Mornings: A time for productivity and peace or a scrambled blur of preparation and rushing out the door. The choice is yours, but it’s worth noting that most successful people have established morning routines that they follow religiously. I’ll specifically discuss routines in another article, but here I want to focus on some strategies to get you out of bed early, so we can get to the productive routines later.
Let me preface this article by saying that I’m certainly guilty of hitting snooze, but I’ve come to notice I don’t feel any better after. If anything, I spend my mornings more tired and rushed to get out the door, so why would I keep doing this to myself? Am I just a masochist? I like to think a bit more optimistically then that, so in the past few months I’ve set forth trying to learn more about the power of mornings and have been working towards refining a surefire way to get me out of bed for good.
These tips should get you out of bed and going in no time!
Let’s begin with applying an anthropological perspective to mornings. I’m of the mindset that in order to understand and optimize our lives, we should start with how evolution designed us to thrive over the course of millennia (as you may have noticed in my last article). So how did we wake up without alarm clocks or fit bits or cellphones? I’m sure you can guess the answer; it’s the sun. In order to start your morning off right, you should have exposure to natural light.
If you live in an apartment where that’s an issue, you can buy lights that replicate daylight. When light hits your eyes (and then your Pineal Gland), it signals your body to start the day by increasing serotonin production. The best way to use this strategy is to set your phone or alarm across the bedroom so you’re forced to walk over to shut it off. Hit the lights or open your blinds on your way over and you’re less inclined to go back to bed. Don’t hit snooze or take your phone into bed. If you need to, put a quote to motivate you right next to your phone.
I use the following, “People that are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their talents.” – Andrew Carnegie.
Once you’re up, stay up. Resist the warm blankets! A strategy that I’ve found particularly helpful is to make your bed right after waking; which not only discourages you from hopping back into bed, but hosts myriad other benefits to get your day started off right.
Let me explain the importance of this seemingly arbitrary task.
When you make your bed first thing, you start your day with a small win. This small win has lasting positive effects on your day. U.S Navy Admiral and Seal William H. McRaven said it best in his commencement speech for the University of Texas, Austin. He explains the effect that bed making has on your day.
“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed… If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
O.K, you’re out of bed, lights are on and you’re patting yourself on the back and admiring your work. You’re feeling accomplished, but still a bit sluggish (it’s early!) so you ask yourself, “What’s next?”
I’ll assume you know enough to brush your teeth, so let’s check out some more tips to widen those eyes.
I’m usually still a bit groggy after making my bed too, so I leverage a hack employed by Roald Amundsen on his trek to reach the South Pole. Amundsen told his team of explorers that he would hold a competition over the course of the journey. Upon waking, each explorer was told to guess the temperature outside in case their thermometers broke; the person with the most correct guesses would win a telescope at the end of the trip.
What the explorers didn’t know was Amundsen’s true motive: exposing yourself to the elements (particularly the cold) is a surefire way to kick any morning sluggishness. In the summer, try splashing cold water on your face or take a cold shower, the latter being extremely effective but quite awful. While you’re at the sink, grab a cold glass of ice water to rehydrate yourself after a long night without any liquid.
An added benefit of drinking cold water upon waking is it kick starts your metabolism. Thermodynamics require your body to produce extra energy to stay warm while drinking ice-cold water (or swimming in it – this is the reason Michael Phelps can burn 7000 calories a day swimming and eat 12,000, yet doesn’t gain weight). Kill two birds with one stone by rehydrating and increasing your metabolism.
One last trick to get your body going is to do a bit of exercise. It could be something as little as 20 crunches, 10 push-ups and 10 jumping jacks, just get your heart racing and the blood flowing. Over the course of time this bit of exercise could have lasting health benefits as well, but only if you keep it consistent. You could try stretching or doing some yoga as well. The most important advice I can give here is to commit to something, no matter how small. This brings us to a recurring, hidden, powerful theme throughout the article: willpower.
The backbone of the morning routine is willpower. It’s the only thing that will get you out of bed. And it’s crucial to your overall success. By stretching that muscle early in the day with tedious tasks like making the bed and following a routine, we are better equipped to handle everything else that life throws at us throughout the day. If we stretch our willpower each day, science has shown that we can strengthen it and therefore more frequently sacrifice short term gratification with the intent of growing more long-term.
To wrap things up, I’ve listed the steps to take for a morning that’ll get you out of bed and energized. Once you get past three days in a row, it gets easier, I promise. Keep at it. You can wake up early and have a peaceful, productive morning that will set you up for a successful day.
1) Set your alarm and put it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
2) Turn the lights on or open your blinds right away.
3) Make your bed – flex that willpower!
4) Brush your teeth and splash some water on your face.
5) Step outside for a few minutes. Breathe the fresh air.
6) Drink 32 ounces of ice cold water
7) Do some form of exercise that you’re committed to
8) Reward yourself with a cup of coffee – give yourself some satisfaction for getting up early and create a positive feedback loop.
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