I’ve been alone for two months now — living alone that is, which has its downsides but also allows me to be very deliberate with how I approach my day. I’m free to be as weird and spiritual and organized as I want; it’s great.
If I’m being honest, waves of sadness, introspection, and anxiety have ridden my being for the last 6 months. It’s taught me some things about loss, adversity, and the impact of negative self-talk. The gray matter masking my mindset makes getting up in the morning a chore. And I’m not talking about getting up for work or class when things need to get done. I’m talking about getting up when there’s no reason to — when I want to make use of early hours and get a head-start on the day. This has become very difficult for me.
That said, my method to address this is rather simple: create reasons to get up in the morning.
I follow a timetable every morning — a timetable is just like any old routine, or schedule, but with specific time frames for each activity. Timing is an important factor because it gives the first leg of your day structure and requires more commitment, which, if you’re like me, makes following through on it easier. I assure you this is not some low-hanging “productivity hack” I just decided to randomly write about. This is something I live by these days because it proves incredibly effective and practical.
My timetable looks like this:
It’s designed to instill meaning and purpose in my morning. If I stick to it, I finish it in 40, maybe 50, minutes tops. Upon completion, I am calm, yet energized, and ready to embrace the day ahead of me.
Let’s run through it:
Alarm. Surprisingly enough (not), it all starts with waking up and getting out of bed. Because I leave my alarm across the room when I sleep, I don’t really have a choice but to stand up and turn it off.
I make sure to put my phone on top of my timetable, so I see it first thing in the morning; it reminds me I have things to do.
Water. Once I shut off my alarm and I’m hovering over my desk, I reach for the 16oz bottle of water I set out the night before — I down it immediately. Drinking water right as you wake up provides a host of health benefits; it fires up your metabolism, hydrates your system, and helps flush out bad toxins.
Oddly enough, I find it difficult to fall back asleep after chugging cold water. You’ll typically eat less too, which can be good or bad, depending on your situation. After that, I head to the bathroom and pee. Fluid in, fluid out!
Scale. Everyday, I weigh-in on the scale in my bathroom.
All that takes no more than five minutes.
Elevate. Next, I head out to the living room where I set the stove to boil a pot of water for coffee. As I wait, I play a round of Elevate on my iPad, which is a cognition training app designed to help build communication and analytical skills. Holy nerd alert, I know… But hey, I’m into it and the game is actually really fun; it keeps me sharp and the daily session only takes a few minutes.
Once I complete that, I pour my coffee and let it sit. During this wait, I head to the back room of my apartment where I meditate.
Breathe. Meditation is not as mystical as you might assume. The entire premise of the exercise is to focus your attention on your breath and do your best to not think about anything but the present moment.
Mediation is inherently challenging to do, given the human brain is constantly working, wondering, and worrying.
I start by sitting on the floor, legs sprawled out in front of me, back straight up against my bed. I try to get as comfortable and relaxed as possible before I start the timer for five minutes.
My meditation sessions are a mixture of deep breathing and casual observations. I make sure to breathe through my diaphragm (pushing my belly out as I inhale). Sometimes, I’ll box breathe: inhale, hold, exhale, hold for 4 seconds a piece. Casual observations include any sounds I hear (e.g. birds chirping, clock ticking) or any physical sensations I feel such as tension or itching. I observe them, however, I don’t give any thought to them. And this is really the key to meditation:
Don’t think about anything but the present moment.
By meditating, you’ll quickly realize how much information your mind tries to process at any given moment. We persistently plan, reflect, and anticipate events in our life — it’s pretty much impossible to block out all thoughts entirely. But, the aim of meditation is to get as close as you can. Whenever you catch yourself wandering off, acknowledge it, then return your attention to the breath.
Ride the “now,” don’t contemplate the past or worry about the future. Just be.
So, alarm, water, scale, Elevate, and mediation sounds like a lot, but everything I’ve discussed takes only about 20 minutes to do.
Coffee and Read. For the final 20 minutes, I pour my coffee and read a book. I have to say this is my favorite part of the morning — this is when I open all the blinds in my apartment and let the sunlight break through. I sip coffee as I kick back on my couch and get lost in a book. Personally, I give zero f*cks if I sound like a 55-year-old widow right now. I wouldn’t trade this part of my day for anything.
The Social Media Part
Notice I’ve refrained from looking at social media for the first 40 minutes of my day. This is probably contrary to what a lot of people do, which is roll over, turn off their alarm, and start scrolling through the madness — I avoid this at all costs. I don’t “allow” myself to open a social app until my timetable is complete.
When I finally do, I look to post something.
I’ve been trying to re-frame my relationship with social networks. Instead of consuming 90% of the time and posting 10%, I want to even that out a bit. By spending the first portion of my day pouring good energy into my mind and body, I try to let that bleed over into social media and post something of intrinsic value to me.
In a way, this keeps me accountable to my timetable. For instance, this story right here is going on Twitter when I’m done. What you’re reading right now is a result of my commitment to the lifestyle I want to live — it’s another idea, or intuition, I’ve brought to light by getting up early and setting myself up for a great day.