With the lockdowns in place and the nature of my job I have found myself wanting to get a good lie in, pretty much every morning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really make me happy, nor productive or motivated. If anything it makes me even more fatigued and lazy. I mentioned in my previous posts that I’ve been trying to finish my course and generally work on my physical and mental health. With the amount of free time I have at the moment, I should be able to do a lot of things to improve, right? Just get up and do what you gotta do!
Easier said than done.
I got tired of being constantly tired, going to bed at three o’clock in the morning and waking up at noon or later and feel like absolute shit. Even though I could have used the time at night for being productive I didn’t really want to. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because deep in my mind I have night time reserved for relaxing. The blanket of the night sky making me all cosy, and crave a cup of hot chocolate, watch a movie or play “Don’t Starve”… Come on, this is like a perfect evening scenario, right? Could never do some studying at night.
I was doing some research on self-discipline and the creation of habits. I found a very interesting video where someone was talking about bringing the idea of video games into real life. No, I don’t mean shooting at people, going on the missions and fight dragons. Well, maybe somewhat going on a mission. So the whole thing is about gradually making your tasks more challenging and interesting. When you start a game your first missions are normally easy and quick. Then each level is getting harder, sometimes longer, more challenging and exciting. You also receive some kind of reward when you do it right. A better weapon, an outfit, a faster car or bigger space in the inventory. When you finish the whole game you can play it over again but with, let’s say, limited time for each level or increased difficulty, etc. Why not organise your day as if it was a game? Start easy, gradually build up the excitement and once you get into that routine make your tasks or work more challenging, e.g. Try to give 15 minutes for the work you normally do on auto-pilot in half an hour. Don’t forget about the reward at the end.
Another tip for self-discipline and focus I read somewhere, was to leave the “more fun” distracting activities for when the job is done.
For example, if I want to study 2h a day, meditate, do some yoga, exercise and maybe go for a walk to do the daily 10k steps I shouldn’t start my day with scrolling down the Instagram feed or with let’s say watching a tv show whilst eating my breakfast. The TV show would have given me enough dopamine to then quickly get bored with studying if it was scheduled after breakfast and episode of “Killing Eve”.
My revolutionary discovery about myself was that I am way more productive in the mornings than in the evenings. My problem was getting out of bed and having my daily goals all over the place. So one day I sat down, wrote a very detailed Daily Routine list in my notebook, including daily goals and targets and told myself to stick to it no matter what. To me, the biggest challenge was getting up at eight o’clock in the morning instead of one o’clock in the AFTERNOON, and not hitting the snooze button when the alarm goes off.
I did it though! I know it sounds like not much of an achievement but I honestly didn’t remember what the world looks like at eight o’clock in the morning. I loved every moment of it… widely opening my eyes the moment of first notes of the alarm sound, getting up, rolling the blinds up, looking out the window to meet that morning crisp view, chirping birds, slight chill down my spine, because I don’t like to sleep with the heating on so the room, was a bit chilly and the first sip of cold water waiting for me on the bedside table. For some reason, I thought to myself that it is going to be a beautiful day and nothing can stop me from completing the tasks that I wrote down on my list… And I wasn’t wrong.
I grabbed my 6 Minute Diary and started with gratitude. It was so different from what I normally do… Very new yet so familiar. I knew exactly what to write because even though I was a little sleepy at the same time I was full of this weird, new energy and focus. I continued with 5 minutes meditation followed by 10-minute yoga, 5-minute ABS and 5-minute bum and legs workout. I am a little rusty so this 20 minutes of movement was enough to get me sweaty and out of breath, but how amazing! I felt hungry and went downstairs to cook porridge with hazelnut milk and berries. I topped it with nuts and seeds, added some coconut yoghurt and finished off with honey. Honestly, I was never a porridge person and the idea of all toppings and all the fuss was just something unnecessary but this time I enjoyed every second of making and eating it. I ate my breakfast in the conservatory, a little extension room attached to the kitchen with the garden view. I’m lucky to live in the house with a beautiful garden, full of life and green trees, plants and whatnots. I enjoyed my breakfast looking out and acknowledging everything I saw, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. Such a great moment of mindfulness. With nourished and full enough belly I made myself a strong, black coffee I went back upstairs to my bedroom where I also have my desk and opened my course books. I studied for a couple of hours with fifteen minutes break and by one o’clock in the afternoon I was pretty much done with my main daily goal and I decided to reward myself with an hour walk to the park whilst listening to one of my favourite podcasts.
I did not look at my phone until I got to the point of turning the podcast on. After a walk, I had lunch that I prepared at the beginning of the week and portioned it for each day from Monday to Friday, so it saves me some time and decision making. The rest of the day I spent reading a book and doing small housework, some self-care and eventually I rewarded myself with a “Harry Potter” movie with my housemate. (Yes, I am watching it for the first time. I recently finished reading the last book and didn’t want to watch any of the movies until I’ve read all of the books-about time right?).
It was a beautiful day, and I loved every second of it. I enjoyed the course again and am excited to finish it and book an exam at the beginning of March. I finished my day with the “End of Day” entry in the 6-minute Diary, snuggled up under the duvet with a hot water bottle and I don’t even remember struggling with insomnia caused by nightly overthinking sesh, because it never happened- I’ve fallen asleep within minutes.
I carried on with this routine for a couple of weeks now and I find it very exciting and I’m so proud of myself for sticking to it. Who would have thought the words “routine” and “exciting” would work so well together in one sentence?
After my morning routine which is pretty much the same every day, I would then spend the afternoon either active or creative, mix it up a little so even though I have that routine I still do various activities to avoid boredom.
My summary on this is that getting out of your comfort zone will always benefit you. My comfort zone was my very comfortable bed. I got out of it and saw what I was missing out, appreciated how much I can do in the morning and still have a lot of the day to relax and entertain myself. I think when I was waking up so late I could not stand the fact that I would spend the majority of the day doing some “boring” course and would not have much time to do… nothing. So dramatic. I also think that I was really lost and did not know where to start. As much as I would love to be this spontaneous and adventurous person I am actually a creature of planning, lists and routine. I found myself more productive in the morning and work better if I know there is a reward waiting for me at the end of the task. So in my case the three steps I have to do to kick-off my productivity are:
- Make a list of daily tasks, as detailed as possible. The more detail you include the bigger possibility you will complete the task and the timing is probably more accurate.
- Wake up in the morning and follow the tip for self-discipline and focus I mentioned earlier and complete important, focus-demanding tasks first thing in the morning eliminate distractions like social media, TV, news, text messages, emails until your “free time”.
- Reward yourself on daily basis. Whether it’s a snack, a walk, fun creative activity or simply Netflix and chill. I do have a rule for my “Personal Reward Scheme”- always reward yourself with something you will not instantly regret, e.g. Sweets or massive unhealthy meals, alcoholic drinks, binge-watching Netflix, buying unnecessary items online. Those might feel like a good reward at first but longterm not so much. It doesn’t make sense if you reward yourself for completing hard workout with a bar of chocolate or huge cheeseburger. Glass of wine in the evening? It never ends with one glass and the headache next day isn’t worth it, and it will probably disrupt your morning routine too. Online shopping? Maybe you should read my Every Penny Matters posts to see what is my opinion on that one ;). Do you get the idea here?
I’m loving the idea of being an early bird. I fall in love with mornings and will definitely work hard to create a strong, long-term habit of waking up as early as I can to have longer, more productive days.
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl? What is your favourite part of your morning or evening routine, and what do you appreciate most about the time of the day you’re mainly active in? I’d love to hear your opinion.
Hugs and kisses, highly motivated Selfish Jo xxx