How to Become a Morning Person for your Business
I have never once considered myself a morning person. When I first started my career as a teacher, getting up at 6:30 and needing to be fully ready for the day, out the door, and in my classroom by 7:20am every day was the HARDEST thing for me to do. I was always the teacher squeaking in at 7:19, coffee in hand, because I liked that snooze button on my alarm clock and liked my sleep. I would talk to a few other teachers at my school, all older than me, who would tell me they’d be up for the day between 4 or 5, get in a walk, some quiet time, whatever their heart desired, and I literally would shake my head in disbelief time and time again and say “I’ll take my sleep over quiet time.”
A few years of balancing both teaching and running my business on the evenings and weekends, I chose to take the leap of faith, “retire” from teaching, and run my business full time.
I have always considered myself a night owl and loved to stay up working late - there were many nights that I was up until 11, 12, sometimes even 2 am just a-working away. I love what I do and can sit and work for long stretches without realizing I need to get up and move, so I literally have to set an alarm to tell myself to stop and close the computer and walk away. To be honest now, I look back at those days now and see how bad it was for my self care. It’s very easy to become a workaholic when you love what you do because it doesn’t feel like work. My life revolved around all the work things, had no semblance of a schedule, and didn’t feel a need for one.
BUT. Then we had kids. Enter literally the biggest wake-up calls we’ve ever had.
The first sweet baby of ours didn’t sleep through the night until she was a year old, and then our second, who chose not to do so until he was two. That’s a long time of not much sleep, y’all.
I quickly found that all of the time I previously had to stay up late and had all of the time in the world to work all of those crazy hours succumbed to night time feedings, trying to keep the house clean, and generally chase after some sort of “normal” with my days.
Not only was I exhausted, my whole world got turned upside down and I was filled with stress, and the words "I just feel like I can’t ever get anything done, and I’m just. so. tired". definitely escaped my lips as tears rolled down my cheeks in conversations with my husband more than I’d like to admit.
As a sidenote, I do want to add here - self care is a NEED, not a want. It’s something as entrepreneurs a lot of us do not do enough of. Looking back, seeing just how crazy this routine of mine was, and I definitely was not taking care of myself like I should. I don’t want this “trend” to continue. We need to all take better care of ourselves. Period.
I no longer had the long nights that I could work, because I was simply exhausted all the time. And by the time the evening did come, I was so tired that I found the work I was doing was not up to my own standards - nor did I need to be emailing clients at 11pm or midnight. I had to make a change if I was going to feel good about the work I was putting out into the world, didn't want my to-do list on my mind ALL day long, and I wanted to have time to spend with my family during the day and in the evenings - I didn’t want my business to run our life anymore, I wanted to run my life and have my business be a part of it.
So I started thinking back to those teachers - and suddenly, the thought of having just a few minutes to myself before my littles were up for the day made me swoon. The thought that I could have some ME time to do whatever it was I wanted - be it read, go for a walk, work, whatever I wanted during that time sounded better and better by the day. So I made it a goal to give myself a YEAR to turn into a morning person. I started in January of 2017, working slowly towards this, and now in March of 2018, I am one of “those women” who gets up at 4am every weekday, and those three hours that I have just for me before the rest of the house is awake are now my most treasured and my most productive worktimes of the day.
From many conversations I’ve had with many women who are entrepreneurs, especially mamas (most recently on this podcast episode with Suzi of Splendidly Curious), they tell me this is enticing to have 3+ hours a day to yourself other than naptime, but don’t know where to start. So today, this post is all about it!
I do want to say here at this point - I work from home with my two kiddos who are currently 3 and 5, and they are only at preschool 3 days a week for 3 hours at a time. This is a need for this season in my life until they are both in school. Once they’re in school and I can work different hours due to the time I will have when they’re there, I don’t know if I will continue to get up quite this early. So for now, in order to give them the best version of me as mom in these precious couple of years I have with them to make memories at home with them before they’re gone every day for the 18+years that follow, this is what I have found is best for our family.
