Okay, so in January I started getting up at 4:30 every morning. It’s made such a huge difference in my creativity, state of mind and enthusiasm for my work. Why? By getting up this early, I now have the time and energy to exercise, meditate and paint every day before I do anything else. Here’s how I make it work:
Step 1: Go to bed early
Seriously, this is the key to the whole schedule. Since I tend to take a long time falling asleep at night, I started making myself go to bed at 7:30 every night. This gives me up to nine hours of potential sleep time and, especially in the winter, I was surprised to discover that it works a lot better with my natural sleep cycle than when I had previously gone to bed around 10:30.
When I started this new schedule, getting up early caused me to become so exhausted by the end of the day that 7:30 didn’t sound so bad, even when I’d taken a mid-morning nap. It took me about a week or two to adjust to my new sleep schedule, and now it works pretty easily.
Step 2: Wake up naturally (sort of)
I like to wake up using my Sleep Cycle Alarm app that’s installed on my phone. The app tracks my levels of deep sleep to wakefulness throughout the night so that it can wake me at my lightest level of sleep during a half hour period (I set it to 4:15-4:45). When I wake up this way, I feel rested instead of being jarred awake by a traditional alarm.
Step 3: Exercise
Once I’m up, I have about an hour and a half to complete my morning routine before I have to start getting ready for work. My yoga mat and free weights are in a corner of my bedroom, so the first thing I do after drinking a glass of water is exercise. I do a light strength training cycle for about 10 minutes while listening to a podcast. I’ve made up my own cycle of exercises, but it’s similar to the 7-minute workout.
Step 4: Meditate
After I finish exercising, I sit down on a pillow I store next to my yoga mat and switch from a podcast to a guided meditation for 5-10 minutes. I use the app Stop, Breathe and Think daily and usually listen to the Mindful Breathing meditation. This quiets my mind, calms my breath and gets me into the right mindset to be creative.
Step 5: Coffee or hot chocolate
I like the ritual of making something hot to drink first thing in the morning. I’m really sensitive to caffeine, so for me this usually means brewing a decaf latte or making a hot chocolate from scratch. This is enough to get me going and puts something in my belly until it’s time to eat breakfast.
Step 6: Art
At this point, it’s about 5:00 am, which means I have an hour or so to paint, sketch or design. Sometimes I use this hour to work on the business side of Yardia, but usually this time is devoted to creative work. I continue to listen to the podcast I started earlier and am able to quickly get into a flow of creating while everyone else is still asleep. I love looking out my studio window to watch the sunrise and appreciate the stillness of my neighborhood during this time. By the time 6:00 rolls around and I have to transition to the rest of my day, I'm wide awake, refreshed and feel confident in how much I’ve accomplished.
Why this works for me
I love this routine because it lets me look forward to waking up each morning. I do all the most important activities (exercise, meditation and art) before I do anything else, so no matter how the rest of my day goes, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, have been productive, and have taken care of my basic needs and passions first. As long as I stick to the ritual each morning, I find that I have the energy and motivation to keep going forward in my business and in the rest of my day.
If you want to try this yourself, I recommend starting with the mindset of it being an experiment. Get up early on a weekend morning with the understanding that you can take a nap later if you need to. Exercise, meditate, and then spend an hour following your passion or working on a big goal. Work on something that feeds your soul. Try this routine for a week or two. The first couple days you might feel tired as your body adjusts to the new cycle, but it should even out soon enough. It’s worth the transition to start your morning by fulfilling your basic needs of health, wellness and passion before you have to respond to the needs of anyone else during the day.
If you try changing up your morning routine, let me know how it goes.