Are you a morning person? Or a night owl?
Personally, I don’t think I am either of those, my peak time is more 10-4. If I had to choose though I’d say I was a morning person, or at least a light morning person. The trouble is, I live in Scotland where from November-February, the mornings are dark. Sometimes the entire day is dark. Not black, night time dark, but grey, heavy clouds, oppressive and depressing. I’m not the only one that struggles in the winter. Several of my friends have SAD lights, and we have all worked out our own strategies for coping better. Sometimes that involves more cake than is good for us, and other times it is exercise and juicing.
So, when I read books or blog posts where people encourage us all to get up at some ridiculous time (to me ) like 4am, and go to the gym or go a run on the beach, I get a bit fed up. The people writing these things seem to live in Australia or California, where they don’t have dark mornings and days where they sky stays oppressively grey, the wind howls and the rain lashes down, and the temperature scrapes towards 6 degrees. Would they be so keen to go a run at 5am then I wonder?
There are a lot of books and courses on why we should be getting up earlier but I think you need to find the time that suits you. I know that if I want to write fiction every day, I want to write a book, then I need to find the time. For me first thing is best, but it needs to be before the proper day starts. So before I walk the dog, before I do any work stuff. A lot of these books and so on will also have a lot of things to do first thing – run, journal, yoga, write, gym, juice.
Ummm, all those things? Every day?
That can seem a bit daunting, even if they do appeal. But if you try to set yourself up to do everything, it will feel overwhelming. And who loves overwhelm?
The Gremlin, that’s who.
Because then they get to laugh and point out how you never do anything you say you will do.
So here’s what I do.
I pick the most important one.
Which for me is writing. Then I tell myself that I won’t get up early until a specific day – say a week on Monday. I deny myself getting up. I say ‘No, no, not yet…next week’. I think about the writing I am going to do, I may even sign up for some sort of challenge or just work out a daily amount of words I want to do and put them on my calendar. Then I can give myself a big tick (or a sticker!) when I hit the target. I get myself anticipating it, looking forward to it. Then the weekend before the Monday, I let myself get excited, as if I am going on a trip.
‘Monday you get to start writing’.
I set my alarm, I make sure I have back up alarms, and I say I will get up at 6:30am, but next best is 7am. So if I doze a bit, I’m still within the goal. I also set up my desk and room. I clear away anything not relevant.
The Monday morning, my first alarm will go off. I use my Fitbit vibrating function, and then I have my sanity saving ‘sunrise’ alarm clock, which starts to light up at 6:45, before it will beep at 7am. So, I get up, having been gently woken up. I am not in that horrible stupor that I am in if I have a harsh beeping alarm in a dark room.
Once I am up, I let myself write. I enjoy the release after all that build up. I hit my target words, and I feel good. Me 1, Gremlin 0.
Then, and this is the hard bit, I need to repeat this the next day. And the next, and the next. Now, this is hard, because the anticipation and excitement wears off. The dark days of winter encourage snuggling in bed not getting up. So, what I try to do, is build that anticipation for another thing.
Now I am writing, what’s next on my wish list of ‘do more of’. I might say, tomorrow I get to go a run, or I get to do yoga, or I get to have a juice…The process is the same. Build the anticipation, and then allow myself to do it after writing. I might need to get up a wee bit earlier again if I want to fit in everything I plan, but I have found that I get slicker at transitioning between the activities. At my best ever morning rituals, I was up by 6:30, wearing my running gear. Then I wrote while sipping a green juice I’d made the night before. After that I did some yoga, walked the dog, went a short run, then back to stretch, shower and make breakfast. So that all took about 2.5-3 hours in total. I’d got up at 6:30, I was at my desk working by 9:15. That seems a long time…but you know I used to get up at 6:45 and commute to work, where I started about 9. I then used to go to the gym after work, so I didn’t get home until towards 7, having had another hour plus commute. No-one seemed to think those hours of travelling and gym were ‘wasted’.
I know which morning routine I prefer.
Yours will be different. It all depends on your situation, maybe you have to split things around school runs or work. Maybe mornings just would never work for you, but evenings might. Whenever works, start with one thing, the main thing, and aim to stick with it as much as possible.
Then, of course, life will get in the way.
I have done this process several times.In the past year alone I got sick, broke my arm, and went on holiday. It is easier to fall out of this routine than to get into it. But, because I have done it before, and I know I liked it, and felt better for it, I can do it again, and I will.
That is the real trick, to keep restarting, to know what works for you and keep resetting. The past few months I haven’t been doing morning writing, but this week, I reset. I got up, I wrote. I ticked my word count off my calendar. Next week maybe I’ll add in a yoga session. The dark winter mornings are here, but I’m going to try to beat the blues by getting up and doing the things that make me feel better.