What are you going to do this very instant?

I’ve always been a big planner and goal setter. Sometimes that has worked out in my favor; other times I’m a little too optimistic and I set more goals than are humanly achievable.

What I’ve learned about effective goal-setting is this: you need to take action right away. As soon as you set a goal, you need to do something about it immediately — this very instant.

Tony Robbins says something about this in his book Awaken The Giant Within. He says, “never leave the scene of a decision without taking action.”

Here’s why this is such an important concept:

If you’re excited about something (a new idea, plan, or goal) then the initial action will give you momentum and momentum is a very powerful thing.

Or, if you’re not excited about something then the instant action will help you avoid procrastination. A great example, I think, is the classic decision to diet. “I’ll start Monday,” is often the decision (and that decision is followed up by a few days of binging until Monday rolls around).

What plans are you in the process of making? Whatever you’re thinking about, take action right away, even if it’s a small action, to get a positive step forward.

Lessons learned from waking up at 5:00 AM every day for the past 30 days

A month ago I set a challenge to myself to wake up every day at 5:00 AM for 30 days. I started on May 1 and the challenge went until May 30.

That was the intention. The result was a little different. So my blog post title was a bit misleading. The goal of the challenge was to get up at 5:00 AM every day but the result wasn’t quite every single day.

DAY BY DAY RESULTS

Things started out pretty good. In the first 9 days, I got up at 5:00 AM 7 times…
Friday, May 1 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 2 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Sunday, May 3 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Monday, May 4 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Tuesday, May 5 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Wednesday, May 6 — Got up at 7:45 AM
Thursday, May 7 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Friday, May 8 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 9 — Got up at 8:30 AM

In the middle of the challenge I went on vacation so I knew (ahead of time) that these 3 days wouldn’t count…
Sunday, May 10 — N/A
Monday, May 11 — N/A
Tuesday, May 12 — N/A

Vacation’s over. Back in the game! It was a bit of a struggle at first…
Wednesday, May 13 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Thursday, May 14 — Got up at 8:00 AM
Friday, May 15 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 16 — Got up at 9:00 AM
Sunday, May 17 — got up at 8:30 AM

… But then I got into a groove for a week and it went pretty well…
Monday, May 18 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Tuesday, May 19 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Wednesday, May 20 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Thursday, May 21 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Friday, May 22 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 23 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Sunday, May 24 — Forgot to post. Woke up around 8:30 AM.
Monday, May 25 — Got up at 5:00 AM

Things started to fall off the rails near the end as I got sick…
Tuesday, May 26 — Got up at 8:30 AM
Wednesday, May 27 — Forgot to post. Didn’t wake up at 5:00 AM
Thursday, May 28 — Got up at 6:00 AM
Friday, May 29 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 30 — Got up at 8:30 AM

My challenge was for 30 days and I got up at 5:00 AM only 17 days in total. That’s not a great number, although there were 3 days in there (during my vacation) when the challenge was placed “on hold” and I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t even try to get up at that time, so that’s a bit better.

LESSONS LEARNED

I learned a lot during this challenge. Here are some of the lessons:

  • Getting up at 5:00 AM is WAY easier than I used to think it would be. In fact, even though there were circumstances that kept me from getting up every day, I’m really proud of the 17 days I did get up at 5:00 AM!
  • I am SO much more productive between 5:00 AM and 12:00 PM than I am at any other time of the day. When I get up at 5:00 AM, I get all my work done at this time and that gives me the afternoon and evening to do whatever I want (work, play, whatever).
  • This challenge also helped to connect my brain to my body a bit more. By that I mean: I realized that I can have a productive morning if I wake up alert or if I wake up groggy, but if I wake up really sleepy then I’m of no use to anyone and my writing is garbage. Therefore, I have 2 possible “tracks” to take in the morning (alert/groggy, or, sleepy), so now I need to figure out how to increase the likelihood of waking up alert (or, at the very least, groggy) instead of sleepy.
  • Routines help: When I follow a pre-bed routine, I am more likely able to wake up at 5:00 AM than if I skip my routine. Although I don’t have exact numbers on this, it seems like my pre-bed routine has potentially greater impact on my sleep quality (and on how I feel when I wake up) than how much sleep I get.
  • Environment helps: Before this challenge I tried waking up at 5:00 AM and failed miserably (which is what prompted the challenge). What helped was: for this challenge I moved my phone into the dining room so I had to get up and walk through my house to turn my alarm off… and while I passed through the kitchen I turned the kettle on. That environmental shift made it so much easier to get up and stay up.
  • Accountability helps: There were 2 or 3 days during this challenge when I didn’t really want to get up at 5:00 AM but I also didn’t want to admit on my blog that I failed. So I got up and stayed up.
  • Activity helps: I try to do a bit of activity (most squat thrusts and stretching) in the morning to help get the blood pumping. It makes a big difference.

