10 Things I’ve Learned from Waking Up at 4:45am for 31 Days

After 31 days of waking up at 4:45am, here’s my best advice for the next fool looking to do the same…

If It Won’t Go Bad, Lay It Out – This is an obvious one, but can make or break you.  If it doesn’t go bad (as in, needs refrigerated), then have it out and ready to go.  Lay out your food, your vitamins, your work bag, your headphones, your coat, your work outfit, accessories, all the way down to your socks.  Make it so that the only obstacle you have to deal with in the morning is your mind.

Speak In Commitments – Don’t say “I’m going to try to get up…” and don’t say “I’m probably going to….” and don’t say “Well I’ll see how I feel…” Say “I will…” say “I am going to…” and relentlessly hold yourself accountable to being a person who does what they say they’re going to do.

Talk To Yourself Like You Would Talk To A Friend – There will be a day when you can’t do it.  I don’t know why if a friend tells us they woke up 29 days in a row early and on day 30 they just couldn’t do it we’d tell them “what?! cut yourself a break, you’re awesome, who cares about 1 day when you did it all the others” but when it’s ourselves we feel we must justify it, or we’re a failure, or we let ourselves down.  Have a contingency plan for when you just can’t do it, and talk to yourself like you would your BFF.

Just Eat Your Lettuce & Be Sad – Somewhere between 2006-2010 I competed in figure competitions.  During that time I followed strict diets, lost a lot of weight, gained some lean muscle, and felt awesome.  One problem with dieting in that way is – once you start feeling so great, it’s pretty much all you want to talk about.  This is actually common for anyone who eats healthy and feels amazing – you just want to spread the good word that if everyone just ate grilled chicken breast leftovers and green beans and sweet potatoes, they could feel amazing too.  And you basically just can’t figure out why other people aren’t doing it.  My mom very quickly had to reel me back in reminding me that not everyone really wants to hear about your diet all the time.  Matter of fact, no one really wants to hear about it.  And if they do, they’ll ask.  Somewhere in there she coined the phrase “just eat your lettuce and be sad” which is her nicest way of saying “just shut up, we all know you’re skinny and we all know eating lettuce is the saddest thing a person can eat” (if you know my mom, you know there’s curse words in there too that I don’t feel comfortable typing).  Well, much like dieting….no one really wants to hear about your early morning workouts, because chances are, they didn’t workout and really don’t want to hear about how great your workout was.  I knew this right out of the gate with this goal.  Honestly, this blog has been the best thing to happen in this regard because if people are interested….they’ll read about it, and if people aren’t interested fortunately they have the option to skip it.  It still lets me get my story out of my system, but it doesn’t force people to listen.  So if you’re going to wake up early, especially if you’re going to hit the gym, don’t be the person to weave it into a conversation at work that has nothing to do with the morning or a workout but you feel better because now everyone knows you were up 3 hours before them.

Weekends Are For Sleeping In – Waking up early 7 days a week allows for no recovery time.  Even if you want to move your normal, let’s say, 9am weekend wake up time to 8am….great…but don’t try 4:45am 7 days a week.

Reward Yourself Often – Some people do well with a reward at the end of their goal.  If your last name is Ignet – you’re likely to do better with a reward everyday (high five for instant gratification).  If you’re the type that can hold off on buying a $100 purchase until you reach your goal…then make that your goal.  If you’re an Ignet, then find something that makes you happy everyday after you’ve achieved your daily goal (for me, it was simply a stop at Starbucks in the morning and hanging on the couch for 20 minutes watching TV with the perfect low lighting on).

Figure Out What Trumps Your Alarm – Every month, or week, or for some people….every day….will bring unexpected events that ruin your intention of waking up early.  Decide ahead of time what trumps your alarm (in my case, it was alarm and work out).  If your spouse wants to have breakfast, does that trump your plans?  If you have a work assignment and need extra time and could use the morning to do it, does that trump your plans?  If you are sick, does that trump your plans? If you decide ahead of time specifically what events are more important than the alarm (or a workout), then it’s so much easier to make the decision guilt-free and do what’s your actual #1 priority which oftentimes is not waking up early and working out.

Stay the Course, People Will Follow – I actually considered doing a blog post somewhere around day 20 called “When 4:45am Backfires” but the tone was more negative than what I wanted it to be.  I thought I’d do this blog, a couple of my closest friends would laugh at it, and that was it.  I have received way more notes or texts or general conversation with people who are waking up early now.  Some of which text me early in the morning now. So while this says “stay the course, people will follow” which is intended to mean – you are leading others with your actions so keep it up, because they’re watching you.  When I say it “backfires” I mean…be ready for your morning quiet time to yourself to maybe now include a spouse who is up earlier, coworkers who are arriving earlier to work, and friends who are now texting you at 5:30am.

Find Your Drishti In yoga, whenever there’s a balance pose to be had (for those who don’t do yoga, I’m referring to basically anytime you’re on one foot) you’ll oftentimes hear the teacher say to “find your drishti.”  According to Wikipedia (credible), “drishti” is “focused gaze, is a means for developing concentration intention.”  In general terms, they are telling you to rest your gaze on something that is not moving in order to help you balance.  In my interpretation:  rest your gaze on something that is constant, something that won’t move, set your intention to stand strong….and then…stand strong.  I say “find your drishti” about waking up at 4:45am because there are a number of days, times, and hours throughout this process where you need to keep your gaze on your goal, on the intention you set for yourself.  Find your “why” and remind yourself of that when there’s 5 inches of snow, you’ve chosen to drink decaf coffee, and you were up until 11pm working on something for work.  When you do, you’ll find your balance.

Don’t Go Decaf – If you drink coffee, don’t decide on day 20 you’re going to start with decaf.  Save that for another rainy day.

I did it.