Ok, I admit it. I’m both a dyed in the wool Night Owl and a reformed Pinterest junkie. Acceptance is the first step right?!? LOL. Seriously though, for most of my life I’ve struggled with effectively managing my time along with the byproduct of being late constantly, as well as keeping stress in check. You name the stress related malady and I’ve probably had it: ulcers (1st one at 16, 2nd one recently), adult acne, emotional eating, over dieting, filling voids with shopping, shoulders so tight it felt like having tumors and the list goes on…
It’s not that I wasn’t reasonably productive at the end of the day—I’m a get ‘er done gal for sure—just that it was often a stressful struggle without any personal time, and because of that I had periods were I felt like I was failing at everything. As things often do, it got worse before it got better. It all started going downhill 10 years ago when I was a single mom, President of a non-profit and managing an eCommerce platform for a tech company. That year I was lucky to get 5 hours sleep a night, literally had no social life and was so exhausted by the weekend that I ignored my health and basic life maintenance tasks (like paying my bills on time!).
I held it together pretty dang well considering but man, I was fried and I was numbing the pain by shopping and having a glass of wine (or 2 or 3) on the daily. Then 2 years later (now 8 years ago) when I was newly engaged, an acquaintance mentioned her addiction to Pinterest. It was easy to trade one version of numbing for another and go down the rabbit hole of Pinterest into the wee hours of the morning. I was always saying things like when I finish with the non-profit work (or wedding or move or remodel or …) things would get better. It served me for a while (I had a cool, very “me” wedding and pulled off an amazing remodel), but fast forward to 4 years ago, I was hitting a wall of utter frustration, exhaustion, and dissatisfaction with my life. In desperation, I searched Pinterest and found a pin about being more productive which lead me to a blog, which lead me to a rec for a 14-day course called Make Over Your Mornings by Crystal Paine.
I wasn’t at all sure that MOYM would be right for me, but frankly I was desperate and figured what the heck, it was only $17. If I learned a tip or two or if it motivated me at all, that seemed money well spent.
I felt like the idea of getting up early just might work for me. I started out well with 6 AM wake ups and doing my homework for 3 days in a row then the bubonic plague hit my house and literally everyone in the house ended up with fevers, coughing, and various other not so awesome symptoms which I’ll spare you the gory details of. After a few days break, I re-engaged and reviewed Days 1-3 and added Day 4 and so on until I finished the 14-day course. I’m not sure why I didn’t just bail and chalk it up to another self-help fail. But I guess I still had the deep desire to change the overwhelm I was feeling, and although I’m not at all a morning person, it felt like during this season of my life, that morning productivity might just be the answer.
As it turns out, taking MOYM was a pivotal point for me and I managed to turn around the tide of chaos that was consuming my life. The few minutes a day that I spent listening to and learning from Crystal for 14 days had a HUGE effect on my life. After it, I devoured personal productivity books and courses, analyzed my lifestyle and made some really huge shifts that have led me to be a much happier, calmer, and more fulfilled person. It led to realigning my lifestyle to better suit my values and things like selling my house in Seattle and moving to a small island across from Seattle among other major things.
That seems like a big statement based on a $17 course, right?!? Yet it really was the start of it all. So, in a long winding way, I can thank Crystal Paine for a better lifestyle as well as my new career direction and No Qualms Mom!
So, at this point you’ve heard my bigger life ‘why’ background that led me to embrace early mornings, but you’re probably wondering why rising early in the morning can help you and what it can add to your life:
- Stress reducing routines. Being ready for the day and having both an evening and morning routine cuts stress way down and decision fatigue out, and my routine helps energize me which kicks my productivity into high gear. Little things like having a coffee tray and my coffee brewed when I wake up (see below) have made a big difference in my ability to hit the ground running every day.
- Calm creativity. No one else is awake plus my mind is clear because I set up all things up the night before so that it’s smooth sailing and planned activities first thing. Once I have my morning coffee, I get focused and the productivity magic starts. My “coffee quiet time” gives me daily moments of peaceful reflection and goal processing which has resulted in many positive changes: ways to significantly reduce resentment between Steven and I, be a better mother, improve our family connections and more. It’s amazing what daily creative time can do for you!
- Self-care time. Because I’ve made all the big decisions the night before, my mind is free to be creative, grateful and oriented towards problem-solving “big” issues not tied up with the minutia of daily drudgery; I’m also able to stretch or exercise &/or meditate which give me a much needed physical boost.
- Focused productivity and ability to tackle tough stuff first. I tend to get the bulk of my ‘big’ mental work done before 7:30 AM. We’ve all heard the “eat your frog first” theory, right? Well, it’s worked for me!
- Better alignment with my natural peak time/down time and therefore HUGE productivity gains. My biorhythm has always been fatigue in the early to mid-afternoon, so at about 2/2:30, my productivity drops a lot. And shortly after, I get absorbed into family time (dinner prep, dinner to bedtime for my 5-year-old) which winds down around 8-8:30 pm. I’m invariably exhausted at this point so I’m only good for a bit of connection with Steven and my teen and something easy like TV or reading. This was true when I woke at 7-8 (or later on weekends) and is true now that I rise at 5. No Qualms note: On Friday, I’ll walk you through my daily rituals, give you tips for success, as well as offer you ideas for how you can spend the added time you’d gain; but in the meantime, trust me when I say that shifting my wake time has given me a major bump of productive time plus added in self-care time that almost always got eliminated out of my previously hectic day.
Will Making Over Your Mornings help you with the same level of major life impact? I’m not sure—it depends on how much work you want to put into affecting positive change in your life and if indeed you need to stop the hot mess train or not—you might be pretty dialed in already.
I am sure however that if you embrace the concepts of it, and the next installment—Make Over Your Evenings class—you will be more productive and likely quite a lot happier and less stressed. I’m also sure that after you wake up early for a couple of weeks, it will become your new normal and will cease to be painful to get up early.
Am I sure that Make Over Your Mornings is your best option to make this change? No—not 100%. There are many books and other courses offered that will help you do this—just search on Amazon ‘morning productivity’ for 665 options. But I do know that the format of short daily videos and homework works well for busy moms! It naturally got me getting up early to watch it in peace and the daily ritual helped me follow through with the course and in the process lock in my early rising habit. Plus, as a bonus, I enjoyed her as a person. Crystal and I are pretty different people yet I like and respect her just the same. She’s kind, smart, and pleasant to listen to. The fact that Crystal’s reasons for rising early include reading her bible, work on her budget-focused blog Money Saving Mom, and needing to be productive so she had time to home school her kids matters not at all to me. Me adoring Crystal is a great example of moms need to embrace each other and help each other regardless of parenting differences. She’s taught me a lot and I think she can teach you a lot too.
Closing note: If you’d prefer a book, check out the 5 AM Club. It’s been recommended by a few people including Susie Moore who is a smart and lovely personal coach that I follow.
All Photos by Angela Carlyle