Are you a morning person? It is a common enough question, but behind it lies a profound misunderstanding about people and our routines. But before we dive into what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be a ‘morning person,’ let’s look at why we should even care about the topic.
Successful Mornings/Successful Lives
Getting up early in the morning isn’t easy for most of us, but study after study shows that developing early morning habits are a major key to leading a successful life. According to poll from Gallup, a whopping 70% of people in households earning over 75,000 per year say the morning is their most productive time (starting at 5am). The quiet of early morning consistently ranks as the most productive, formative, and important part of the day for successful people; and what more, people who get up early are often healthier and happier as well.
There’s no need to belabor this point, I think most of us understand the value of a solid morning routine – the struggle comes in forming the necessary habits to take full advantage of our mornings. And this brings us back to the opening questions: are you a morning person?
The Myth of Morning People
‘Morning people’ are a myth that we tell ourselves to feel better about our lack of discipline. It’s true that some people are better at getting up early (just like some people are better at sports or reading or whatever), but to excuse our drowsy laziness with ‘I’m not a morning person’ is to sell ourselves short.
Anyone can become a morning person with the right mix of tools, discipline, and drive. The same is true in most of life, consider this story: I was never good at sports, but when I decided to join the company softball team I knew I didn’t want to embarrass myself. So, I went out and bought a handful of softballs and spend one or two evening a week practicing the backyard – by the time the season rolled around I was a serviceable softball player. I could have given up by saying ‘I’m not that athletic,’ or ‘I was always terrible at baseball.’ Instead of believing self-defeating myths about ‘natural skills,’ I changed the story with discipline and practice.
I still wasn’t (and never will be) a great softball player, but I was a contributing member of the team. The same goes for developing good morning routines and habits – it may always be a struggle, but the juice is worth the squeeze. Honestly, I’m not a morning person either – but with these three methods I have been slowly developing stronger morning discipline and have seen the benefits in my life.
Three Steps to a Better Morning
Developing habits and routines takes time and hard work – but so does everything worth perusing in this life. If we stuck to what was quick and easy all we would have is video games and fast food (not that there is anything wrong with either, in their proper place), but if we want to lead successful and fulfilling lives we need to embrace the difficulty of growing. Here are three things that I have implemented in my life, it’s by no means an exhaustive list – but hopefully provides a bit of motivation as well all fight to be the best versions of ourselves:
- Start the Night Before: Conquering your morning always starts the night before. It’s what my mother taught me, and it only took 30 years of ignoring her advice before I realized the wisdom in preparing for the day the night before. For me, this means doing three things at night:
- Picking out clothes – This one has been huge for me, it doesn’t take much time but the psychological benefit is hard to overstate. I wake up feeling prepared and ready to take on the day – rather than flustered and confused.
- Setting goals – I don’t go overboard here, instead I lay out the first three or four things I need to accomplish the next day. By having a clear plan of attack, I can avoid the morning time-suck of social media and the news. I still read the news in the morning but only for a set amount of time before I start tackling my first goal.
- Getting enough sleep – This one sounds obvious, but I was terrible at it. If you want to get up earlier, go to bed earlier – there’s wisdom in the old saying, ‘early to bed, early to rise.’ Figure out how much sleep you need and work back from the time you want to get up. Personally, I need seven hours of sleep to feel good in the morning so if I’m getting up at 5:30 I need to be ready to sleep by 10:30. Figure out what works for you and stick to it!
- Start your Day Right: Getting up earlier won’t do any good if that time is spent in a groggy haze. The first step in starting right is the night-before planning, but there are also steps to take in the morning to make sure you’re getting the most out of this quiet time. Get up when your alarm goes off – the snooze button isn’t doing anyone a favor; get the blinds open and lights on first thing; get a pot of coffee brewing; and follow your morning plan. By getting things off to a solid start you’ll feel more energetic and accomplished – which helps to cut through the early morning fog.
- Set Gradual Goals – If you (like me) are struggling to wake up with enough time to throw on some clothes, brush your teeth, and get out the door in time for work; don’t try to get up a 4am tomorrow. Set your final goal and then plan incremental steps to get there. For me it was getting up 15 minutes earlier each week – a slow pace but that’s the way lasting habits are built. Within a month, I was getting up an hour earlier and amazed by the extra time in the morning to gather my thoughts, enjoy some quiet time, and get a jump start on the day. Gradual goals are great for any morning routine you’re trying to establish – regular workouts, less time on Facebook, getting up earlier – whatever your goal, small steps make a lofty task seem achievable.
Don’t Give Up
Building and developing a successful morning routine is going to be hard work and won’t happen on your first attempt. It’s a fight that I have been struggling against for a long time – and like softball – I’ll never be the best. But with the right tools and discipline, we can build the habits necessary for productive morning and successful lives. Good morning habits are key earning more money, being happier, and leading a healthier life – so is the extra work worth it? Absolutely!