Early to Rise - The Habit of Getting Up Early

Up until now I’ve considered my big 5 foundational habits as Eating, Exercise, Writing, Recording, and Meditation.

But I knew that getting up early was something I wanted to nail as a habit. I’ve never had problems with it when I have to, but I have normally - as a freelancer, I don’t strictly NEED to.

And that’s interesting in and of itself. If you’ve been forced to do something your entire life, can it truly be called a habit? It can be - I remember when I worked in an office I’d start getting up early on the weekends. On the other hand I know of many high school athletes who had to not only get up early, but were forced to exercise. For the overwhelming majority, it wasn’t a behavior that stuck - it barely lasted past the first year out of college.

I believe habits implemented just by yourself are horrendously difficult. I also think they have the benefit of being truly yours.

When I was a kid my mom harped on me on many things, and oddly enough her voice has now become mine. Many of those behaviors are on my list of habits I wish to form, including this one.

But getting up early foundational?

When I describe a habit as foundational it means I view it as one that has overarching benefits long term, whose solidity positively affects other habits I’d later implement.

Learning calligraphy, for example, isn’t very foundational - it’ a cool enough skill, but it’s not necessarily a base for anything else, except perhaps general artistry. Eating right, or exercise, however both contribute to general well being, promoting energy and drive for any other behavior I might want to add to the mix. Meditation is even more central because it promotes emotional control to a process like habituation, which is itself fraught with mood swings. Recording provides an anchor for all skills, and writing is just a personal important thing to me.

So why sleeping? I’m finding more and more that getting what I need to do done earlier makes me feel freer. I’ve currently gotten into a bad habit - mostly due to jet lag - of staying up late and getting up late. What I find is that I’m constantly rushing. And this prevents me from doing the little behaviors that contribute to a good habit. Like what?

I’ve been meaning to post a video of myself rowing to submit to a forum so I can make sure my form is right. I’ve been meaning take body measurements so that I can see fat lose as it occurs. I’ve been meaning on taking daily pics of myself to measure progress.

Lydia gets up earlier than me, and she wants to get out earlier as a break. That’s fine - it’s something I want to, because getting out get’s me into the sunlight and generally boosts my mood. But if I can’t finish what I have to do quick enough I take shortcuts. It’s not practical when living with someone else (I’d like to do a post completely on how other people’s habits can bolster or break down habits, much like habit harmonics).

Also, although I stay up later, I don’t really do anything except putter around on Reddit. And if I intend to do anything social, or go out, that window is just closed down - the window of bookending for the “morning” becomes very small.

Lastly, there’s just something good about finishing habits while there’s still daylight. And there’s something immensely satisfying and relaxing about having the rest of the day before you.

The real question is: just how foundational is this?

 I feel it adversely affects my mood - I feel like I’ve wasted the day as soon as I get up late. I feel it adversely affects my eating, because by the time I get up, Lydia is already hungry because it’s lunch. If I had to make it into a hierarchy I’d say it’s either on par with meditation or exercise. My meditation isn’t really affected. My exercise is a little because I don’t measure myself. It affects my recording because I don’t really have time to do it before needing to go out. 

The reason why this is important is because I’ve just collapsed my eating habit. I’ve just started my rowing habit, and that’s going really well. I’m faced with a decision - should I managed my sleeping first and THEN add eating?

If I go back to an old post - “Sandbagging Continued” - I describe how Lydia suggested a method to evaluate the importance of habits. I called it a sandbagging ratio, which is how much habits give vs how much they take to implement.

I definitely believe that getting up earlier is easier to implement when compared with eating. It gets a little complicated to habits of instance - I have to manage what I do at night as well as the morning. But it definitely beats regulating everything that goes into mouth despite changing scenarios.

In my next non recording post I’m going to go through suggestions I’ve read on how to get up early and how to implement it.

The Next Habit: Writing

Today 3 of my 4 habits reached “Superhabit” status at 80 and above on the SRHI. They feel pretty effortless, especially after getting used to my new unrecorded habit in the last two weeks of starting new duties at work. Two weeks ago I felt endurance depleted, but now I feel very solid, and it has been reflected in my scores.

I think it’s time to attempt a new habit. I thought about a simple habit like flossing, or going back to dynamic meditation. In the book Do the Work Steven Pressfield talks about fear and procrastination pointing to what you should do next. For me, that’s writing - I tend to avoid it like the plague.

My first attempt with this habit was with 750words.com over a year ago! According to my records, it was my longest running recorded habit at 175 days - though I had severe problems with consistency. I officially scrapped it at the end of Feb 2014.

In this new iteration I need to combine all the things I’ve learned so far. I need a solid implementation intention - an if-then of a trigger and the action. This will merge with the idea of “bookending” - doing something as a chain when I get up in the morning. And I need to include BJ Fogg’s notion of a TinyHabit. It also has to be scaleable - I should be able to naturally evolve and add to it.

My bodyweight training is, to date, the most efficient habit I’ve formed - a quick, steady rise to habituation with no real “danger zones." 

So, with all that in mind, my habit will be to write potentially publishable material every day. 750 words isn’t "tiny” so I’ll be writing 200 words a day. And these bits of writing cannot be diaries or meandering thoughts - they have to be something I could actually form into full pieces.

I currently wake up and meditate, then do bodyweight exercises, then record, then start work. I will put writing 200 words right after I record my habits and before starting my real work. This means I will have to off-set the recording of this habit for the next day.

I also need this to be scaleable. So I will first start with 200 words. Once I get good at that, I will extend it slowly by word count, then until I can proof a full basic article of 800 words and have one article ready to publish per day.

In my original 750 words project I would end each session by brainstorming what I would write for the next day. This is also a great practice.

This is going to be really difficult. It’s hard to do this psychologically because I fear it. Also I’m moving to a different country in one week. However, I want habits and habit formation to work irrespective of location changes, so I’d like to start now. I’m also curious if 200 words is tiny ENOUGH. The idea is that it has to be utterly easy - almost ludicrously so. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m nervous, scared, and a little excited - let’s see how this works out!