Resolution Renegade: Need More Time in Your Day? Here’s How to Find It|
As a busy young professional, days can seem to operate on a never-ending loop of work, commutes, more work, and trying to fit in a social life. Each hour blurs into the next, and you might find yourself wondering when you’ll ever get a break. You may have ideas for a dream business, a book or a hobby you’d like to develop. Or, maybe you just need a few minutes to relax and reflect. But when can you find the time?
Enter What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam. Studying the schedules of highly effective people, Vanderkam realized that most of us waste a critical part of our day—our mornings. While we are snoozing, these industry leaders are nurturing their bodies, minds, families, and careers. Some are cooking daily family breakfast, others practicing mediation, others writing blogs. Many use the time at the gym. All feel that mornings are their “personal time” to do whatever is important to them to feel centered, energized, and ready to go.
After reading Vanderkam’s findings, I realized I wasn’t optimizing the best part of my day. She charted how productivity peaks in the mornings, when focus and energy abound. This was precious time for thinking creatively, whether problem-solving or business planning. But most mornings, I was sleeping right up to the time I had to get ready for work. On the mornings that I did wake early, I didn’t spend the extra time thoughtfully. I realized I had to take advantage of this time, but how? My days felt completely full. Then, Vanderkam showed me where the time was—at the end of my night.
In contrast to the peak of the morning, evenings were full of waste. Mindless TV watching, surfing the Internet, lounging about. Not fully relaxing, and yet not fully
engaging the time. I knew this was true for me. Vanderkam recommended cutting this time, and just going to bed earlier. That’s it—all I needed to find productive time was to go to bed earlier, and then wake up earlier. Why? Because the time at the end of the day was not the same as the time at the beginning. At the end of the day, I’m worn out, while in the morning I’m ready to start anything.
Seemed simple enough, so I decided to try it for a week to see what happened. As Vanderkam suggests, I wrote a list of my perfect morning, noting what I thought would make me feel energized, productive, and most of all, excited to wake up. I decided I didn’t want each morning to be the same—two mornings a week I wanted to get up and workout, either run around my neighborhood or take a yoga class at my gym. The other mornings, I wanted to have a cup of tea while I blogged, planned goals for projects, or studied Chinese. I determined how much time I needed for all of these activities, and how much earlier I would need to go to bed to still get a full night’s rest. I started to wake up earlier and earlier to have about an hour and a half to myself in the mornings. I didn’t miss the time at night, previously spent on Facebook and half-watching reality TV. And I loved the mornings when the extra time felt like a special treat.
My experiment has since become part of my routine (with a few exceptions, when late nights of work or fun necessitate setting my alarm clock a little later). The best part of my new schedule is that I don’t dread the alarm—when I’m waking up early to invest in my health or career, I’m excited to get out of bed and start the day.
How do you find more time in your day? Already an early riser? Leave a comment and let us know how you use your mornings.
Photo courtesy of Tuva Malmo