7 Steps to Become an Early Riser

7 Steps to Become an Early Riser

For a long time now (like my whole adult life), I’ve wanted to be one of those people that breezed into work, right on time, with my made-at-home coffee in one hand and my to-do list in the other, looking professional in wrinkle-free clothes and smelling quite nice because I took my routine morning shower. This has been the vision and my goal. My own Mount Everest Long’s Peak.

But for years and years, this just hasn’t been the case. Instead, I was rolling in around 9 (if lucky), wearing something I spent ten minutes looking for in the “clean clothes pile” on my floor, with my pricey Starbucks coffee and pastry, yawning from going to bed just past midnight, and dreading the chaotic inbox that awaited and would surely to ruin my day.

In my mind I could see how it could be. I could see myself as this ideal person. I could also see that if I fixed my mornings and my nights, I might be able to accomplish some of my other goals. It might be as simple as making my bed in the morning, or putting my clothes away at night that could create the type of change that would help me get my finances in order, finish the latest novel I’ve been working on, keep a clean house, or get in shape. It’s all connected, and it’s all about getting enough sleep at night and getting the right start in the morning to make it so.

The people I know who are the most productive, organized, and seemingly stress free about the little things in life are the ones that get up early in the morning. They all have this trait in common. So that’s where I decided to start.

Now – it should be noted that I’ve had this deep desire to make a change like this for a long time. I made attempts here and there and I was interested in the subject, but I couldn’t make it stick. Then one night, I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline and I saw a tweet about waking early by a self-improvement guru I’ve come to respect over the years. I followed his link to learn about a book that some dude wrote on the subject. I made the stupid, yet secretly brilliant, decision to purchase this book.

At first, it was a stupid decision because the book was so bad. His big secret to waking up early – go to bed early. Shocking right? The rest of the book was an attempt to inspire the reader to be a better person. The intention was good, but it mostly annoyed me because we don’t all have stay-at-home spouses who take care of everything so we can use our extra time to do whatever we please. So the book inspired me to make my own plan that would work for me. And this is what I came up with.

1. Clean up your bedroom

If you keep a tidy bedroom with your clothes in your closet, instead of on your floor, congratulations. You are already past step one. If you do not, take some time to get it all put away. This was the first step to my success, because it made the routine way easier to follow and saves me so much time now that I can easily put my clothes away at night and lay out my clothes for the next day. I had no idea how much stress that put upon me and honestly prevented me from wanting to get up and deal with it every morning.

2. Leverage the weekend

Time can be sparse, especially if you have kids, or work, or work and have kids, or work and have kids a few nights a week and on the weekend. The latter is me. However, I’ve been trying harder to use some of that time to get prepared for the week ahead. I’ve been cooking in big batches to freeze or refrigerate for the week. I make sure I get some grocery shopping done so that I will have easy breakfasts to have at home and quick lunches to pack for work. If you know what you’re doing for food, the day isn’t as overwhelming and you’re more likely to get your butt out of bed.

Tip! I make a gallon jug of iced coffee that I can enjoy all week. This recipe is so simple, it saves a ton of money, it makes my morning coffee routine crazy simple, and it’s so delicious. I simply cold brew a gallon of water and half a pound of ground coffee in a big bowl for 8 hours on Sunday. Then I run it through a fine mesh strainer and a paper towel right into the jug. Boom. I’m set for the week.

3. Ten minutes at night will save you twenty minutes in the morning

If you’re a bit slower in the morning, raise your hand. I raised both. The nighttime me thinks that the morning me is awesome and completely capable of handling everything. You can do it morning Rochelle. I’m just gonna lay here and play Candy Crush until I pass out. The morning me hates the nighttime me. A lot. She begs for her nighttime counterpart to make life easier.

I used to make fun of my father for being so whacked out about his nighttime routine. Every night before bed he does the exact same thing. He gets his clothes ready for the next day (sometimes even ironing them – crazy!), the coffee pot ready, puts the skillet for his eggs on stove, puts a plate next to it on the counter, puts a vitamin and water glass next to that. He takes his nightly shower and heads to bed just after the news. Every single night. He’s going to kill me for saying this, but I get it now. Those little efforts at night have a high impact on his morning.

So before bed, I make sure that I have my clothes ready and everything else I might need. And then I make or refer to a list. A literal list of of what I’m going to do in the morning. From getting up, to using the restroom, to flossing. I’ve taken out all of the brainwork and now it’s muscle memory. And even better, it’s now a routine in the true sense. If I don’t do it, I feel uneasy. I guess that’s what it means to develop a habit. I feel a little like Rain Man, but hey, if you’ve got to be a little odd and repetitive about something make it something that will help you.

