Dawn Landscape

Experimenting with Early Mornings

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Lately I have been experimenting with early mornings. I normally wake up at what’s considered a normal, or even early time, however, I wanted to see what I could accomplish by waking up earlier and adding extra time to my days. I constantly see around the web so many articles about how successful people wake up early. Would my productivity go up? Would I just be grumpy and sleepy? I had to find out.

There are very few things I hate more than rushing places, feeling I might be late. Starting my days earlier has been great, I feel like I have reclaimed my days and they belong to me again, not my clock. I also think that an early starts sets the tone for the day – I am more productive and accomplish more – and better!

I consider myself a fairly natural early riser, being able to wake up without an alarm by about 7am most days. So for this experiment I decided to push things a little, and change things up by trying to wake up by about 5:30am during the week and about 730~8am during the weekends. Essentially, I wanted to add about 2 hours to the early part of my days.

[heading2 class=”” style=”” title=”Finding The Extra Hours”]I’ve learned that waking up early starts the previous night. If I want to wake up earlier, I have to sleep earlier to get the same amount of sleep and really to make the most of those extra hours. There would be no point with the experiment if I were to wake up at 5:30, if I would be getting coinsiderably less sleep. That would lead to me being grumpy, not performing as well and just ruining it all. After tracking my sleep patterns with a Jawbone UP for a couple of years, I know roughly how much sleep I need.

Also, I recently read a guideline that breaks down the amount of time people need:

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

So, for me, the bare minimum is about 6 hours, with 7 being my ‘minimum sweet spot’

  • Under 5 hours. Horrible. Hate it. That’s that.
  • Under 6 hours. I can go for a couple of days, but my mood and mental performance takes a hit very quickly.
  • About 7 hours. Minimum to be on the ‘sweet spot’, where I can last most of the day at a good level, where I dont think my mood is affected, and I feel fresh in the morning.
  • About 8 hours. Great, but hard to maintain, especially with demanding days
  • Over 9 hours. Not great, I tend to wake up dazed and confused, and it takes me a while to clear the ‘fog’
The experiment started by organising my evenings to try and get those 7 hours. Lots of early nights, and changing my evening routines – especially during the week!
Then the waking up at about 5:30am started, and I began playing around how to use that extra time. The idea was not to have more time to procrastinate or to just extend my day. The whole point was to claim a bit of time as my own, to work uninterrupted and to try and achieve as much as possible.
[heading2 class=”” style=”” title=”Using This Newly Found Time”]My idea with starting early was to add some personal time, some introspection, some health focus and some uninterrupted work. This is how each day (roughly) looks like:
  • Monday: Meditate for 15 mins. Set weekly goals and big tasks for each day. Write.
  • Tuesday: Gym. Write.
  • Wednesday: Run. Meditate for 15 minutes. Take calls with the team abroad.
  • Thursday: Gym. Take calls with the team abroad.
  • Friday: Short workout (varies between gym or shorter run). Meditate for 15 minutes. Recap the week, seeing what was good, what could have been better. This also helps me have the rest of Friday to catch up and make up for what could have been improved, finishing the week in a good note.
  • Weekends: This has been the hardest to maintain due to HK’s active nightlife. Starting about 7:30 to 8:am, I try to mediate then go for a hike. Mornings then continue with a book, a magazine (normally Time), or the newspaper, until about lunchtime, where I try to be a little more sociable.
I have realised that keeping a certain level of flexibility is really important. the idea is not to become a slave to a new routine. I try to leave wiggle room and extra time to deal with things as I go along. Also, this is an ongoing experiment, so I expect my morning routine to change quite a bit. More about morning routines soon!
[heading2 class=”” style=”” title=”Final Lessons”]Waking up this early has not been easy. At first, I was quite tired for a while, but I think I am finally getting the hang of it. Obviously, my early morning routine failed a couple of times – but I had anticipated that. Waking up extra early did mean going a little antisocial for a bit, but in the end, I think it has been worth it. Morning time just became my new best friend; and it can be yours too. Using the morning hours may be a good path to a more successful and healthy lifestyle, so I think I will stick with this it for a little longer. I will continue to tweak my evenings, and my early mornings in the hope of really finding my groove.
So – its time to Rise and shine!

How To Make – and keep – Your Resolutions

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Welcome to 2015 – your best year yet.
So, this is the year you finally get in shape/launch that business/see the world? Well, that’s amazing! And I want to help. I am a big fan of setting resolutions, and I work really hard to keep them. So here are a few tips and pointers on writing useful resolutions, and making sure you keep them all the way through to the end of December. Read on to learn How To Make – and keep – Your Resolutions.
Personally, last year was quite good. It was definitely better than the previous couple of years! I think this had a lot to do with how hard I worked on improving and advancing myself. After doing a little ‘review’ of my year, I am happy to look back and realise I kept up or completed about 80% of the resolutions I made. I think setting resolutions is a great idea, whatever the reasons for it. Whether you are looking for self-improvement, learning something new, or just having a little more fun, resolutions are a great way of doing so. However, making sure you just don’t write a list and forget it in a drawer is just as important!