Our businesses are meant to support our family, but not run our family. Being aware of how we are living our days and putting good habits into place will help the two to ebb and flow in tandem together for whatever seasons that life may bring. So this post below is a pretty personal one, and is what I have found that works to run my businesses and feel that I can be present with my family every day. I hope you find it incredibly helpful!
Step One: Start sloooooooooooooooow.
It’s easy to say “okay! I’m not waking up until 9am now, but tomorrow I’m going to get up at 4. COME ON, LET’S DO THIS.”
And I instead have to encourage you to say no to that at first.
Not only will that probably send your body into shock and make you just simply cranky all day long, you probably won’t want to stick to it for more than a couple of days. You have to give your body time to adjust.
Especially if you have little ones at home, start to think about their sleep schedules - when do they wake up? Do you find that you currently get up when they get up? If so, can you set an alarm for just 20 minutes prior to when they’re up, actually get up when it goes off, and do that for a week straight? When you’ve done it for a week, or a couple of weeks, whenever you feel comfortable with adjusting your internal clock to getting up earlier, add another 10 minutes. Then another 10. The key here is to go slow.
Also, on that same note, don’t just snap your fingers and expect the magic to happen. From people I’ve talked to who have had the most success with this, transitioning to getting up earlier is a very slow process, definitely not something that happens overnight (no pun intended).
A note to all of the new moms reading this post:
If you do have a newborn or a baby less than a year old at home, please don't try to do this at first or give yourself a hard time if it doesn't work - those first few months with them you will be in transitional stages all the time. I do not suggest that now is the time to start this kind of a routine, until you have learned the ebbs and flows of their routine to determine what will work best for you in this new season. Give yourself grace, mama.
Step Two: Do something you love FIRST during that time.
Unless you love folding the laundry that you didn’t get to yesterday and truly want to start your day with it, what is instead something you would LOVE to do more of for yourself, that you continually push to the side? What is something you can do in those 15 minutes that you will love and look forward to daily, that will make you want to get up in the morning?
Perhaps it’s sipping a cup of hot coffee without having to reheat it first, sitting out on the back porch simply listening to the birds, reading a book or doing a devotional, doodling in your iPad, going for a walk or working out, but make sure you are doing something JUST FOR YOU. If instead of checking your phone first and scrolling through Instagram for 15 minutes, what instead could you do that would fill up your own cup each morning first before absorbing content that other people are creating?
You are getting up early to have more time for you, to do what you would like to do, whether its create or design or read or write.
What do YOU want to start your day with? That is the key to remember here.
Step Three: Having troubles getting up? Move your alarm.
I used to hit snooze all the time when my alarm would go off. I literally could hit the snooze button for an hour, but then when I finally do get up I kick myself for it, because that’s now an hour I could have been doing something that I wanted to instead.
So, now my alarm is actually in our master bathroom - yes, you read that right. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I have to get up the first time it goes off, and literally walk into another room to turn it off. Which means I have to turn a corner around the end of our bed in the dark, find my way through a doorway in the dark, and find the alarm going off in the dark (it’s on my phone, which is facedown so there’s only a subtle glow) which all starts to wake up my brain.
I need to get up because I want to be respectful to my husband, who sleeps until 7 - my alarm doesn’t wake him up anymore, but it did at first. I have it on the same tone every day so that MY brain is now trained to wake up and get moving, and HIS brain is trained to ignore it.
I love the Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins when it comes to our brains - we have five seconds to act on a decision otherwise our brain will stop the idea. Which means in the quick moments after I have my phone in hand and the alarm is off, I can walk back to the bed and lay down and get some more sleep and miss my morning time, or turn the other direction and walk out of the room and get going. I’m at the point now that if the thought crosses my mind to go back to sleep, I hear a strong NO and I hightail it to the kitchen to get my coffee instead.
Once I started realizing I could get up earlier, I started realizing that this could be my prime work time to focus on the things that have the highest priority - but it is imperative to me that I also protect my time to myself these days too. So, I get up at 4 and have an hour to myself first - I sip my coffee (that does NOT need to be reheated, mind you) and work through a devotional, then once 5am hits, I put in my headphones, put on a loved playlist, and get to work on the task (or tasks) of the day with the highest importance.
