30 Days of Becoming a Morning Person

I’d like to clarify something before we dive in. This is not your standard, “5 Things Successful People Do in the Morning,” Forbes article. I say this right away for two reasons:

  1. I’m a sucker for those articles. Who wouldn’t find Beyonce’s workout routine inspiring? Why wouldn’t I want to know what Sheryl Sandberg eats for breakfast?  I’m on the hunt for the recipe for success just like any other relatively young professional. Which is why I’d like to warn my fellow suckers that the contents of this post do not, in any way, include tips for work-related productivity.
  2.  Although I’m guilty of taking the click-bate, the world has too many predictable morning routine articles. Worse, they’re all designed to make us feel like crap – like we’ll fall behind in life unless we optimize every hour of the day to enhance our career. In my opinion, they perpetuate a current unhealthy cultural trend, a trend that positions busyness as an accessory to the successful. I have no doubt that the people who do spend every waking second thinking about their career are successful. But are they happy?

The desire to become a morning person (and write about it) came from a place of frustration with this busyness trend and a need to build more “Allie-ness” back into my life. In what could arguably be categorized as a quarter-life crisis, I started to take stock of how I was spending the hours that made up my life.

Snooze button. Snooze button. Snooze button. Wake up. Shower. Rush out the door. Work, work, work some more. Dinner. Netflix. Check Email. Bed. Repeat.

The exercise told me a couple of things: (1) I was giving every ounce of energy to work, succumbing to mental exhaustion, my couch and Netflix at the end of the day: (2) The mundaneness of my daily routine felt like it was sucking the personality out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. My job brings me a certain kind of joy. But it’s a joy that comes from contributing to something bigger than myself. The hours I spend towards my career are hours I give to others – to my boss, my team and my clients. What I was missing were hours in the day dedicated to the things that made me, me.

1. Find Your Motivation

Our beloved Forbes article would kick this section off with a commentary on productivity. It would cite big celebrity names to ignite aspiration. It would mask workaholism with things that seem geared towards wellness – meditation, exercise, digital detox – but all positioned as tips to enhance work performance. To avoid falling into this trap, I thought back to a time in my life when I felt most powerfully myself.

Immediately, I had a visual of it. Senior year of college. Striding across campus on an apple-crisp fall day. Vampire Weekend on my headphones. Too many books in my backpack. Ponytail swinging. With that version of myself in mind, I listed out how I was spending my free time during that year of my life. I was running a lot. I was reading, writing and listening to new music. I was continuously learning. That list, that vision of my happy, confident self, became the motivation for changing my morning ritual, not getting ahead at work.

2. Set A Schedule

Motivation was probably the easiest piece to tackle in my quest to becoming a morning person. I knew from the start that I wanted to approach it differently, but there was still the issue of actually getting my lazy, sleepy ass out of bed at 6am with no one to hold me accountable. Which is why I found ways to create accountability in the form of a schedule. Because regular exercise was on my happy-self motivation list, I forced myself to go to a morning yoga class. It gave me a specific time and place to be, allowing my body’s internal clock to warm up to the idea of becoming a morning person.

3. Make Your Mornings Indulgent

The first couple weeks of the quest were pretty hellish. I found that my dysfunctional dependency on the snooze button ran much deeper than I expected. If I made it to my mat, I felt great. But somehow that 30 minute post-yoga-class-high wasn’t enough motivation to kick my bad morning habits. I was treating this new morning routine like another item on productivity to-do list, adding another element of stress to my life.

To correct, I painted a picture of what my most indulgent morning looked like. Yes, it included a workout. But it also included making coffee, reading, listening to music and eating a chocolate croissant every once in a while. More importantly, my most indulgent morning included plenty of time for me to enjoy those things, not rush through them in order to get to the next item on my to-do list.

4. Be Patient With Yourself

It wasn’t until day 15  that I really began to hit my stride. By carving out a loose schedule of favorite things and giving myself time to actually enjoy them, I started to look forward to getting out of bed. My 6am alarm felt more like a choice than an obligation. At the same time, 30 days later, I’m still not a morning person. Sometimes extra sleep is the indulgent morning routine my mind and body needs. There are at  least one or two (sometimes three) days of the week when I allow myself to be my lazy, sleepy self. It feels glorious. But so does starting my day at sunrise, watching my Chemex slow drip coffee to the tunes of Chet Baker while finishing up the last chapter of the book I’ve been meaning to read for years.

Illustration by Kate Worum


Photo by Antasia Galka

Allie is a Minneapolis-based digital marketer, lucky enough to make a living by hanging out with really smart people and coming up with disruptive, technology driven ideas at space150. Her passions include traveling, coffee, books, feminism, obsessing over the dog she just saw on the street corner and trying not to blush at inconvenient moments.

 

  • Tell yourself you are moving to a new timezone, to the east. So you treat it like jet lag. If mentally you can’t deal with going to bed before midnight, then tell yourself, hey, in London, it’s 3 a.m. (which would be 10 p.m. Eastern); i’d better hit the sack. After two weeks, you should be on a new schedule.

  • Great advice! I am a morning person, but lately since starting to work from home I have been slacking a bit so this was the motivation I needed to get back on track! For me breakfast is the happiest time of day, so I try to plan an extra nice breakfast so that I want to get up early to enjoy it (usually the planning happens when I’m in bed the evening before so I am already excited about getting up before even closing my eyes).

    Ingrid | thatscandinavianfeeling.com

  • I am so up for this challenge. I am a chronic snoozer, but I think you’re right that we should learn from other things we’ve stuck to. I’ve been so good at getting on with exercising this year so I’m going to try the same technique here so I actually get up

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • YOUR ARTICLES ARE THE BEST, MOST RELATABLE ONES ON THE INTERNET RIGHT NOW (THIS IS COMING FROM A 26 YEAR OLD WHO IS ALSO, ARGUABLY, EXPERIENCING A QUARTER LIFE CRISIS AT THE MOMENT). THANK YOU FOR WRITING! XX

  • Finding something to indulge on in the morning is probably the best tips I’ve read. I’m terrible in the morning, mostly because I go to bed to late. I’ve been trying to turn my clock around a little bit, much like a child or someone in a new timezone.