4. Tune in to your tired time

Around 9:30 p.m. every night I get a bit sleepy. It’s usually just some yawns and a case of droopy eyes. I used to fight through it and then be totally awake for several more hours instead of embracing my “tired time.” Now, I use it to my advantage. When it comes, I basically say goodnight and get on my way. Falling asleep is easy if I can get to bed within that window. When I talk to people about having a tired time I get funny looks. I’d like to think that most people are like me in this regard, but they just haven’t acknowledged it yet. Get in touch with your rhythm, you may be surprised what your body tells you.

5. Get up, get dressed and make the bed

There are some that may like to get up early and sit around in their pajamas, drinking coffee, and reading or even start working. Then they go get ready for their day. This does not work for me. My mind will latch onto the idea of a pajama day and the pain of departing from such a relaxing moment is too much for me to bear.

Likewise, I personally had to overcome a little morning routine that was ruining me. I used to wake up, go to the bathroom, and then crawl back into bed and read on my phone (Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes a book). By the time I got back out I knew pretty much all of the world’s news, what my friends were up to, and the latest plot twist in my book. This could last until 8:45 or 9, easily.

Knowing this about myself, I made sure that when I got up….I got up. I went right into the list I made, which dictates that I have to get ready before I do anything else and make my bed. No more crawl back in temptations.

6. Gamify it

I’m a nerd at heart. I love technology and I love games. Okay – I don’t think that classifies as a nerd anymore, but my love goes way back so I’m grandfathered in. Anyway – I found out about this great app called Coach.me. I will not lie, half of my success can be attributed to this *free* app that is all about building good habits. I like apps. I like checklists. I like when things turn bright green because I accomplished something. I like being in a community of people who are doing similar things. I have a feeling you will too. Get this app.

Lift App

Coach.me app

7. Take it slow

I knew that I wouldn’t be successful if I decided one day to start waking up at 5 instead of at 7:30. That wasn’t going to work. So I inched my way back. I started at 6:30, then after a couple of days got to 6. That made a huge difference in my life. Now I’m inching back further and I’m getting up at 5:45. My goal is to get up at 5:30. That seems reasonable to me. Don’t go crazy. Be kind to your mind and body.

So…

You may be wondering – what are the results and will she stick with it?

Well, I didn’t want to write about this until I was certain that the habits would stick. So I’ve been doing this for three weeks and it feels pretty set. I guess they were right about it taking 21 days to build a habit. I still worry about backsliding, but I’m doing a couple of things to decrease the likelihood.

First, I’m not sleeping in on the weekends like I used to. I’m trying to wake up at the same time every day so my rhythm stays the same. That quiet time on Saturday and Sunday mornings seems extra luxurious.

Second, I’m trying to acknowledge all the other great side effects of this new behavior, such as:

  • Saving a ton of money by eating breakfast at home and packing a lunch.
  • Getting to work on-time. As a manager, I feel like that’s the right thing to do, because it’s what I expect of my employees.
  • Wearing nicer clothes everyday.
  • Feeling less stressed because I’m not scrambling to feed, clothe, and move myself (and sometimes others).
  • Getting all the hot water I want in the morning.
  • Having a peaceful, easygoing drive into work since I’m not late.
  • Being more organized at work since I feel like I’m not already behind when I arrive.
  • Feeling good at the end of the day that I gave it my all.

Finally, I’d like to share a story about how I grew very appreciative of my new habits. Last week I was woken at 4:45 by a text message about a major IT outage at work. As an Assistant Director of IT Communications, I had to jump up and get to work right away. My brain was still on the slow side, but it could have been much worse. After a couple of conference calls, putting plans into action, and directing my staff, I had to leave to go into the office early. With a crisis at hand, I was more grateful than ever to have my clothes laid out, my packed lunch, and my iced coffee waiting for me in the fridge. When I was about to dash out of my bedroom to get on my way, I looked back at the unmade bed. I couldn’t let it stay that way, I went back and made it quickly. That’s when I knew. I knew that it had stuck and that later that night when I crawled into my nicely made bed, I’d be thanking the morning Rochelle for having it so together. For being that person I visioned for so many years.

My next steps:

  • Continue to develop these habits so that it’s now my default behavior.
  • Adapt the routine for the school year and getting the kids out the door as easily and pleasantly as possible.
  • Slowly start to build up cleaning and cooking habits so that it’s second nature.
  • Add in exercise, meditation, or yoga.
  • Get the rest of my home team on board. That one will be a little more tricky.

