Tag Archives: morning

“To Cease for a Bright Hour to Be a Prisoner of This Sickly Body & to Become as Large as the World.”

“Every man that goes into the wood seems to be the first man that ever went into a wood….I feel a pain of an alien world or I am cheered with the moist, warm, glittering, budding, and melodious hour that takes down the narrow walls of my soul and extends its life and pulsation to the very horizon. That is Morning. To cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body and to become as large as the World.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, March 27, 1838

Before and After: Work on a Ph.D. Thesis from 6:00-9:00 a.m.

I’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here.

This week’s story comes from Annelie Drakman.

I’m a Ph.D.-student, and I’ve always thought that it seemed dreadful to let finishing your dissertation drag out for years and years – just get it over with, I thought. And still I’d let weeks go by where I went to meetings, and read lots of books relating to my topic, and took courses, but did not spend one minute actually writing my text.

So I started getting up at 6 am. Now, whenever I have a free morning or a whole free day, I try to make sure to always get up this early. I think the reason it works is that I hate it. You see, if I get up at 6 am and don’t write on my dissertation, I got up early for nothing. I have to give up the comfort of my bed without the satisfaction of getting things done, and I can’t bear that. So I write. The hours between 6 am and 9 am just fly by and afterwards I’m always surprised at how much I got done. So it works! And, if I can’t get any useful work done during the afternoon, I know I’ve at least put in three or so hours towards my most important goal, and I can give myself a break about being obsessive about emails.

Excellent. I’ve identified sixteen strategies for habit-formation, and this is a great example of the Strategy of Scheduling. Just putting something on the schedule helps us to do it — and scheduling it first thing in the morning usually works best.

Also, although it doesn’t work for everyone, getting up earlier can be a great way to find more time for something you value. Mornings tend to unfold in the same way, so there’s more consistency and control, and less opportunity for conflicts — real or invented — to arise.  (For tips about how and why to schedule a habit for the morning, read here and here.)

I write about the Strategy of Scheduling in Chapter Two of Before and After. If you’d like to know when the book is available for pre-order (not for a while, I must confess!), sign up here.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

“Seldom Have I Realized So Keenly, Appreciated So Fully, These Still, Dark Hours.”

“Peace again!–The exquisite hour before dawn, here at my old desk–seldom have I realized so keenly, appreciated so fully, these still, dark hours.”

— Edward Weston, Daybooks

Yesterday I posted about how much I love working in the early morning, and why I think it’s a strategy to consider for people who lack time to pursue something important; I’m often reminded of this line from Weston’s diaries.

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Happier at Home hits the shelves in less than a month! To celebrate, I’m giving away one book each day for the next few weeks.

Enter your name and email in the sign-up form here, and every day, someone will be picked at random. Open to readers in U.S., Canada, and U.K. only–sorry about that restriction on the give-away. (I need to update the form, which doesn’t include U.K., but U.K. is included.)

If you’re wondering about the book, you can…

–learn more about it here

–read a sample chapter on the subject of “time” here

–email me for a one-page reading group guide here

listen to a clip from the audio-book here

pre-order the book here (pre-orders give a big boost to a book, so I really appreciate pre-orders!)

No Time for Something Important to You? Try Getting Up Earlier.

Of all the changes in my daily routine wrought by my happiness project, one of the most fundamental is that I get up at 6:00 a.m., every day. And I get up at 6:00 a.m. every day, even on weekends and vacation, because I love it. I get an hour to myself, at my computer, before my family wakes up for the day. It’s quiet, the light is dim, and the world feels very serene.

I love this time so much that I would get up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., but that would mean that I’d have to go to bed at 8:00 p.m., and I just can’t live life that way. I’m fuddy-duddy enough as it is.

From what I hear, one of the most common happiness challenges is lack of time for something important. People want to exercise, or work on a novel, or meditate, or read for pleasure, and they just can’t fit it into their day. I absolutely know the feeling.

But here’s what I’ve noticed. For many people, the end of the day is a pleasant interlude of free time, when work is done, the office isn’t e-mailing, the kids are in bed, and the TV or the internet is at hand. It’s pleasant, so it’s easy to stay up late to watch one more episode of The Wire or to read the most recent article about Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s break-up or to do back-to-school shopping or to research the works of J. M. Barrie. And then it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning.

