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. To be notified when the book is available for pre-order, sign up here.
This week’s story comes from Nina Badzin.
The habit that changed my life was becoming a morning writer.
I'm a freelance writer and blogger with a regular column in Brain, Child Magazine. I also have four kids and try to keep up with answering blog comments, reading other blogs, and sharing others' articles online.
BEFORE AND AFTER: More and more I found that I was using all my day time writing hours (which are never consistent) for the social side (but also important side) of blogging. The real writing was not coming along. To keep up with deadlines, I would end up staying awake until 2AM or later, which took away from time I should have been spending with my husband and made me exhausted, unproductive, and crabby the next day.
I realized that the only time I could count on was morning time before the kids were awake, something I've been avoiding even though every writer I respect says it's the way to go. I did nothing to prepare for the first day. I just set the alarm for 5AM and forced myself awake. I'd say it was a cold turkey method.
It was never (and is never) easy to get up, but I do it anyway. The joy of having written quality paragraphs by 7AM when the kids are awake was enough to get me up the next day. Another strategy to avoid the snooze button is that my husband can fall back asleep after he hears me get up at 5. But if I let the alarm go off again or try to wake up closer to 6AM, it's too close to when he has to start his day, which was not fair to him.
I'm finally going to bed earlier after many years of staying up way too late, and I'm so much more productive. I feel more professional. AND, I feel less guilty about hopping around on the internet reading articles, commenting, and engaging in social media during other pockets of the day since I already got my main work done.
This is a good example of the principle that if there's a habit you really want to accomplish, it's very helpful to schedule it first thing in the morning.
First of all, the Strategy of Scheduling -- of explicitly putting an activity on the calendar -- is very powerful. And for many people, if they don't have time for something important to them, getting up earlier is a great strategy to reclaim some time.
Also, whenever possible, important habits should be scheduled for the morning. Mornings tend to unfold in the same way, and as the day goes on, more complications arise (whether real or invented).
Self-control is strongest in the morning, and self-control failures often happen at the end of the day. Activities like excessive gambling and alcohol abuse tend to happen at night, and the majority of impulsive crimes take place after 11:00 p.m.
However, it's true that some people are "Larks" (morning people) and some people are "Owls" (night people), and night people generally aren't successful at trying to get up earlier to write, meditate, exercise, etc. -- because the world is already forcing them to get up too early! Work, school, children...the logistics of life make it hard to be an Owl. So if you're an Owl (which isn't the same thing as someone who stays up too late to send a few last emails or to watch TV), trying to get up earlier probably won't be helpful.
Have you ever been able to adopt a new habit by scheduling it first thing in the morning?