I have a confession to make. I am 36 and have been a nocturnal guy for most of my life and career. My most productive parts of the day (okay, night) would be from 11 pm to 2 am, where I used to get most of my creative work done. I thoroughly detested waking up in the morning for an early meeting with clients. Social commitments were a stretch, as most events happen first thing in the day, and I would end up groggy-eyed in the wedding, stifling yawns till I could drag myself to the food counters.
I had a bunch of colleagues who used to prod me into trying a morning routine (yes, we all have those friends) and I used to berate them for trying to change me and my lifestyle. But one fine day, I happened to chance upon 2 books, ‘Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod and ‘Why We Sleep’ by Mathew Walker and that book changed my perception of trying a morning routine. I know, I see your eyes rolling on such a cliched trope, but here is why and how it went down.
My daughter’s school started at 8.20 in the morning, and I used to miss this opportunity to bond with her while dropping her off to school. A few more years and she would be doing that stretch by herself, and I would end up regretting it in my final days, that I lost the chance to have this quality time with her. So I decided I had to give my morning routine a shot. I had this nagging fear in the back of my mind that I might end up like a sloth-man constantly playing catch-up with sleep, vainly trying to find my outlet in the absence of my previous nightly slot.
“Your habits will determine your future.” – Jack Canfield
I started out doing the SAVERS technique which Hal elaborates in his book. And while I think it is a crummy acronym, all of the techniques work well, if you do them consistently. The reason why I am writing this is to provide additional commentary to the SAVERS technique as a recently-turned-morning person and how you too could benefit from making that shift as a nocturnal person.
Start slow and easy, the night before
Please do not try to drag yourself to bed at 9-10 pm, thinking this would help you wake up in the morning. You might only end up staring wide-eyed at the ceiling until 2 am. The things that will help you hit the bed at the right time to wake up refreshed are the activities that lead up to your bed-time routine. Some of them might be patronizing (I felt the exact way you are reading through this), but I decided to keep my prejudice aside for trying this out once to see if it helped.
- No Alcohol or caffeine after 7 pm: I am a teetotaller, but I drink copious amounts of coffee (no time was a bad time for coffee, according to me) so abstaining from reaching for that coffee mug after 7 pm was tough. I ended up replacing the 8 pm coffee with a 10 pm hot chocolate (without sugar) and that worked wonders in settling me down for bed.
- No TV and mobile viewing an hour before bed: This was the most unsettling part. We used to watch TV during and right after dinner as a routine, and there was always Instagram and LinkedIn (beware that endless scroll) to browse through in bed. This was tough too, but agreeing on this routine with my wife helped make both of us accountable, and a few days of bickering later, we were able to make it work.
- Affirmations for bedtime: The affirmations that Hal talks about to perform in the morning work well in your bedtime routine too. Consistently telling yourself that you need to wake up at 6 am right before you sleep, is a subconscious way of telling your brain that this needs to happen. It might take a few more alarms before you internalize it, but give it time.
Take a power nap, if you have to
Settling into a morning routine in the first week is tough, and you might find yourself frequently hitting the lows as early as 11 am. Chances are you reach out for the coffee mug and you hit the depth again right after lunch. Then you go down that endless spiral of pumping yourself with caffeine until you get to finally go home and crash.
To avoid this unfortunate series of events, it is better to yield and time yourself for a short nap of 15-20 min. Now before you cry hoarse and say you will get fired if your boss caught you napping, I am only recommending this right before lunchtime. Take a bio break or catch these winks in a break room, and if you work remotely, take a quick nap on the couch. These 15-20 minutes have helped me reset my sleep patterns effectively and give me a boost in productivity, way more than any coffee would grant me.
Run the morning errands
If you feel running errands is no mighty purpose to give up on sleep in the morning, think again. It has been widely studied that making the bed first thing in the morning helps stimulate a sense of accomplishment and sets the course for the day. In my case, setting the bed, getting the daughter ready for school and getting the morning walk in the sun has made a huge difference in the motivation to wake up every day. Again, sharing the motivational goals with the family helps. My wife takes the evening shopping done, while I step out in the morning to finish household chores.
These simple techniques, combined with the SAVERS technique by Hal Elrod, have helped me get into the morning routine and (brace for it) also start enjoying it. I get my creative streak to write in multiple intervals during the day, and not just in the wee hours of the night. And last but not least, I get to talk to my daughter every day on our bike ride to school and she waves to me right before she enters the school gates, which is the best reward any father could ask for to make his day, every day.
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