What are your tips for being an early riser?

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Keep Me Honest

Long time no blog! It’s been a crazy two years! It’s been a productive few years too. Since my last blog, I’ve worked on a campaign and started law school. I also did quit smoking (yay!) and lost and kept off about 20 pounds. I’ve been doing the dishes and trying to stay organized. Despite these adult changes I’ve made to my life, I am having a hard time sticking to my good habits now that I’m back in school. For one, I have been sick for about three weeks now, meaning I haven’t gone to the gym in ages. Second, I’m geting those spring semester habits I had in undergrad where I slack off more with more sunshine. Third, my procrastination is at pretty much an all time high! So, I think I need this blog to keep me honest- and organized. I’d like to just map out a few goals I have, and the type of stuff I’d like to talk about on here.

Self health/personal

Below, I talk about about making time for domestic bliss. In general though, I need to find a better balance between being in law school and having a life outside of the law school. It’s important to keep hobbies, keep healthy, and be happy. These are my goals for that.

  • Exercise- pretty much a given. I’ve only worked out 3 times this year. Frankly, it’s not just about weight or health, it’s really about mental health too. It’s such a great stress relief and I feel so much better after going to the gym. Once I get over this cold, I want to go on a major health kick and really focus on my fitness.
  • Eating- As I say below, I eat out now all the time! This is bad on my wallet and my health. I need to eat healthier. More salads- less jimmy johns.
  • Wallet- I had a BAD month of spending. I went over budget and I am definitely paying the price now. Because I get a lump sum of money and give it to my self in monthly installments, if I spend all of my allotment I refuse to give myself money out of the next month’s allotment (I’m glad I’ve stuck to this habit). This was my first month since starting school of spending my monthly installment fully. That said, I have got to cool it with spending. Mostly, stop buying clothes all the time. Find other things that make me feel happy (like exercise) other than buying shoes. It seems silly, but it’s probably my biggest problem right now. I’m actually a shopoholic. Since starting school, it’s unfortunately (but also kind of fortunately because now I have a great wardrobe!) been my main stress release. When I’m shopping, I feel so incredibly happy. Everything is right in the world. I forget about my problems. This may be good for Urban Outfitters- but it’s so bad for my wallet! I live on a fixed income! I cannot afford to be doing this! So yes, big goal- reign in the spending.

Home

  • Cooking! I was so good about cooking last semester and last year! Now my cooking only consists on frozen pizza. Johnny and I made a goal of deciding on cooking one thing special per week and doing it.
  • Cleaning- no, I am not the cleanest person. Johnny and I are trying to weekly clean up our house.
  • Making time for domestic bliss- Being in law school is about an 80-hour per week job, but you have to find balance. I’d like to get more domesticated- like buster!

Law School

Me - the law school student

Being back in school as an adult is weird and very nerve wracking. I love it though! One of the things I’ve loved is that I am so much more committed to school than I used to be. I really do work as hard as I can, which is pretty much necessary in law school. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve so far. I got pretty decent grades last semester, and I actually won a Scholastic Excellence Award. This only happened because of hours on end of studying and going the extra mile in all of my classes. This semester, however, I’ve began slacking off. Here are my specific goals for this semester:

  • Outlining early- Every law student can tell you of the horror and necessity of outlining, and doing it early. Last semester I got most of my outlining done in the few weeks leading up to reading week and during reading week. It was such a relief to get it done before finals time. This semester, my goal is to start outlining in March.
  • Doing Hypothetical Questions Early- Hypos are the key to law school. Last semester, I dedicated at least two days of my studying for each final to doing practice problems. This was extremely helpful, and made the exam taking experience a lot less stressful. This semester, I’d like to begin doing hypotheticals early so I don’t get rusty by final exam time.
  • Procrastination- The big one. I procrastinate so much. In fact, I began writing this blog because I didn’t want to start my sunday homework.
  • Organization- I’ve had a harder time staying organized this semester, which is not good. I need write everything in my calendar and make check lists.
  • Skipping class- I’ve now missed Torts and Property each twice. That means I pretty much cannot miss them again. I didn’t have a good excuse to miss them. They were undergrad me absences for sure. I know I don’t miss as often as other students, but I really don’t want to miss any more classes.

So I will try to keep you up to date with these goals. As for my day today, it will/must be productive. I’ve got reading to do (what’s new?) and I need to polish up my scholarship applications. See you on the more productive side of life, and thanks for reading!

