I used to think that getting up early was so uncomfortable and frustrating that I didn’t want to do it. Nothing made me angrier than seeing the world before 7 AM. Now, I’m a person who gets up at 5:15 AM most mornings, and for a simple reason: it makes my days better.
There are a few ways in which waking up so early and having a great routine set for that time makes me happier, but what I’ve realized lately is that having an early morning routine is also helping me have better days financially. The decisions and activities of my pre-dawn hours are actually helping me succeed the rest of the day.
I’ve read in a lot of places that meditation can be one of the best ways to start the day, but the pressure to meditate specifically for 15 or 30 minutes is more than I find helpful. Instead, my strategy is to give myself two separate kinds of meditation.
First, I try to overcome my initial wake-up emotions of confusion and panic: rather than trying to immediately leap out of bed for fear that I’ll just fall back to sleep, I try to give myself a few moments to really work myself out of my slumber before I try to get up. This kind of meditation looks suspiciously like just staying in bed and dozing, but when done intentionally, it can provide a space to let your emotions get settled after waking up.
I don’t know if this time really changes my attitude, but I find that I’m way less impulsive on days when I have this meditation routine. For instance, having this time to think through my feelings tends to mean I don’t get overwhelmed later in the morning and decide to eat out instead of preparing food. Calm Laura is almost always better at making financial decisions.
The second kind of meditation is actual goal setting: while I don’t mind letting the time pass while I do this, it is more guided than just trying to clear my mind. I want to think about the qualities that will make that day positive. The opposite for me tends to be a fatalistic attitude that all the worst things will happen, so positivity is active, not passive for me. Creating these intentions for the day, be they producing a lot of great writing or just paying kind attention to my co-workers, makes me more prepared to actually feel successful.
After the meditation part of the morning, I use a combination planner/journal to make sure I keep track of my intentions and turn them into specific actions. My journal also asks me to write out things that I’m grateful for and to make a structured schedule for the day, so in only 5 or 10 minutes of work, I can find myself changing my attitudes about deficit into an attitude of thankfulness.
Especially around this time of year, I am reminded that we are less reactive in our purchasing when we see the things we already have as great and enough; certainly, we don’t stop having desires when we’re grateful, but I think that our hunger for newness can be dimmed a little when we spend a bit of time each day celebrating what already has happened to us. I find this to be helpful as well when I get impatient for all the career success I want to eventually happen to me…Rather than needing it right now, I can plan and prepare for new opportunities.
I use a stationary bike usually, but when the weather is good, I sometimes run outdoors before dawn. There is something so delightful about exercising before most people are even awake; rather than starting the day like I’m already falling behind, this allows me to feel like I have a head start. I won’t lie, I still don’t love the moment when I start running at 5:30 in the morning, but I do love the feeling of getting back to the quiet house and being fully awake and ready for what comes next. Exercising early puts me in a much better mental space for work, which translates to greater success at work and in any spending decisions that come next.
Getting up early has had such a good effect on my eating habits in the morning. When I woke up at the last possible moment, the food I ate was either drive-thru food or whatever portable food was in the kitchen — far from mindful choices! Now, my favorite option is a smoothie, which combines a fairly quick prep with being sweet and full of veggies and fruit. Oatmeal, whole wheat toast, and eggs are all options when I’m not halfway out the door already. Being healthy with my food choices means that I don’t get hungry for expensive vending machine snacks at work, and it also motivates me to keep the healthy choices coming with packed lunches and hearty dinners at home.
Side Hustle Tasks
My golden hours, I’m realizing, start about 45 minutes after I wake up. If I use meditation, exercise, and journaling to get me to my best mental space, the next hour or so is a “golden hour” for me — time to get really good cognitive work done (like coming up with ideas for writing or generating actual prose). In the past, I gave all those hours to my day job, and I often spent them getting things ready for the day rather than diving right into my most taxing mental task. Now, I use more of those hours on writing for my part-time freelance work, and I still have plenty of time to focus on my day job when I get to work.
If you want to learn more about using early mornings to make your days better, I can recommend The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod; his points are well-taken, and I am still a novice early-riser by comparison. By the end of that book, you’ll realize how amazing those hours can be, and how worthwhile it is to go to bed a little early.
Laura Marie is a writer and teacher in Ohio. She blogs about the stories behind family recipes at Recipe In A Bottle.
Image via Unsplash