“I’m not a morning person” (Part II)

If you haven’t already read my thrilling account of how a night owl like myself gets over sh*tty sleep quality, go do that first. Once you’ve done that, you should be equipped with the knowledge you need to have a restful slumber, so that you can wake up well-rested and ready to take on the day like a f*cking champ.

A lot of the ideas in this part of the series are pulled from Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, however, there are also some ideas from Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven, and Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.

Having a restful slumber is Phase 1, but taking on the day? This is where the rubber meets the road, my friends.

(An aside, who the hell came up with that one: where the rubber meets the road. Why isn’t it ‘where the hammer meets the nail?’ because that is way more badass.)

Part II: 7 Steps to Your Baddest Ass Bad Assest Most Badass Morning Yet

(sometimes I think it’s funnier to leave my weird AF thought process out here for you to witness)

Step 0: Set the conditions for an effective wake-up. (a.k.a. setting up)

Consider putting your alarm clock on the other side of the room. If your phone is your alarm clock, even better. This forces you to have good sleep hygiene and you are forced to get out of bed to turn your alarm clock off.

Put a full glass of water next to your alarm clock. You’ll need it later.

If you have timed lights, this is a good time to make sure they’re set up.

Step 1: Get and stay the hell out of bed.

It’s easy to wake up, snooze, and go back to sleep. Or wake up, but scroll through social media accounts for an hour or so, effectively wasting your morning. But by choosing to go back into bed, or choosing to stay in bed, you are nonverbally making the statement that “resting in a state of unconsciousness or staying in bed is better than what I want to accomplish in my day and in my life.” If that’s not true, then stay the hell out of bed!

When you hear your alarm, get out of bed, and turn your alarm clock off. The movement will make it hard to fall back asleep.

Then, while you’re turning off your alarm, drink a huge gulp of water. You’re probably dehydrated anyway having been without water for 6-8 hours, and the cold water will help you stay awake. Optionally, you can brush your teeth right after this, because that fresh feeling will continue to help wake you up.

Step 2: Make your f*cking bed.

As Admiral McRaven put it, “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” Making your bed is the first task of the day, and when you successfully do the first task of the day, that sets the tone for how you will accomplish all of your tasks.

And this isn’t just wishy-washy sh*t either, science backs this. When you successfully complete a task, there is a little burst of dopamine in your brain, the reward hormone that makes you feel accomplished, happy, and successful. You have literally turned on the part of your brain that longs for task completion, earlier than you would have if you waited until 9AM before your first task was really complete. So you will objectively feel better about your day earlier in the day. Not only that, getting back into bed will be harder with your bed already made.

As an added bonus, coming home to a neat and well-made bed feels f*cking glorious.

Step 3: Practice mindfulness & affirmations.

This can be meditating or yoga – but do something that requires you to focus internally. This is not the same as sleeping, people. You are supposed to be conscious for this step. By calming your thoughts and focusing on something very specific, you are practicing for the rest of today. Especially if you are prone to distraction and procrastination, this is a way to flex your focus so that, when you need it later, you’ve already practiced it once today.

You can use a guided meditation apps like Calm or Waking Up with Sam Harris (whose voice is so calming I can’t help but be at ease… though it’s dangerous, I sometimes fall asleep with his voice). Calm has some great programs which include some helpful tips for refining focus and decreasing stress throughout the day. These tips can help you refine your affirmations.

If you’re not bought in, and think affirmations are full of sh*t, think again. There have been numerous studies pointing to affirmation’s positive effects:

…it has been suggested by the scientist and behavioral care providers that self-affirmation reminds people of important aspects of the self, enabling them to view events from a reasonable, considered, and rational viewpoint (Sherman DK et al, 2011). By enhancing the psychological resources of self-integrity, self-affirmation reduces defensive responses to threatening information and events, leading to positive outcomes in various areas such as psychological and physical health, education, prejudice, discrimination, and social conflicts (Sherman DK et al, 2006).

Psychology Today, To Affirm or Not Affirm?

What does an affirmation look like? It involves taking your goals saying them aloud (to no one in particular but yourself). The act of saying aloud your goals forces you to internalize and take those goals more seriously. Affirming also helps you visualize successfully achieving your goals – a key step if you follow S.A.V.E.R.S. from Hal Elrod’sMiracle Morning. SAVERS refers to the following steps (all of which you’d aim to complete in the morning)

  • Silence (meditation)
  • Affirmation
  • Visualization
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Scribing (journaling)

Why do this in the morning? You could easily do this before bed. In fact, I recommend doing mindfulness activities in the evening to help wind down as well. That said, the reason I think it’s particularly beneficial for morning is it sets your focus for the day, and forces you to set your mind toward your priorities. By skipping this step, you’re doing your whole day a disservice. Hours of work done in the wrong directions will inevitably leave you feeling unfulfilled. Setting your focus saves you from feeling like you’re spinning your wheels.

On the topic of spinning wheels… *badum tss*

Step 4: Exercise, or get moving.

When you do yoga, this is double the benefit, because you can knock out mindfulness and exercise in one activity. That said, how you choose to exercise doesn’t have to be yoga. It should be something that requires physical movement. If you have to walk a dog in the morning, this is a good opportunity to do that. The goal is to get the blood flowing, which helps your brain “wake up” and prepare itself for the day. It stimulates and strengthens neural connections, assists with memory retention, information recall, and overall mental performance for hours afterward.