How to set your resolutions
To make sure you don’t set yourself up for failure, it’s important to understand the overall idea behind them. I think that there is a distinction between resolutions and plans.
I use resolutions to create habits that I would like to have, or to remove things that I don’t like in my life. I then make plans on ‘big ticket items’, like adventures or travel plans. I recommend making a different list, starting with the bigger items, and then working in habits that could help you achieve these.
You can first download the template to set resolutions I use here
Using that template you can set sub-goals that break down the more difficult resolutions. A good idea is to regularly revisit your list to check-in and see how you are doing! For example, you can set a calendar alert to remind you to do this every other month or something similar.
Now that you’ve created your draft, you should look at rewriting your resolutions slightly so that they are S.M.A.R.T.
Creating SMART resolutions
Your resolutions need to be as specific as possible. Big, sweeping generalisations only help in getting you frustrated, in setting you up for failure and in helping you forget them come March. The more specific your resolution, the more actionable it becomes, and therefore, the easier it is to create habits that help you achieve it.
For example, let’s assume your resolution is to “Exercise more”. How will you know if you achieved it? How will you keep doing it in a couple of months?
A much better way of phrasing that resolution is to get more specific. The resolution becomes “Exercise at least 3 times per week”. It helps you set goals that you can consistently follow, and you can then decide whether those 3 times need to be the same (gym), or it can be changed (run one day, gym 2 days or 3 Crossfit sessions, etc).
Try to get as specific as possible so you can work on creating habits that will make you complete your resolutions without you even realising it.
2. Measurable
 A resolution that is not measurable is just a bout of day dreaming. If you are not measuring them, you are not committing to completing it. What is the point to say “Exercise more”, or even “Exercise 3 times per week” if you don’t keep track of it? You will then become more and more relaxed whenever you don’t even try to take action about your resolutions, to the point that you forget about them altogether.
After having created specific resolutions, the idea is to be able to measure your progress, until they become habits or part of your daily routine. A good way to do that is to use one of the many organisational apps out there. I personally use Coach.Me (formerly Lift.Do). You can set up all the things you want to be doing as part of your routine (with frequency), with reminders if you like, and then, you just need to tick them once you’ve completed them that day. This is a great way of getting into positive streaks, and it’s similar to Jerry Seinfield’s “Don’t Break The Chain” productivity technique
3. Accountable
So, you have great specific resolutions, and you are committed to tracking them on a daily basis. What happens to those days that you need extra encouragement? Or how do you keep them interesting for the entire year? Make them accountable: get other people involved.
A fantastic way to help you stay with your resolutions for an entire year is to introduce other people. Perhaps you want to share your set of resolutions with your friends and loved ones? Perhaps you want them to help you accomplish them? Or perhaps you can even ask people to write you a few resolutions. This is what I do with my family.
Every year, we each write each other 2~3 resolutions that we think would be fun or that would be great for them. I get about 8~10 new ones from my parents and siblings. It’s one of my favourite parts about resolutions! I get to see what they think I should be working on, I get some fun challenges, and it gets everyone in the family involved in a few fun activities. Try it!
4. Realistic
Now, for the disclaimer part of setting resolutions. They need to be realistic. Setting a resolution to “Go to space” is fantastic, especially if you use the template and set sub-goals on how to achieve it. But a word of warning. Setting unrealistic resolutions can be quite disheartening and might undo all the good that the positive habit forming ones create. Push yourself! Drive yourself to grow! But also give yourself (challenging but) achievable goals, so you can stay positive about accomplishing them.
5. Totally fun! (I really wanted the acronym to spell out SMART)
What is the point of adding robotic and boring resolutions that take over your life? If you finish your list and it has only items like “Drink 8 glasses of water a day; Learn 5 new words in a foreign language a week; etc etc” ad nauseam, you are not going to have a great time. Guaranteed!
Throw in a few crazy resolutions, fun adventures, or things that are completely outside your comfort zone. If you are serious about your resolutions, every time you revisit the list, you will see this one and it will make you smile. But don’t stop there! Make it a priority, and work hard to complete it. At the very least, you will have a great story to tell.
As for me?
I am going all out with my ‘fun’ resolutions. I am creating an Endless Bucketlist! You can take a look at it here www.imprintaction.com
I hope you have an amazing year ahead.