How I wake up 2 hours earlier every day and become happier

2016 January 27

Here’s how I kick off my workdays

6:00 AM: the alarm went off. I allowed myself to stay in bed 5 more minutes to skim through my phone notifications and got up to do the 8 mins abs workout on my yoga mat.

6:15 AM: I went to the bathroom to take a hot shower, and 5 minutes later, was looking in the mirror brushing my teeth (and also do some other stuffs I can do without clothes in the bathroom, like, shaving.)

6:40 AM: I drizzled some oil on the hot pan and started frying an egg for my power breakfast.

7:00 AM: took a moment to enjoy my power breakfast with a cup of fresh made pour over coffee. (Mmmmmmm.)

7:15 AM: sit back at my desk and started my morning learning session.

9:00 AM: time to hit the road! Great, the traffic is calmer now. I shall be in the office by 9:50. [Press the play button on my favorite Podcast]

I was nothing like the person described above at all three months ago. What I’d like to tell you is the story of the routine I used to do three months ago and what happens after adopting my new routine.

Background

A little bit story about myself. I’m a software developer working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like lots of people based in the Bay Area, we commutes! And a lot! The commute between my office and my place without traffic is around 45 minutes oneway. However, if you happen to be courageous enough to go on highway during rush hour, guess what, 45 minutes is the time you spend stuck in the traffic with the speed a dog can easily walk pass you.

My old routine

The traffic is bad, so what? I avoid them. To hit the road at 9 AM, I used to wake up 8:30 in the morning and rushed out my door without eating breakfast. Like everyone else who enjoys sleeping and believe me I still am, I need at least 7 hours of sleep every day in order to gain enough energy for a day of work plus my noon workout routine (this is another story). So at this period of time, I went to bed around 1 AM, typically.

Now looking back, I was consistently feeling pressures from work and life because I felt my free time was shrinking so much by the commute. Quite often I found myself working in my off time and tended to stay up late just to get more free time for work and myself. This system wasn’t working right for me.

The motivation

I don’t have any legit reason to set up my mind for this change. It’s just one day I came up the crazy idea: “I’m going to challenge myself to wake up at 6 everyday for 21 days in a row because it sounds a healthy thing to do.” Just kidding, I was first inspired by this YouTube video — How To Develop A Kick Ass Morning Routine | 5 Tips For Starting Your Day . This video help me to gather some great ideas to design my morning routine from this video. I also made a mental note that if the challenge was completed, I’ll hang on to it and see how long could the streak goes on. (It’s 81 days BTW.)

My challenge started

In order to get enough sleep, I forced myself to go to bed earlier than before at 11 PM. Like most challenges, you gotta push yourself and hang in there! The hardest part for me was the weekends. While still going out late with friends I still need to wake up at 6 the next day because I don’t want to fail the challenge. On the craziest weekend I was partying out till 3 AM for two days in a row and still manage to go on a snowboard trip on the third day. Man, good old days.

In order to get to bed by 11, I made one of the best decisions ever since working — not working after work hours. Why? Because I don’t have time after work anymore. On a normal day, I took off at 7 and get home by 8. After dinner, doing the dishes, cleaning up here and there, and maybe some video games, it’s almost 10 PM. Doing any sort of work an hour before sleep will cause my brain not wanting go to bed in time. Plus, with my extra 2 hours in the next morning I could catch them up later. Someone would call me if it is THAT urgent. My sleep quality boosted so much ever since.

In the morning, I’d do a quick workout, any sort of workout. Since I’m already keeping a regular workout everyday at lunch time, I found the best workout I could do is for my abs. I tend to skip abs in my regular noon workout easily so why not tackle it the first thing in the morning? The last line sounds like an awesome gym motivation quote. Cool. [Self-five]

About my power breakfast, there are three building blocks: proteins, carbs, and fruits. An example of my breakfast is english muffin with a fried egg, 2 slices of turkey breasts, lettuce, half of a avocado, lean cream cheese and 2 kiwis.

Result

  1. More energy — I don’t have any scientific fact to back me up but I feel much more energetic even with the same amount of sleep. Rarely do I feel sleepy during the workday now (except when my workout at noon is too intense.)

  2. More time on the right tasks — Instead of stuck in the traffic, now I’m using the best part of my entire day (morning!) to on the most valuable thing — learning (sometimes some urgent work). Driving is just a break before working.

  3. Less pressure — Instead of dealing with work late at night, dealing them in the morning gives me much more control of time and less pressure by the time I go to bed.

  4. Healthier — I’m eating proper breakfast everyday!

To sum up all above, I’m a happier developer now!