Reset, Routine, and Inspiration

Starting in April and going through the end of June, I was swamped with a big project at work. I’m the kind of person who can only have so many things going on at once before everything else slips. I make sacrifices to keep my sanity. During this time I stopped cleaning the house, I bought paper plates so my dishes wouldn’t back up, I ate out a lot, I stopped couponing, I stopped exercising, and I did a minimal amount of laundry. Terrible right? I had to put my life on hiatus while I worked hard to complete the project. While it saved my sanity, it got me severely off track with a lot of the good habits I was working so hard to develop and maintain.

The first thing I did when I regained my freedom is I read a book, and quickly it became about enjoying the pleasurable things in life and shoving off responsibility. So I took a nice vacation last week where I read more books and played outside in the summer (first time in years), grilled steaks and saw movies. It was definitely what I needed.

Pueblo Photowalk

As we all know, vacations end. It’s time for me engage in my life again and my work. I need a reset. I need routine. I need inspiration.

Space

Cleaning my space at home — it helps me want to be here and eases my mind from the stress of looking around and feeling burdened by the mess.

Cleaning out my pantry and refrigerator — out with the old and stale, in with the new and fresh. Less is more in terms of keeping food, in my opinion. Right now our pantry is bursting with stuff. There’s no space. It sounds like we have a lot of food, but we sit around thinking we don’t have anything to munch on. That’s because finding things in the fridge and pantry isn’t easy and it doesn’t feel good.

Laundry and organizing my closet — will make getting dressed for work easier in the morning. Anything that helps me get to work in the morning would be very helpful right now.

Cleaning, organizing and rearranging my office — I need a change to my space there. There have been so many other changes there, circling around me, I need to make a change myself so that I can complete this transition and want to actually be there.

Connections, Communications, and Productivity

Inbox — I actually did this recently, but I still have so far to go. My work inbox has over 12,000 messages in it. For a while I had 2,000 unread messages (mostly from Facebook and Borders and messages that didn’t really apply to me). I cleaned those out and that feels like a burden has been lifted. Now to clean out the old ones that I don’t need anymore. I love to lighten my load. I did this also on my GMail for my personal e-mail.

Google — I am a fan of Google’s application suite. It happened during my big project when my assistant showed me how awesome Google Docs is. We were able to really collaborate on documents and I could access those documents from any web browser, easily and quickly. Since then I’ve been using it for everything in my personal life and continue to use it at work for various things.

One of the ways I use it is for tracking tasks. I started doing this during my big project. Instead of all of these complicated task management programs, I simply use a Google document to write down what I need to do each day, what I’ve done (after the fact) and indicate when stuff gets done. I mix up both work and personal things because it’s way easier to only have one document. There are a lot of benefits to do this than just knowing what I need to get done. So many times I can’t remember what I’ve done. This tracks it. It’s a running list that just keeps going. So call it a task list, journal of sorts that I can access from anywhere (browser on whichever computer I’m on and from my iPhone and iPad) at anytime and easily edit.

Tasklist in Google Docs

I also use Google for my personal e-mail, personal calendar, and Google+ for connecting with others professionally and personally.

Mind and Body Nourishment

peachpie-20090808-2

Meal Planning — a little time and planning up front saves a lot of time, money, and calories during the week. It also eases stress. It avoids that pesky question (that I often get), what’s for dinner? For inspiration I turn to “This Week for Dinner,” a blog that promotes meal planning and sharing menus. I’ve also just started using my Google calendar to help me plan and help me remember.

Meal planning with Google Calendar

Meal planning with Google Calendar

Breakfast and Lunch — I’m pretty good about packing breakfast, but I stink at packing or planning for lunch. Most days I skip lunch and scavenge for snacks instead. There are so many things wrong with that, but the worst thing about it is that I end up so hungry for dinner that I don’t want to cook and I pick up food on the way home. I need to correct this.  I’m currently reading:

Reading — Summer is a great time to turn off the TV. It’s also a great escape, so I’ve been spending more time reading. It relaxes me at night and it helps me wake up in the morning. I know — waking up and reading in the morning is weird, but that’s my favorite time to do it. I love using Goodreads to connect with friends and get ideas of what to read. It’s also a fun way to keep track of what you’re reading and gab about it. Find me on Goodreads and add me as a friend!

