5 Tips for The 5AM Challenge

Has it really been over a year since I last wrote about getting up early?

Well, in that time my overall success at the 5AM Challenge has been spotty. For a good while, after I lost my enthusiasm for writing a novel, I wound up setting the alarm back to six AM and just concentrating on getting ready for the day job.

Then I started thinking about it again, especially after I began building momentum on freelancing, and the alarm clock went back to five thirty. For the last few weeks I’ve had it back consistently to five, and I think I’ve got some things I can share about how we can all do it.

Get Some Positive Reinforcement.

People tend to see doing something like getting up before sparrows as the sign of lunacy (my wife still shakes her head at it). If you’re fighting being down on yourself as it is, that extra external push can put you into, “Why the hell am I bothering?” territory pretty quick.

So track some others down who are doing it too. Maybe find or make yourself an accountability group.

Maybe read some blog posts, like this one on The Procrastiwriter: Fake Being A Morning Person in 5 Easy Steps.

Maybe even listen to a podcast episode, like Session 20 of The Cubicle Renegade Podcast, where Caleb Wozcyk interviews Andy Traub on how his self-published eBook, The Early To Rise Experience: Learn to Rise Early in 30 Days, got him completely free of debt.

There’s a phrase I’ve been noodling with lately: It’s great to know you can do it alone, but even better to know that you don’t have to.

(I reckon there’s a moral on love in that one…)

Listen To Your Body.

I’m making this a habit in general. If I’m eyeing off some sweet concoction my stomach tends to clench; or I immediately start remembering pains in the gut I’ve experienced in the past. If I’m pushing myself and feeling all over the place, I quit trying to punish my body for being weak and go take a drink.

The same goes with sleeping.

There’s a worry that when you start getting up earlier, you’ll reduce your sleep time. Seriously, gang: Listen to your body. If you find yourself nodding off in front of the telly or the thinking organ getting all fuzzy when you’re trying to milk some more work out of it in the evening: Your body is telling you to  to bed.

Manage Your Routines.

The other thing that gets me a little is making sure I’m as ready as I can be before I sit down and start working of a morning. Knowing that my time is limited, I don’t want to waste it by being distracted by that nagging feeling that I’ve forgot something I need to take to work with me.

It doesn’t help that, try as I might, I can still be pretty fuzzy-headed and running on routines of a morning. So rather than try and make intelligent decisions about what to wear to work, I’ll aim to sort my next day’s clothing when I’m getting out of my work clothes after I get home. Ditto for lunches, usually after I finish dinner and cleaning up.

I’m also trying to get in the routine of doing the basic organisational processes – e-mail checks, calendar organising, to-do lists – of an evening, hopefully not the last thing when I’m getting to fuzzle-brained to think straight. Still, that’s an easier-said-tan-done thing, especially when Vickie needs a hand with something as soon as I can spare it.

There’s also the fact that my organising system is quite a bit off kilter at the moment – I have too many places for some stuff and nowhere near enough for others.

Reward Yourself.

This one, I have to thank Andy Traub and Shanan the Procrastiwriter for. Sometimes, when I reach for that off-switch on my clock’s alarm I’m tempted to reach for the snooze button or just re-set it for another hour. Both Andy and Shanan suggest an immediate thing to look forward to, just a little impteus to get legs swung out of bed and self vertical. Andy has a $70 pair of slippers; Shanan a high-quality instant coffee machine. Me, I tend to look forward to my shower, although it’s not as much of a “yum” hit as Andy or Shanan’s carrots.

I’d like to work more of a breakfast angle into it, although it adds some complexity to the pre-work morning routine. I noticed when I had a hearty breakfast at a BNI meeting a friend invited me to a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t even hungry until around 1PM – where I’m normally ravenous by midday. Most days I start off with just a bowl of cereal, but I want to work that “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” principle into my life a bit more – I’m just not sure how.

Quit Beating Yourself Up.

Last night, I wound up awake until gone midnight. As a result, Vickie and I were up at eight this morning and driving each other nuts trying to put up some shade in the dogs’ run before heading out shopping (Vickie had a hairdresser’s appointment at 10:30). Needless to say, I got no butt-in-chair time this morning.

But I wouldn’t have changed the late night. Vickie and I got chatting with a guest for The Paid to Play Podcast after we wrapped up the interview, and it was bloody great, well worth ignoring my body for a bit.

And even if it hadn’t – I’m coming to the opinion that I’ve better things to do than give myself grief over my less-than-perfect decisions. All it does is make me less inclined to try again.

So maybe you try getting up early and it doesn’t work out – and maybe it does take you a year to start doing it properly. Maybe you still haven’t got there yet.

So what?

In the end, we do crazy things like drag our arses out of bed early because we want to live our lives as we choose. Being more productive is one way to the overall goal of being more sane, more stable, more happy.

But it’s not the only one. So relax and trust, even when you miss a day, even when getting up early just doesn’t happen, that it’s all working out the way it’s meant to.

Are you curious?

How do you accomplish a hearty breakfast when it’s just you? What breakfast hacks have you implemented?

What are your tricks for getting and staying out of bed earlier than you would normally rise?

Are you producing?

What have you got out of the way thanks to earlier starts?