March 9, 2021•823 words
Today marks my first 6am start in a long while. There are good reasons for this - hopefully they will become obvious as this blog gathers more momentum. I want to write and create more, and the rest of the day is rarely as peaceful.
I tried this in the past, and some methods worked better than others. Here are some good ideas I found helpful.
1. Get a silent alarm clock. This is important if you share your flat or bedroom with other people. Other people's sleep doesn't need to suffer just because you're hellbent on morning creativity! These days, I sleep with my sports watch on. It buzzes gently to wake me up, and the other person in bed with me doesn't hear it.
2. Prepare the night before. I don't need much to get my work done in the morning, but a few things are helpful: a laptop, internet connection, and so on. If you need to set up your things, make sure you organize them before you need them. This removes another excuse, and it means you don't have to thrash about the place just to get going.
3. Make the setup cosy. This might not work for you - if your goal is to exercise, then perhaps the opposite might help? For me, a laptop and a keyboard are all that matters. I make sure that the writing set-up is basically an extension of my bed - with pillows and blankets to keep me warm and (relatively) happy. Otherwise, I think I would rebel too much against having to leave the warmth and comfort of my bed.
4. Put yourself on the hook. There are many ways to do this - declaring your intention to your family or friends, posting about it on social media, making a commitment to check in with others. The premise is the same: other people will hold you accountable. Show up for them, and avoid losing credibility. This, for many, is a powerful motivator - 6am clubs exist for that reason! If that's not enough, read on...
5. Put some money at stake. There are several ways to find motivation. This one is another self-imposed "stick" method: losing money if you fail to wake up. If you automate this, then there's a strong chance that you'll wake up instantly - because otherwise you will need to pay up. Several methods of setting this up exist; I use the one described in this video - scheduling a LinkedIn message which invites users to demand a $5 payment from me when they see it, then re-scheduling it for the following day the moment I wake up.
6. Wake up to what you love. Could be a cup of coffee. Or a morning walk. Maybe dancing to your favourite tune. Yoga. Prayer. Quality time alone. Here's the thing: not every waking hour needs to be focused and productive. You can allow yourself to spend some of that 6am time on you! By doing so, you'll provide the "carrot" to balance out the "stick" methods above. Think about it: what could you experience in the morning that really wakes you up?
7. Get some good sleep. This habit will not be sustainable without a good sleep routine. You may think you're smashing it, but if you don't get enough sleep, then waking up early will do more harm than good. There are many ways to firm up your sleep habits; most of the stuff at Sleep Foundation makes sense.
8. Give it time. If you're not used to waking up early, then the first few days are likely to be pretty bad. Your body may decide to pump out good hormones to get you through the first few mornings, only to crash and burn later on in the day. If you took care of your sleep routine, this should sort itself out as your internal clock adjusts. If it doesn't, though, see below.
9. Trust yourself, not the clock. Maybe waking up at 6am will become your thing, your superpower, your secret weapon. Maybe it won't - you'll not enjoy it, and you will decide to find other ways of living your life. Whichever it turns out to be - give this a go, and notice how you feel about this. The hour isn't important. 6am is no more magical than midnight, or lunchtime, or any other time that works for you. Your self, your practice - this is what makes it work.
10. Celebrate. I've now completed my first 6am shift, in what will hopefully be many more. I am excited about the new practice I'm setting up. And I am also very excited about the cup of coffee and a chocolate bar I'm about to reward myself with! It's OK to feel smug about what you're doing, and OK to treat yourself when it's done - this, also, is how you form your own habits.