I’ve never been interested in getting up early. I saw no point in it when waking up at 7:30 left me plenty productive. Plus, I’m definitely in the “live more, work less” camp and consider sleep to be one of life’s essentials. So, as much as I’ve been hearing, for years, that getting up early is “the king of healthy habits,” I wasn’t interested in doing it.
I believe each of us should work with our physiology, personality, and lifestyle to make the best choices for ourselves. We should add habits that will benefit our lives and not haphazardly make changes… just for the sake of making changes. And definitely not solely because you’re influenced by someone’s social media feed. So, I had a lot of reasons for ignoring all those early risers who were extolling the virtues of their 6:00 am wake up.
But… but… but… Seeing as I write about productivity and in my work, I help people form the most helpful lifestyle habits for them, it was really only a matter of time before I at least tried out getting up early. All that is to say, I was open to the idea but I needed a damn good reason to get up early.
The damn good reason
Leaner thighs! I had started to see cellulite creeping to my inner thighs. The darn things weren’t just on the back of my thighs where I could ignore them, now, I could see them every time I looked in the mirror, every time I would lotion my thighs and get dressed. I took it as a sign that my workout routine wasn’t challenging enough so I was looking to ramp things up a bit. After looking at all the classes that my gym offered, the best fit for me was obvious, cycling. I like cycling. I love the music they play and I knew that cycling gives you killer thighs!
The only problem was that the classes are at 6:00 a.m. Ugh! My initial reaction was, forget it. I thought… Maybe I’ll do it in the spring (a few months from now) when the weather is warmer. Or, maybe they’ll switch up the class schedule soon.
But my exercise and thigh situation begged for immediate attention so I told myself I would try it for just a week! It’s a motivation trick I’ve been using successfully to nudge myself to do things I don’t really want to do but should.
I gave it my best effort that week
To make it easy for me to get to the class on time, I slept in my workout top, left my sneakers at the foot of the bed and hung the rest of my workout outfit behind the door. By having my clothes set out, I could be ready in 2 minutes or less and in the dark, if I had to.
The class meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and that first Monday, I chickened out. It was a little cold out and my bed was uber warm.
On Wednesday morning, I decided I was going—no excuses. I got up, got dressed and even made it to the class a few minutes early. It was a good thing too because I was able to chat with the instructor and check out her playlist while I waited. I casually dropped that something peppier and more current than the 80’s playlist she was queuing up might motivate me more. She obliged. Thank you, Debbie!
After the class, I went home and didn’t know what to do with the extra time I had on my hands. Later in the day, I felt tired. This wasn’t going well at all. So there I was, ready to chuck it when my inner coach asked me if I had done enough to make it work.
Then I made some adjustments
I went to bed at 10 pm on Thursday to see if it would help me feel less tired the next day. It did and so, Friday and Friday’s class went a lot better!
On the way home from that class, I stopped at Home Depot and picked up small trash bags for the bathroom. They had been on my shopping list for weeks. Getting it done made me look around for other things I had been putting off. By 8:30 that morning, I had checked off quite a few things I had been putting off. Like picking up small garbage bags, they were all simple things I needed to do, and they all made my life easier.
Since I didn’t give it my “all” that first week, I decided to do another week of getting up early before making a decision. And now, I can’t quite tell you how it happened, but I’ve become hooked on early mornings.
And now… I’m hooked
Getting up early became more than about making it a class to sculpt my legs and beat exercise boredom. I began to enjoy benefits I didn’t expect and I don’t see myself giving them up anytime soon!
1. I get more done before 11:00
Before 11:00 is most people’s peak performance window. This is true whether you’re a night owl or a morning person. Since getting up earlier, I’ve added 1.5 hours to my day 3x a week and 2.5 hours the other two workdays. That’s like getting 9 more hours each week. It feels like a pay-raise, a bonus or a gift. And you don’t give back those things!!!
2. Fewer distractions and waiting in lines
Because most people are still asleep, it feels quieter so I’m less distracted and more centered early mornings. When I called Hulu one morning (around 5:45) to go over some billing issues, I got world-class customer service. There was no wait for one and because his day hadn’t gotten busy yet, he could pay me more attention and I ended up getting more money back than I was asking for! Ditto for T-Mobile on another morning.
3. I now jump out of bed
I used to mindfully get up at 7:00… and by that I mean, I took my time. Now, I practically jump out of bed most mornings. I’m not just grateful for a new day, I’m eager to game the day. My days feel like they have more possibilities too. Getting “the little things” accomplished, makes me feel happier and more organized.
4. I get to emails and the world sooner
For a while, one of my productivity habits is to check email after I’ve accomplished one important task. But that meant getting to my emails as late as noon. By getting important tasks done sooner, I can get to them and respond to people sooner.
5. I exercise more consistently
My gym schedule was never consistent before. Some days I could go at 7:30, some days at 1:00 and some days after 6:00 p.m. Those 6:00 pm workouts were iffy because I wasn’t always feeling it. I had to “work” my workouts into my life and around my responsibilities. Now my gym schedule is on lock and I can’t tell you how huge that is!
6. I see More sunrises
Seeing sunrises wasn’t something I was thinking about going into this, but I like it. A lot! Sunrises have a sacredness to them and for the moment, I’m paying attention, and find them inspiring.
7. I feel like a boss!
The term “leveling up” is a bit overused, I know, but it’s the only word to succinctly describe how this new habit has changed my life.
I didn’t think I needed to be more productive and had I focused just on productivity, I wouldn’t have gotten up earlier. My desire for toned thighs motivated me to give it a try but now that I experienced the benefits of getting up early, I can honestly say, it’s one of the best habit changes I’ve made.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. Using systems, routines, and some psychological trickery, she can help almost anyone hack their mind and life for greater productivity. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if she's available for one-on-one work.