherwise might get neglected. This time is meant to feel like a gift to yourself, and a springboard to allow you to make the most of the day ahead. Which led me to decide at the start of this test that I would NOT use the time in the mornings to do work or housework. Which, by some miracle, I managed to stick to – and I would massively advocate. It’s not about extending your workday; it’s about allowing yourself some time to focus on things that are for you alone. Don’t use it as a way of just fitting more work hours into the day.
The blog that I took inspiration from to start this challenge points you in the direction of a book called “The miracle morning” – which is a 6 step morning routine (a link to it is here). It consists of using an hour each morning to create a “habit stack”, consisting of 6 habits: Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (writing/journaling). The author calls them ‘life SAVERS’. You spend 10 minutes on each of them every morning, in that order. To be honest, when I read that I didn’t really enjoy the prospect of having to stick to such a strict timetable at 5am in the morning – it felt like I would be signing myself up for rushing around trying to hit deadlines and stick to timings for an extra hour a day. I wanted something a bit more organic and relaxed. So, I decided that instead I would choose one thing I wanted to focus on the following morning and just try and achieve that. And whilst I didn’t exactly relish this habit before I started it, I have to say I’m a complete convert – albeit with some caveats.
The first thing I learnt was, despite the initial excitement of “discovering” a hidden hour a day that was all to myself, I was just trading an hour in the morning for an hour in the evening. I don’t believe that people who say that humans can survive on less than 7 hours sleep are in any way correct, sorry all you Thatcher-fans. By getting up at 5am, I was absolutely ready to call it a day by 9.30/10pm. I also found that it wasn’t always even possible to stick to this habit, despite my best intentions. On weeknights where I was able to get to bed by 10pm, get 7 hours sleep before getting up at 5am, all was good. Any night where I happened to have plans and potentially didn’t get to bed until much later, then it went out of the window. It just wasn’t sustainable (for me anyway) to go to bed at midnight and get up at 5am – I need 7 hours. That said – on a normal evening, swapping an hour in the evening for an hour in the morning is a good trade in my opinion. The argument is that you are more proactive in the morning, and this certainly proved true for me.
The other thing I found is that its essential to have even just a rough plan for how you’re going to spend your hard-earned time. I had several days when I got up at 5am, only to find myself aimlessly wandering around the house. There is nothing that feels more ridiculous than setting an alarm for 5am only to get up and watch the TV show that you didn’t watch the night before because you were setting your alarm so early. The night before, make a short list of things that you want to do – or even just one thing. Try and make it something that you’re actually enthusiastic about as this will help you when that alarm starts beeping….
What I especially enjoyed about getting up early was the stress-free way in which it allowed me to start my day. Trying to get the kids out the house by 7.30 each day means that “leisurely” does not normally describe a morning. I found the best thing was to get up, make a cup of tea and then have one task that I wanted to achieve – be it baking, sorting through some boxes in the loft, or exercising – and still having plenty of time to have another cup of tea and get ready before the kids were even awake. If you find yourself constantly rushing around trying to get out of the house in the morning, for whatever reason, then this might be for you. Not starting the day like a headless chicken was gift enough in itself to convert me!
Some other things that I have learnt from this one:
- The thing about not snoozing – it’s true. You can’t snooze, you have to get up when the first alarm goes or you’re a gonner.
- Physically put your alarm on the other side of the room. Getting out of bed is the hard part. Once you’re up it really is easy.
- My company have benefitted from a significant increase in the amount of baked goods they received from me during this test!
There are also some good apps to help you bed in morning routines. ‘Fabulous’ is one, which might suit some people. It helps you to bed-in good morning habits such as drinking water first thing, having a healthy breakfast, exercising etc. You do have to pay for it, so I only used it for the 14-day free trial, but it might be worth a look for some people!
The next habit I’ll be road testing is the charmingly titled “Get Your Butt Off the Couch”. I’m hoping that it finishes the sentence with “And to the pub!”, but somehow, I doubt it. I’ll let you know.