I now have three solid hours of quiet in the house (most mornings, unless one of our littles randomly wakes up early, which happens too) to have time just for me and it is glorious.
Step Four: Prep yourself for Success the Night Before.
I use a daily planner along with Asana to keep track of what I need to each day, specifically noting appointments and top to-dos. Before the day ends, I write in my planner the top FOUR priorities that need to get done in the morning of the following day so that when I wake up and write them down in those two hourly slots, leave it open face-up and ready next to my computer so I don’t have to spend any time piddling and wondering what I could be doing, thus feeling like I’m wasting my time.
I use time blocking for a lot of different aspects of my business, and this 5-7am time slot is my prime productivity time. I schedule in the one or two things that are of the highest importance, and do not move onto the next task until they are both complete.
Also - if you know me, you know I love my coffee. I prep the Keurig the night before - set my mug out, my coffee out, and make sure it’s filled with water, so that literally all I have to do is drop the coffee pod in and hit a button. I don’t have to fumble (or make noise) looking for a mug, don’t have to fill water in the reservoir, it’s literally ready to go.
I also have my devotional open and to the page for the day on my desk so that when I walk into my office at 4:05, that is what I first see front and center when I sit down in front of me. Call me crazy but in that five seconds (there’s the five second rule again!) if I close up my book, put it to the side, and pull my planner towards me or start up my computer instead, I get onto myself for it and the self-induced guilt that I’m choosing work over me stops me from doing that every single time.
It’s really easy for me to want to get right to work when I get up - but having my days begin with me time first are imperative for a good morning once everyone else is awake. And let’s be honest, do any of us really need or want to be writing/sending emails at 4:30 A.M.?? ;) So, in your dedicated me time, what do you want to first start your day with, and where in the house do you want your morning spot to be?
Can you set yourself up for success and have something literally set up and waiting for you?
I can tell you this, to have your top one or two priorities complete for the day before it truly begins is a gamechanger in stress levels. There is nothing worse than if you’re a mom to littles and have the feeling of “I just need him to take a nap so I can get ONE thing done today”.
As parents, our schedules are not always routine - and if our littles are sick, the last thing we want to think while we are rocking them is all of the work we won’t be able to get done or about that looming to do list that you haven’t touched all day since you had planned on doing it during their naptime.
By setting your highest priority tasks to be completed first thing (and planning ahead so that you’re not waiting until the day items are due / need to be shared / need to be written to work on them and thus urgent high priority tasks) completely changes your mindset and will make your days a lot less stressful. And that also means that those evenings you are spending on the computer working on what you didn’t get done earlier? Hopefully this will lead to you closing the door to working the evenings away and being happy with the progress you are making daily, not feel one bit guilty about it, and go spend time with the people you love being fully present with them.
Supplemental Quick-Win Activity: Create your Ideal Week
Step Five: Adapt your Evening Schedule.
This one is a big one - we can't be walking around like permanently exhausted pigeons - if you are going to get up earlier in the morning, it's a need that you will need to have quieter evenings, not be out late doing things, and go to sleep sooner. You know your body the best, and you know the amount of rest you need each night in order to properly take care of yourself. You need to make the choice to go to bed at an earlier time if you're going to get up at an earlier time in the morning. This means no more Netflix binges until 2am and then turning around and getting yourself up at 5am to start your day, and staying constantly tired. You need to take care of yourself and get your needed rest too.
And finally - Give yourself grace.
It may be that you are wired and meant to be a mid-day or evening rockstar - for me, I am now what you would call a morning person (but to those wondering, no I am not a “peppy” morning person. You won’t see me starting my days like this favorite episode of mine from Friends. I want to drink every sip of coffee I can before any of the day begins, and love that it starts quietly. I'm pretty sure I would be like Rachel in this episode, for those of you familiar. ;)
I do want to suggest though, give it a try, if you think that this is something that may work for you, and make the plan to stick to it for just 30 days. 30 days! Don’t think of this as a Whole 30 experiment where you can fall of the wagon after just a few days … if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Adapt this to what works best for you and you’ll find what works the best for YOU.
And know, like everything else you put your mind to, that you can do this!