#5OnFri: Five Ways to Maximize Your Morning When You’re Not a Morning Person

by Bess Cozby
published in Writing

I got back from Australia this week, and have been dealing with a combination of jetlag, busy-ness and grief at no longer being among the sunshine and kangaroos. The weirdest part of jet lag? I will be exhausted all day and then wide awake at night. I’ve basically become a vampire. Of course, this is just the first week back, and I’m sure my brain and body will calm down and regulate themselves eventually, but this week of jetlag made me realize something: I’ve become a morning person.

I don’t know when it happened–or how–but the college kid who never took an 8am class has become a working woman who actually likes waking up before the sun. And this week, with my schedule so whacked, I’ve missed my early morning writing sessions. I’m excited about finally being able to wake up at 6am.

Mornings really are a great time for writers, no matter what the rest of the day looks like. But I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’m not naturally a morning person. I don’t wake up, Cinderella style, with a smile on my face and birds singing. Nonetheless, I’ve become a morning person. Here’s a few small ways I’ve found to make the wee hours work for me:

1) Step Away from the Snooze Button

I’m the biggest fan of the snooze button that ever lived. If I push it once, I can push it five times. Sometimes, I even fall back asleep and forget that I’ve pushed it. Which means I get to push it even more! It’s a glorious way to pretend I’m going to accomplish something, but it’s also a slippery slope into wasting all those beautiful morning hours. I might as well have just slept for an hour, instead of fitfully sleeping for nine minutes at a time.

To avoid this, I set a no-snooze button rule, and started setting three alarms–one at 5:30, one at 5:45 and one at 6:00, when I actually intended to get up. This method works for me, because I’m not naturally a morning person, and need time to acclimate my sleepy self to the reality that this is actually happening–I am getting out of bed. Other people, I’m sure, find that setting just one alarm is preferable. Find the method that works for you, and stick with it!

2) Buy an Alarm Clock

Phones. They are so wonderful. They are so interesting. There are always little flags coming up with notifications and it’s just so exciting. But it’s not writing.

One of the best things about the morning hours is that no one else is awake. Mornings are total me-time. If you, like me, find yourself easily distracted by the internet and your phone, this is doubly true. The internet is inherently interesting because something is always happening, but in the early morning, very little usually is. People don’t wake up at 6 AM in order to update their Facebook statuses or scroll through Twitter, which makes it a little bit easier to shut down the browser and get down to work. Having a phone alarm can disturb that. If I pick up my phone, I am inclined to check Instagram and my email, just in case there’s an update. Or I might just peak at my work email, and realize there’s a problem. It’s not something I can fix from home, but it is something I’m going to stress about for the next two hours. It’s unproductive, but really tempting to check your phone in the morning.

My solution? I bought an alarm clock. One of those old fashioned things that just tells you the time. I set my phone in a drawer, on silent and I don’t check it until I’ve saved my document and shut my computer down. Don’t engage with your phone until you’re ready to engage with the day.

3) Set Your Setup the Night Before

In my experience, one of the factors that can make or break a productive morning is setting yourself up to do as little work as possible other than writing.  I woke up on Monday morning at 4 AM and realized that I hadn’t been to the grocery store and so did not have in my possession A) Coffee, B) Half and Half, C) Breakfast. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth. I googled the nearest Starbucks, and realized they didn’t open until 6 AM (oh the humanity!) and made do with English Breakfast Tea and a rice cake. Needless to say, it was unpleasant, and I spent a good amount of time looking at the clock instead of actually working.

If you’re not a morning person but have committed to the morning hours, set yourself up for success by setting everything up the night before: food, clothing, caffeine of choice. I got an inexpensive programmable coffee machine. When I wake up, the coffee is made for me! It’s the most glorious thing ever! An ethical, mechanical house elf really. It made such a difference that I’ve taken to setting out everything else as well, down to the sweatshirt I put on when I roll out of bed because my roommate has inevitably opened her window and the entire apartment is freezing. A little planning goes a long way when you’re half-asleep and looking for any excuse to crawl back into bed.

4) Go for a Quick Walk

This one can get kind of difficult if it’s dark or cold outside, but doing some kind of physical activity can be a huge help in waking up. Even if it’s just a quick jog around the block or a stretch in your living room, getting your body moving will help to wake up the mind and get ready to work!

5) Make it a Rule

I read a really interesting article in The Wall Street Journal recently about the power of setting up personal rules. As the writer of the piece, Jennifer Breheny Wallace describes it: “Personal policies are an established set of simple rules that guide your decisions and actions. On the surface, they offer a gentler way of saying no, as in: “I don’t take work calls on Saturdays because that’s my time with family.” On a deeper level, they encourage reflection, help to define priorities and aid decision-making, especially with in-the-moment requests. . . . Research shows that personal policies are also helpful in reaching personal goals, like losing weight—but the wording is important. According to a series of experiments published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2012, telling yourself “I don’t skip the gym” versus “I can’t skip the gym,” for example, can help motivation.”

For maximizing your mornings, this one is relatively simple. There is a difference in telling yourself, “I wake up at 5:45 AM” over “I am trying to wake up at 5:45 AM.” Maybe try, instead, simply saying, “I’m a morning person.” Maybe you’ll find that you are one!

Do you have any tips on how to maximize your mornings? Share in the comments below, or on social media, using the hashtag #5OnFri!


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