My day starts at around 5-5:30am long before Zahra wakes up. There was a time a few years ago that I would get up at this time to go to the gym. The alarm would pierce through my dreams forcing me to swivel out from under the duvet, placing my feet on the cold floor without time to even hit the snooze button. It was horrible. I’d leave the house in sub-zero temperatures without even a hot shower to warm me up. Then train so hard I couldn’t stomach breakfast even if I wanted to. Of course I felt amazing afterwards. But those endorphins were wasted when I’d arrive at my office job and have the energy sucked out of me by the general air of boredom and dissatisfaction characteristic of most places full of desks and computers.
Nowadays, I wake up naturally at this time (no alarm clock or caffeine needed!) feeling refreshed and excited to get up and get things done in the precious quiet time before my day with a 7-month old begins. I do feel like the luckiest person alive that she’s such a solid sleeper. But still, I’ve had to train my body to do this in order to get this time to myself. It’s oh so tempting to stay up and watch Netflix after she’s hit the sack, but in truth, it never gives me the kind of relaxation I really need.
What I have come to know is that I need a slow start to the morning and time to myself. A piping hot cup of coffee under a warm blanket on the sofa works for me. I’ve also found I am most focused in the morning so using my brain at this time to write is more productive than exercise. Finding out what your own rhythms are will help you utilise the time when you are most productive.
So here’s how I go about getting up at 5am with only decaf to help!
Be consistent in your bedtimes
This is essential for your circadian rhythm to adjust to a regular bed and waking time. Work out how much sleep you need (don’t short change yourself here as lack of sleep will decrease your productivity far more) and count backwards to decide your bedtime.
Start bedtime planning in the afternoon
I read about an author who starts writing at 4am. I find early mornings are the magical hour to get things done and all my blog writing happens at this time. In order to get up for 4am she started her wind-down bedtime planning at around 2pm to get to bed early enough. It feels odd thinking about bedtime early on in the day, but it ensures you get everything you need done in time so you’re not rushing round in the evening. The real discipline is getting to bed early. Once you ensure you get enough sleep getting up at 5am becomes the easy part
Set an early dinner time
This is the keystone to getting to bed early. You need to leave a few hours before bed so your body can digest your evening meal. Which means starting to get dinner ready pretty early. I aim to eat around 6pm to sleep at 10pm.
Self-care in the evening
Set aside some time for self-care as part of your evening routine. A bath or shower, some Pilates or Yoga encourages your body to slow down.
Stop the tech
I know it’s such a snore being told to banish screens near bedtime. You’ve no doubt heard this a million times before but there’s a reason for that: Netflix, Facebook, Instagram are not good bedfellows. They’re just going to leave you feeling tired and wired.
Read a book for 30 minutes before bed
My bedtime is 9.30pm so I can sleep at 10pm. Structuring in that 30 minutes reading window makes all the difference to getting to sleep on time. The added bonus is I’m getting through all the books that I never seem to get round to reading.
When your alarm goes off get out of bed and start
It’s tempting to stay warm in bed but I’m assuming you want to get up at 5am to get things done such as work towards an important goal. Cosy up on the sofa if you can do your important tasks there, but you will feel far more productive as soon as you get out of bed. Making those dreams become not just the thing you do when you’re asleep.