Do you have one habit or belief that greatly limits your actions? My habit is rising early from bed, or rather not rising early from bed. Some days and weeks everything goes well, others days I can sleep until 11am on workdays and even longer on weekends. I’ve been working on solutions for 6 years now and I’m starting to doubt there is a permanent solution to this problem; whenever I come up with one strategy the mind comes up with a counter-strategy, stupid mind (or intelligent).
Sometimes I’ve thrown in the towel, but after a week or two I get tired of not rising early (or any problem for that fact) that I start figuring out a solution. I also know that when I’m getting up in time I feel refreshed throughout the whole day, I quit work earlier, and it doesn’t feel like the half day has passed before I actually start working. It doesn’t really help that I’m self-employed, meaning I can start and end my day whenever I want. 😛
I’ve learned quite a lot throughout the years, especially on strategies for rising early that works for me, I say me since I don’t think these strategies work for everyone. My mindset has also shifted to find a solution for the problem and failures, and don’t see a failure as a defeat but as a challenge. Although it sometimes takes time and willpower to tackle the challenge. When I fail I try to think of a situation so I (hopefully) won’t fail by the same thing once again.
I’m not saying all strategies work, because most of them didn’t work for me, not in isolation but in a combination work. My idea is to hopefully expand your general mindset of problem solving, give you new ideas how to rise early, but also thinking outside the box with the not-so-common strategies 🙂
Placing the alarm in weird location The very first step for me was placing my phone in weird locations. First on top of a closet that required a chair to reach. This didn’t work at all; I simple turned of the alarm and fell right into the bed. Neither did it work to hide the phone nor place it in a box with a key that had to be fetched, even if key was hidden among the dirty clothes. A year later I figured out that it didn’t work for me because the phone was in the same room as the bed, meaning minimal effort to go back to bed.
Replacing the alarm sound with music After failing with different locations I tried switching the alarm signal to music. This worked for about a week, then I got used to the song and had to change it; after a while no song worked. I then found another strategy: Fading in the music for 5 minutes and using random songs. The idea was that by fading in the music I would fade out of sleep, waking up calm. This worked longer than I had expected, but it wasn’t fully reliable. If an awesome song was played I could listen to it until the alarm stopped after 15 minutes, sort of like snoozing to music. I kept using this strategy for 3-4 years till I changed back to a regular alarm keeping the fade in effect, this worked a lot better 🙂
Puzzle to stop the alarm While fiddling with the settings in the alarm app I accidentally found that I could set a puzzle to remember then strike. Sort of like the Simon Says game. First I set it to remembering 3 steps on slowest speed. It didn’t take long until I had to use max speed and remembering 9 steps. This strategy was mostly for my brain to wake up—I had to if I wanted to stop the alarm—and use my willpower to continue my day.
Placing the alarm in another room As I figured out that placing the alarm in the same room didn’t work, what about in another room? That worked much better as long as I didn’t go back to the bed and figure out the puzzle there. I started with the phone in the hall, but that wasn’t enough so I put it in the bathroom. This worked like a charm, I could sit on the toilet while trying to figure out the puzzle 😀 How did it go when the toilet was occupied? Not so well 😛 Quite recently I decided on having the phone in the kitchen so I could take a glass of water (which by some should help) before going back with the phone to the toilet. What all these solutions did were to create a barrier between me and the bed so I wouldn’t go back to it and when I’m in the toilet it’s almost as easy to take a shower instead of going back to bed.
Getting everything ready for the next day Although I had the phone in the toilet it wasn’t always enough. I found somewhere that if you make it extremely easy with no decisions it’s a lot easier and it was. So before I went to bed I picked the clothes I was going to wear the next day and placed them in the bathroom; I decided on what tasks I should do tomorrow; and I almost always ate the same breakfast. That might be taking it to the extreme, but it worked for me and I still do this although I’ve started slacking on some things.
Gradually getting up earlier Here you set a time you think you could manage to get up every (work) day. Say 10am. Then each day you get up say 5 minutes earlier or every week you get up 15-30 minutes earlier. This takes some time until you get to your desired time but builds a habit that should make it easier. I found that it was hard to get up every day, but not too hard.
Getting up at the same time every day Somewhat the opposite of the above strategy but uses the same principle, a habit. It takes more willpower the first week or two to get up, but then it gets easier. These kind of habits don’t work on me and the only time it worked was because the 30 day challenge described below 😉
The Not-So-Common Strategies
30 day challenge I found this article by Steve Pavlina introducing 30 day challenges. It’s a great article and if you like testing new things or getting a start on a habit I can recommend reading this. In short you try one and only one thing and focus solely on accomplishing that for 30 consecutive days; i.e. if you fail one day then you restart from the beginning. You make this challenge the most important thing in these 30 days. I used this strategy with being up from bed at latest by 6:00am. After 4 days I failed, but I quickly identified the problem and tried again now I was successful for 30 days 😀 The 31st day wasn’t a success though 😛 I still rose early the first week but then everything went back to “normal”. I didn’t like this particularly well either because I had to rise early, even on weekends when I went to sleep at 2am one day 😛
Get a “boss” This works great if you want to boost-start anything really and don’t want to disappoint people. I had to do a call to a person at 8am every workday saying that I was awake. That’s all. Takes 30s, but requires another person.
Vision and motivation so you really want to get up Think of it like visionary thinking and making sure you find that your current life is awesome. The idea is that you know how awesome it is or how awesome the project is and you naturally get up because you really look forward to the day. If you’ve had any of those days you know what I mean 😉 Think of having that energy almost every day. It’s really nice to have this energy, but it doesn’t help me rise from the bed. What happened was that I lay in the bed thinking of everything that was awesome and how awesome the day would be and after a 15–60 min I would either go up or (more common) get tired and fall asleep again. 😛
Practise rising (linking habits) I got this brilliant idea from Steve Pavlina, it might sound weird to practise rising, but it works. If I ever start to fail to rise again I can take 3-5 days for practising rising and it’s already a lot easier. What do I do? First I make sure the phone, clothes, blinders are set like I would wake up for real. Then I set the alarm for 3 minutes. Go into bed and pretend to sleep. When I hear the alarm I wake up stretch myself, smile and think “what a wonderful day this will be”, go turn of the phone and do by daily rise habit all the way into the shower (I simulate taking a shower for 3s). Then rinse and repeat 2 more times. This reinforces your morning routine/habit so you don’t even have to think what to do next, you simple do. This works great for me as thinking is my greatest enemy. I only have 20% success rate on rising up if I think “maybe I should go back to bed”. Hmm… Got an idea. Maybe I should try to turn off the puzzle after all these changes and see if it works better without it. Also, if I make it to the shower I’m 100% certain I’m up, because I’ve never ever went bad to bed after entering the shower 🙂
Thoughts and Conclusion
Although rising early or when the alarm rings can be easy for some, it’s not that easy for all of us. I’ve tried thinking “This is just stupid, rising is easy, I just have to do it”, but that doesn’t work at all. I need strategies. I guess this serves as a reminder that tasks I find easy and “just do it” might actually be like climbing a mountain (for those of us that don’t do that on a regular basis :P). Hmm… This post almost makes getting up from bed look like rocket science.
Although I have several strategies I don’t know which ones to use when; rather than finding new strategies I’m trying to tweak the existing and figuring out when to use them. Do you have any strategies, or do you simple just get up?