This is a guest post by Joshua Spodek, bestselling author of Leadership Step by Step, is an Adjunct Professor at NYU, leadership coach and workshop leader for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., and founder of Spodek Academy.
For most of my life, certainly the past decade, I’d take twenty-plus minutes to get out of bed after my alarm, often forty minutes or more.
Since November I’ve gotten out of bed in under sixty seconds, without fail, each day, at 6:15am.
When a mutual friend put me in touch with Lidiya and we talked about cross-posting to each other’s blogs, I saw her posts on the value of getting up early and thought I’d share my transformation. I didn’t ease into getting up in a minute. I did it one morning for the first time in my life, found it valuable, and kept doing it since.
This is through a cold, dark New York City winter. I save energy, so that meant getting out from under a warm comforter into an unheated apartment. Totally worth it, which I could only learn from doing it.
They know what to do.
I’m going to share how.
I’m not special. If I can, you can too.
I don’t claim my solution will work for everyone. I doubt any solution would or could. But it worked for me so it may work for others.
I have no special superhuman skills, no special waking-up history. While I had morning activities, I had never fixed them into a routine. On the contrary, starting this practice coalesced my activities into a set routine, which has made my mornings more fun and efficient.
I didn’t even have strong motivation to get up early since I used to tell myself lying in bed that I was meditating to start my day with focus. Deep down I knew I was procrastinating, though, not meditating.
I did have one advantage: I’ve worked on creating habits out of things I value.
For example, I used to labor over deciding between taking the elevator or stairs to my fifth-floor apartment. Then I realized it freed my mind more to decide once and for all to take the stairs.
That’s the benefit to systematizing things: freeing my mind to think about important things. In other words: mental freedom. The free exercise is a side benefit.
If you don’t have experience systematizing practices, I recommend starting as soon as you can. Since this article piqued your interest, I recommend starting with this practice. Use this post to get out of bed in under a minute tomorrow morning.
You may succeed, you may fail, but at least you started. Once you start you can iterate and improve. My experience doing so is how I succeeded this time.
The How of Getting Up in Under a Minute
I teach leadership and entrepreneurship through my book, Leadership Step by Step, at New York University, and in my online courses that the book is based on at Spodek Academy. In my leadership course I assign a personal project and some students choose to start a habit.
The book and course describe a process depending not on willpower or hoping for the best, but crafting one’s environment, beliefs, and behaviors to make the new habit feel natural.
Last November, one student chose as her habit to wake up early and quickly for a month. She kept talking about how hard she expected it to be.
I knew that her believing it would be hard would make it hard. I suggested that believing it would be easy would make it easier.
As I said so, I thought of how much time I wasted not getting out of bed. I thought, “If I’m telling her she can believe it’s easy, I can believe it’s easy too.” So I did. I had meant what I said.
That evening I set my phone alarm for 6:15am and put my phone away from my bed. The next morning when the alarm went off, I had the thought I’ve had almost every morning since: “I don’t want to get out of bed, but I said I would. I even said it would be easy,” and I got out of bed. Then I walked to the phone, ensured that it still said 6:15, and turned off the alarm.
That’s all I did at first. I’d stand there dazed, wanting to go back to sleep, but knew to stay out of bed. Over the months since, I’ve used that time to figure out the order of what to do and I do it. What I used to think about for twenty to thirty minutes, I do.
Action leads to results that mere thinking doesn’t.
The result is my morning routine: after turning off the alarm, I raise the shades, look at the morning light (or darkness, mid-winter), go to the bathroom, do my ten-minute morning burpee/stretching/weights routine, water the plants, make breakfast (always the same: oats, nuts, fruit, chia seeds, and water), and indulge in browsing online while I eat. Then I go into each day’s unique tasks, having broken a sweat and taken care of a few daily essentials.
The routine is perfect for me.
What Made It Work
What made it work was not planning and figuring out perfection.
It works because I acted on something simple and stuck with it. Now it’s a 30+ minute affair that sets me up for the day, but it began as a one-minute task.
How did it evolve? I kept at it and improved it each day.
When you read about someone else’s morning routine, I recommend not trying to replicate theirs. Use it for motivation and direction, but your routine depends on your life and goals.
I recommend starting with a bare minimum and keep at it. Yes, it’s hard to get out of bed, but your routine will lead to for you what mine led to for me: a self-reinforcing routine that you enjoy.
The burpee routine warms me up and removes my motivation to get back in bed. My love for fruit and nuts motivates me to keep going until I eat. My feeling of responsibility to my plants motivates me too. Everything works together because I built it that way.
I’m surprised at how much I like it. For a second it’s hard to get out of bed. Then I’m glad I’m up. Then after the routine I’m fresh for the day.
The Big Picture
Most life transformations follow a similar pattern:
Planning leads to more planning, not action. Action leads to results.
I don’t believe planning alone can create perfection or even greatness. Only acting, refining, and improving can.
Which means starting is the key to success:
Start small, with what you will keep doing. Then don’t stop. Improvement will come inevitably.
Reading Lidiya’s blog means you have many life goals. Choosing to click this article means waking up faster is one of them. Start with it. Wake up tomorrow in less then a minute. And the next day, the next, and so on until you create your routine.
It will be yours. You will get all the benefits everyone else does for theirs. And people will want to learn what yours is. You’ll probably tell them how to start their own instead.
Eventually you’ll transform bigger parts of your life, eventually anything you want.