I wrote the below story two years ago. It’s one of the few concrete resolutions I set out for myself and actually accomplished: a former night owl, I am now a fully converted morning person. We’re re-sharing it for the New Year in case you’ve been thinking about rising with the early birds to get ahead on your 2018 goals.
During a recent phase of my life titled, “Permanently Insane,” it dawned on me that the only way I’d get more hours in the day (and thus, sanity) was to become an early riser. Here’s the issue: things that “dawn” and I do not get along.
I’ve never been a morning person. I also find birds to be the worst. Their historical appointment as productive, pre-punctual role models is unwarranted. I can sort of understand why one might wake up early for bacon or Christmas — not so much for worms.
I didn’t even know if it was possible to change your circadian rhythm. To me, there were two kinds of people in the world: those who slept in, and those who were serial killers. Still, this seemed to be my only solution. Birds really do get a lot done.
Here’s how I attempted to be one:
Step 1: Make a plan and set small goals.
In tandem with my Big Morning Decision, I was trying to get into meditation. The program I’d signed up for suggested two things: 1) that I Ohm at the same time every day and 2) that I do so incrementally, which meant that for one week, I just had to open my eyes when my alarm clock went off. The second week, I actually had to sit up. By the third week, I had to get my ass out of bed and sit on a “meditation chair.”
After 30 days I was seated on said chair every morning — not meditating, but not napping, either. This was Early Bird progress. It was also the most important part of the process.
Step 2: Say goodbye to blackout shades.
You need light. Switch every flip immediately upon waking up. It gets you out of bed and makes it hard to fall back asleep. Don’t have a window/need to get up before dawn to make this work? Buy one of these.
Step 3: Don’t send yourself into shock by immediately “doing things.” Let yourself actually wake up.
Once I got used to operating on farmer time, I tried to make the experience pleasant. First, I’d turn on music. Then I’d make coffee, read a quick news debrief and stare at my neighbors through the window. (Hi!) I found that telling myself, “We’re going to have a nice morning!” made getting out of bed less dreadful.
Step 4: That said, being a morning person actually means doing stuff, so do stuff, but keep it reasonable. Like don’t do math, but maybe do yoga.
By month 2, I began opening my eyes before the alarm went off like a recovered athlete in a Nyquil commercial. This meant it was time to start being productive.
I began with a 30-minute at-home workout every day (reasonable goal-setting), which still allowed me time to do other things like shower and run errands. Morning errands, I learned, are the only way to do errands, mostly because I had never before done errands. Now I am grown up.
Step 5: Once you hit your goal, don’t be afraid to expand it. It gets easier — like waxing.
By July I was a waking-up pro. So much so that I realized I could handle an even earlier call time. I began setting my alarm for half an hour earlier, which meant I could leave home to workout. This also left me with an entire hour to myself before work. I took up flossing.
Step 6: Keep it to yourself.
The most important thing I learned from birds is that no one wants to hear about your achievements in waking up. Birds have not yet learned this, which you know if you’ve ever had a window. They’re the loud, feathered equivalent of those people who send gym Snapchats. At least I’m waking them up now.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis