I started a 30-day challenge to get up each morning at 5:18 a.m. Why? For the past few weeks I have felt a creeping discontent with my ability to stay on track with some of my priorities. Around three o’clock or so, I would consider my day and end up frustrated because I had not made progress in the areas I told myself were most important—writing and wellbeing. Maybe I would get a little writing done, but not enough movement, or I would be so determined to get in the Orangetheory workout that I would piddle (this means dawdle in southern Ohio speak) when I got home, never really working on the essays that swirl around in my head.
I have always been a morning person, and for many years I was up before 6:00 a.m., working out, heading to the office, and squeezing in a little writing when I could. That changed years ago when I left my job, went back to school to study creative nonfiction, and committed to regular writing (my own work but also for a small group of clients). But since I work from home, on my own timetable, it is easy to get into habits that don’t serve me, like sleeping in, not planning the day, and losing sight of the reasons why I crafted this life in the first place. I love to write. I enjoy working out (when I am rested). I want a flexible schedule that allows me to prioritize those two activities, spend time with my family and friends, travel, attend lectures and readings, and do nothing if that is what the day calls for. All of it is important, but I wasn’t on track with my writing or fitness.
I took a close look at what I was doing, and then I asked myself a simple question. At the end of the day, what things do I need to have accomplished to feel like I had a productive day? Two things came up consistently—I have to write, and I need to move. A day without these two activities does not feel complete. There are other things, such as my quiet time in the morning, reading spiritual or inspirational work, prayer, and journaling; these are practices that enhance my day and get me off to a good start. But when I ignore my work as a writer or don’t honor my body by engaging in workouts that keep it flexible and strong, I feel as if I have cheated myself.
So, that is how I came to this 30-day challenge. Last night I set my alarm and woke up at 5:17 a.m. on my own, beating the alarm by 60 seconds. I don’t like the sound of the alarm, whether it is music or a buzz, because it jars me out of my sleep. This morning my body seemed to know there was work to do, and here I am, already up, over an hour of writing done, and the sun is shining in the window. One day down, a lifetime to go.
What morning practices help you start your day?