The Weekly Challenge is a column that tackles self-improvement seven days at a time.
I have been in a long-term relationship with my snooze button. Every weekday morning, after registering the familiar duh-dunna-na-na of my alarm (the opening chords of "Bad To the Bone," if you're wondering), I hit snooze once, twice, sometimes 10 times.
These are not the habits of a highly successful person, I realize, particularly since the rest of my day is generally spent in a state of "there aren't enough hours in the day"-related anxiety.
One of my best friends is of the sort who simply can't sleep past 8 a.m., even on the weekend. (I could probably sleep until 8 p.m. on the weekend). This makes me incredibly envious and a little annoyed. I never asked to score the sloth card.
In related news, Michelle Obama recently told the news media that she regularly rises at 4:30 a.m. to fit in a workout.
My knee-jerk reaction – well I'm sure I could have world-renowned biceps too if I woke up in the middle of the night – quickly gave way to inspiration and to this week's challenge.
It's time to say so long to snooze and begin my day two hours earlier.
For me, this meant rising at 6 a.m., an hour I felt was ambitious, but, with all due respect to Mrs. Obama, not totally insane.
Newton's first law of motion
Do I really have to do this? It would be so easy to just slip back to sleep and pretend that I know what it feels like to wake up at 6.
Or maybe I could start tomorrow. … No wait, of course I'm going to wake up now, that's the whole point.
While the metaphoric angel and devil did battle on my shoulders, I got out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt and made tracks for Starbucks.
This ungodly wake-up required stimulants, stat. And yeah, maybe I'm being a tad dramatic.
According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian adult wakes up at 6:54 a.m. during the week, so obviously there are a lot of people out there for whom 6 o'clock is not so much ungodly as unremarkable. If you are already an early bird, try the First Lady's schedule on for size – it's more about stealing time than the actual hour.
After a java jolt and a light breakfast I sat down at my computer. One amazing thing about the barely dawn hour was there were no e-mails streaming in.
My boyfriend was still in bed, which meant I had no one to talk to. It was far too early to call anyone.
Really, I had no choice but to focus, and so I did. For a cool three hours. There is a lot of evidence to back up the assertion that most of us are our most productive selves first thing in the day – our energy level is higher, which in turn drives our ability to focus, our discipline and our decisiveness. We are also less likely to be interrupted and less vulnerable to distraction.
I was basking in the positive effects of all of this, at least at first. By 11 a.m. I was starving. By noon was exhausted. By 1 p.m. I was comatose on my couch.
Seize the (whole) day
If I were grading Operation Early Bird, I'd probably give myself a B+. On Saturday, I went to a Polish wedding (the Polish really love their vodka), so I gave myself a free pass the next morning. On day six, I had a lapse in willpower and slept until 8 (silver lining alert – after rising at 6 for a few days, sleeping until 8 feels positively decadent).
Every other morning, though, I was up with the birds, and after the first couple of days my body didn't seem to mind so much. I moved my bedtime ritual back by one hour, which was as simple as watching The Daily Show at 11 instead of midnight. I stocked up on granola bars to quell the mid-morning snack attack and I even stopped needing a midday nap (though there is certainly something to be said for the practice).
Productivity-wise, I was knocking it out of the park, and I began to fantasize about the life I could lead if all of my work obligations were out of the way by early afternoon.
The parks I could laze in, the magazines I could read, the as yet undetermined hobbies I could adopt…
I still, to quote the great feline philosopher Garfield, "Don't do mornings." I'll never be the kind of person who rises and shines, but I have learned the value of embracing the dawn. And nap time.
"If I did that I would be up at 4 a.m.! I do find that waking up and getting to work early is better. I am definitely more productive in the morning than later in the afternoon."
– Amy Brown
"Trying out a 6 a.m. yoga class tomorrow... hmmm..."
– Katie Murray
"Uh, no thanks. If I get up two hours earlier, I'll need to go to bed before my kids do! NOT happening."
– Crystal Glass
THE NEXT CHALLENGE
In love, does sweating the small stuff lead to an open and honest relationship? Does being a pleasant nag-o-rama yield more results?
Rather than letting little annoyances build up, try vocalizing the things that bother you as they happen. Do you feel lighter? Let us know at