Even though the results weren’t as consistent as I hoped, I really liked this challenge a lot and I can’t express enough how much more productive I am when I wake up at 5:00 AM versus any other time of the day. So going forward I’m going to continue this practice.

The 5:00 AM challenge (29/30)

Good morning! It’s 5:30 AM and I got up at 5:00 AM this morning! (Whew) Even though I’m a little under the weather, I am feeling a bit better and I definitely didn’t want to fizzle out on the last couple days of my challenge to get up at 5:00 AM. So I knocked back some Neo Citran (my “drug” of choice when I get a head cold) and went to bed REALLY early yesterday. Had a fantastic sleep and woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go today. Awesome. Yeah, I’ve still got a bit of a sore throat but not as bad as yesterday. Which is good because I have A LOT to do in the next few days!

Gotta run.

Stay productive!

The 5:00 AM challenge (28/30)

Good morning! It’s 6:20 AM and I got up 20 minutes ago. For three frustrating days, I’ve failed at my challenge to wake up at 5:00 AM.

But now I have an answer why…

On Tuesday, I woke up at 5:00 AM and was utterly exhausted. I shut off my alarm and crawled back into bed and slept for hours. I blogged that wasn’t sure what the reason was for how extremely tired I was.

Yesterday, the same thing happened and I missed blogging about it altogether. But I started to get some clues: I was achy, tired, there was something in my throat, and it was a struggle to get any work done. I went to bed early.

Today… yeah, I’m sick. Sore throat. Aches. Pretty tired. I was still able to get up early-ish (6:00 AM) because I went to bed early last night and had a great sleep. But I could easily go back to bed, which I might do after my deadlines.

Normally I try to push through this stuff but I’ve got a lot of demands on my time and my body coming up in the next couple of weeks and I need to be operating at my best to deliver. So I’m going to do whatever I need to do today to get through and then probably head to bed with some hot lemon water.

Okay, gotta push through on some projects until I can call it quits for the day.

Stay productive!

The 5:00 AM challenge (26/30)

It’s 9:00 AM as I write this and I hate to admit but I seriously missed the mark today! Wow. When my alarm went off at 5:00 AM I was exhausted. I got up, shut off my alarm, and went back to bed and slept for another 3 1/2 hours. Even when I woke up again at 8:30 I was still pretty wiped out.

As I think about my condition when I woke up this morning and what might have caused it, I’m reflecting on something I’ve written about in the past: I’ve noticed that when I wake up at 5:00 AM there are three possible states I wake up in:

  1. Awake. I’m good to go. This one’s my favorite state to wake up in, and my most immediately productive. (And sometimes I wake up before my alarm, which I love).
  2. Groggy. I’m a little fuzzy in the brain but not seriously tired. If I get up now, I can shake it off in about 15-20 minutes and I’m good to go (but if I go back to bed I will sleep).
  3. Sleepy. I’m wiped out and basically I need to go back to bed because if I try to write, I’ll end up writing crappy work and spend most of the time deleting mistakes and false starts.

The groggy state is the most common state I wake up in. I used to go back to bed when I woke up in this state but I’ve noticed over the course of this 5:00 AM challenge that I have gotten much better at staying up when I wake up in that state. So that’s good!

When I go back to bed in a state of grogginess, that’s just laziness and procrastination setting in so overcoming those negative habits has been of great value in this challenge. But this morning I woke up in a state what was very, very sleepy. It was not laziness or procrastination, it was a clear physical need for more sleep, which prompts me to wonder what caused it, since I got the same amount of sleep that I usually get.

So, as I analyze why that might have happened, I trace back through my day yesterday to consider some possibilities that could have impacted my sleep:

  • I got a lot of great work done yesterday. I was very productive, which, on its own, might not be a factor contributing to the requirement of needing extra sleep but may have contributed to a cumulative effect.
  • I wrapped up a huge project that I’ve been working on since November and it’s been hanging over my head and causing an increasing amount of stress. I finished it yesterday, which felt awesome.
  • My workout was CRAZY yesterday. It was harder than usual, I was almost unable to finish it (although I pushed through and did finish), but the muscle burn was greater and lasted for longer.
  • I missed my pre-bed routine. I’ve been doing really well at working through a pre-bed routine that steps down my thinking and creativity and body temperature and gets me ready for bed. Although I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed, I wonder if a lack of a pre-bed routine had any impact on the quality of my sleep.

Of course I don’t have a definitive answer but if I were to try and make an educated guess about the factors contributing to my level of exhaustion when I woke up this morning, I wonder if some or all of these played a part in demanding more sleep from my body.