Even if you’re an afternoon or evening workout type of person, you should still do something in the morning to reap the “brain benefits” of exercise. This can be a 10 minute or less workout or some restorative yoga. Personally, I follow Street Parking for my morning workouts, which usually incorporate a 10-20 minute metabolic conditioning workout. If I have time, I do my strength work beforehand. I still workout in the afternoon once per week, but even on those days, I do something in the morning.

Step 5: Read (or listen to) a book.

Let’s be real. Most adults don’t have time to read a book. Or, if they do have time, they usually spend that time with family or watching Netflix. Or! They read right before bed, at which point they’re likely tired and won’t actually retain what they read. Mornings are a great time to get personal or professional development in without infringing on other things you’re interested in.

Find a book that motivates you, or even more importantly, helps you accomplish your goals. Maybe you need to learn something for your job. Or for a job you’d like to have. Then… (here’s the best part) decide if you want to read or listen to it.

I am all about Audible right now. I tend to listen to books while I go running, or even during a workout, knocking out two birds with one stone. You don’t necessarily have to sit and read if you don’t want to (but if that’s relaxing to you, I highly recommend it) – but the point is, take time to learn how to get where you want to go.

Step 6: Write down your goals, thoughts, and progress toward your goal.

I’m gonna let this article from Forbes explain it, since they’ve got a great summary of why writing things down is important:

Writing things down happens on two levels: external storage and encoding. External storage is easy to explain: you’re storing the information contained in your goal in a location (e.g. a piece of paper) that is very easy to access and review at any time. You could post that paper in your office, on your refrigerator, etc. It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to know you will remember something much better if you’re staring at a visual cue (aka reminder) every single day.

But there’s another deeper phenomenon happening: encoding. Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process. In other words, when you write it down it has a much greater chance of being remembered.

Neuropsychologists have identified the “generation effect” which basically says individuals demonstrate better memory for material they’ve generated themselves than for material they’ve merely read. It’s a nice edge to have and, when you write down your goal, you get to access the “generation effect” twice: first, when you generate the goal (create a picture in your mind), and second, when you write it down because you’re essentially reprocessing or regenerating that image.

Forbes, Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them

Basically, writing things down forces you to recall it (for writing), write it, then reprocess it again after you’ve written it down. This encoding of your goals (with addition to affirmations) is basically a brute force way of reprogramming your mind so that you can make decisions that align most closely with your goals.

Step 7: Eat a healthy and balanced breakfast.

Now that you’re up early, there’s no excuse to rush out the door and miss the most important meal of the day. I realize some people might be doing intermittent fasting, but if you’re not intentionally tracking your caloric and macronutrient intake (which I could talk about for days) then you should not be skipping breakfast.

Fact: when you miss breakfast, you risk decreased mental alertness, your metabolism slows (that is, assuming you don’t eat many other smaller meals throughout the day, and compensate the lack of breakfast with two big meals… which most people do), and your blood sugar might lower. Let’s also not forget about getting hangry. For people with Type II diabetes, the lack of breakfast might even spike blood sugar levels given insulin resistance and triggers like no food, then too much food in the next meal. Finally, eating breakfast, especially high-protein or high-fat foods, is linked with higher brain performance and reduced cravings throughout the day.

You don’t have to eat a lot. In fact, most dietitians recommend small portion sized for all meals, but aim for a protein-rich breakfast with either eggs, tofu-scramble, vegetables (yes, at breakfast), and whole grains (or if you’re doing a ketogenic diet, look for fat-rich foods such as avocados, sausage, or bacon, instead of carb-rich foods like grains or fruit).

While fruit platters and cups and fruit & yogurt cups can often be easier to find, the high sugar content make them a not-so-great choice. If you hate eggs, consider eating meat or vegan meat substitutes. After all, breakfast is just another meal, why does it have to be eggs? It doesn’t!

Okay so technically that was 8 steps if you include set-up, but as a friend once said, hey, enjoy the bonus content!

I’m going to throw in one more, bonus step, which you might think is a bit ridiculous, but humor me, okay?

Step 8: Make your day f*cking happen… Then, set your alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier the next day.

A key piece of this puzzle is you still have to make moves toward your goals. If you have the greatest morning of your life, that’s awesome, but it’s only helpful if you actually took a step toward you goal. Start small, then work from there.

If you find that you’re perfectly happy with how much time you had when you first tried this out… fine. But I will bet that when you tried this, you felt a little rushed. Maybe you didn’t get through all the steps, or risked getting to work late if you did.

See if you can push the boundaries. Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than the last time (and your lights, etc). You might find that you naturally wake up earlier, without the assistance of alarm clocks. You might not need the alarm clock at all, after a while.

After all, if your goal is to get away from being a night owl, maximizing your productive time in the morning isn’t really that far-fetched of an idea. And that’s what this is all about, anyway: taking what would be a self-limiting idea like, “I’m not a morning person” and incrementally changing it, one day at a time, until you believe in what you want to become, and act on that belief. Then, once you’ve accomplished that, you get to choose whether you’re okay with settling for that, or whether you want to shatter your own perception of what you’re capable of.

You set the course. You decide what’s next. No one else.

Let me know how this morning routine works for you. If you had success, let me know! Feel free to share any customizations you make to your own morning routine.

Featured Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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