This end-of-day time is pleasant, but it doesn’t give much happiness bang for the buck. It’s filled with a fairly low-value kind of activity. With that same hour or two, you could be exercising, writing a novel, keeping a journal, wood-working, etc. “But by that time, I’m too tired!” you think. And you are too tired. So here’s a possible strategy: go to bed earlier, and wake up earlier, and use that reclaimed morning time for the activity you wish you could add to your day. Or, if you wish you had more time to do things with other people, you could do tasks during the morning period that would free up time elsewhere during your day.

“An hour isn’t long enough,” you may protest. Well, give it a try. You can get a surprising amount done in an hour. We tend to over-estimate what we can do in a short term  (say, one afternoon) and under-estimate what we can get done over the long term, if we do a little bit at a time. It’s a Secret of Adulthood (cribbed from Voltaire): Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t let the fact that you can’t write for three hours prevent you from writing for one hour.

It is so nice to start your day knowing that you’ve accomplished something important to you. It’s done, it’s crossed off the list.

Early rising can also work as an occasional, rather than daily, strategy. My college roommate gets up at 4:30 a.m. to go for a sixteen-mile run every Sunday. This is the only running she does all week! I wouldn’t have thought this possible, but that’s what she does. I talked to a guy who loves going for very long bike rides, but now that he and his wife have two young children, his wife objects to his absence for a whole day on the weekend. So one day a weekend, he gets up at 5:00 a.m., rides his bike, and is home by lunch, which she doesn’t mind.

True, it takes a while to adjust to a new sleep schedule. You might try getting up at the new time, without trying to accomplish anything much, for a week or so, just to get accustomed to the new wake-up time. And it helps to wake up at that time every day, even on the weekends and on vacation.

This may sound a bit grim, but the fact is, I love my morning hour so much that I want to wake up early. I don’t want to miss it. You never realize how wonderful the morning is if you sleep through it. You have to be there, to experience it.

However, it turns out that people really are “larks” and “owls,” and this strategy very well might not work for an “owl.” I’m a lark, so getting up early isn’t much of a strain for me. And obviously, if you have a little kid who wakes up at 5:30 a.m., this strategy probably isn’t going to work for a few years.

How about you? Is there something important to you that isn’t fitting into your schedule? Could you try doing it in the morning? Or have you already tried this strategy?

*

Happier at Home hits the shelves in less than a month! To celebrate, I’m giving away one book each day for the next few weeks.

Enter your name and email in the sign-up form here, and every day, someone will be picked at random. Open to readers in U.S., Canada, and U.K. only–sorry about that restriction on the give-away.

If you’re wondering about the book, you can…

–learn more about it here

–read a sample chapter on the subject of “time” here

–email me for a one-page reading group guide here

listen to a clip from the audio-book here

pre-order the book here (pre-orders give a big boost to a book, so I really appreciate pre-orders!)

–watch the Behind the Scenes video here (though you’d probably enjoy that more after you’ve read it)

 

“How Can I Make My Morning Easier?”

2012 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2012 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2012 a happier year—and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge—welcome! Each week, I post a video about some Pigeon of Discontent raised by a reader. Because, as much as we try to find the Bluebird of Happiness, we’re also plagued by the Pigeons of Discontent.

This week’s Pigeon of Discontent, suggested by a reader, is: “How can I make my morning easier?

Download How Can I Make My Mornings Easier

 

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…

10 tips to beat clutter…in less than 5 minutes.

7 tips for keeping school-day mornings calm and cheerful.

9 helpful yet realistic tips for personal productivity.

How about you? Have you found any good ways to make your mornings run smoothly? We can all use all the suggestions we can get!

You can post your own Pigeon of Discontent at any time; also, from time to time, I’ll make a special call for suggestions.

If you’re new, jump in right now, sign up here. Studies suggest that by taking action, like signing up for this challenge, will help you keep your resolutions. For the 2012 Challenge, each week I’ll post a video for you to consider, and you can check out the archives of videos here.