Exercise and Play — My gym routine got totally out of whack during the big project. I have a fabulous gym membership that I haven’t used in weeks. I need to start going back, so I’m fitting that into my schedule. Also — besides boring exercise, I’m just looking for more opportunities to play. Whether it’s golf or tennis, or flying a kite. Anything that gets me off the couch is a good thing.

Conference — I’m planning on attending a work conference in the fall that will help inspire me and hopefully that spark will come back. Right now things are not so good there after they made some personnel and organizational changes. My feelings and attitude are not what they should be about a job that I used to love so much. I need to find that purpose again so that I can put my best into it. Being happy at work is obviously very important.

CU-Boulder Campus July 2009

I’d love to hear your tips and advice on helping me get back on track. What do you do when you slide away from the norm?

The big 2-2

I am tagging this one in relationships, because it is about my relationship with myself.  I turn 22 tomorrow!

Everyone knows that 22nd birthdays are kind of no big. No big party, no big milestone, no big anything. For me, my 22nd birthday actually means a lot. It means growing up, it mean transitions, it means opening a new chapter. Remember being little and how you’d always have an age you like couldn’t wait to be? Well, usually my favorite age was 23- but sometimes it was 22! I’d imagine myself as a big girl and it- or rather I- was awesome.

As a child, I would be this beautiful actress dating Leonardo DiCaprio, internationally famous, living in Del Mar, California and  winning academy awards right and left. Little did I know, Leonardo DiCaprio wouldn’t age well at all.

As a 14 year old, I’d be a musician, and the little bit of guitar practice I did then would pay off as I toured with Bright Eyes and headlines Coachella. I’d have a cute boyfriend with whom I’d have an extremely dramatic relationship. Little did I know, I’d pretty much never pick up a guitar again after 15.

As a highschool student, I would be a college graduate working for some awesome publication writing music reviews. Maybe I’d live in New York, maybe still Denver. I’d be thin, have an awesome wardrobe, be financially okay and have a cute boyfriend. Most importantly, I’d be happy.  Obviously, expectations get lower the older you get. Little did I know, journalism would be a dying profession and the freshmen 10 isn’t a joke.

However, I think high school me would be okay with me now, some of those things did happen by the end of college.

For instance:

  • I have a cute, handsome, wonderful long-term boyfriend.

Mr. Escobedo and I

  • I did indeed graduate from college

    I actually made it through the Journalism School like a good little journalist.

  • I write for a well circulated publication, covering local music. See?
  • I have no picture for my wardrobe, but I think it’s great. I am addicted to shopping so it will never be all I want it to be but I have pieces I love, a variety of dresses, heals and boots, leather accessories, nice jeans, and coats I adore.
  • Most importantly, I am truly happy. I have people in my life I love. I think I’ve become a much better, more stand-able person since then, I’m not pretentious or trying to fit into any stereotype like I did then. I’m not wallowing in eemness (code for being emo) for the sake of being dramatic. I like what I like, am who I am- and I’m happy as this person.
  • Oh, and I quit smoking! Which as mentioned in a previous post was a goal of mine.

So, point is, I may not be the thinnest or coolest person in the world (in fact, I’ve gained weight and gotten more lame since high school), but I think high school me would be pretty proud of done with college, adult, 22-year-old me.

As for current goals, I think here are some attainable ways to see myself as a 23-year old:

  • Employed- leaving this open-ended
  • Living in a different apartment- this is a given, as my lease expires in in July.
  • About ten pounds lighter- most likely the goal that will be the hardest to actually attain.
  • A big girl- as in everything on this blog!! Specifically, good with finances, neat, cook a lot, not procrastinate, etc.
  • A better person- Obviously, everyone wants to be a better person. I specifically mean to not get upset over stupid things, like jealousy and to appreciate my relationships more.

I think it is also appropriate to write out a few of my larger goals to hit before 30 so that way when I do turn 30 I can be disappointed in myself for not reaching them.

  • Travel to Europe again. Perhaps spend a month there.
  • Live in a nice apartment or home with a big kitchen and at least two sinks, a patio and a spare room for the cats
  • Have a job I am okay with that pays decently.
  • Regularly have adult cocktails like mojitos and mai tais made out of expensive liquor because I’m an adult so I don’t buy PBR anymore.
  • Dress super classy and profesh.

Well anyway, hello new chapter, I’m excited for you! You and I are going to be great friends!

Happy New Year…let's get this party started

Okay, okay. The fun party is over. Our money’s gone, our jeans are too tight, and our apartments are more cluttered than ever. Thank heavens January is finally here and we can get started.

First things first–

Just ripe from graduating, Marissa is on the job hunt. She’ll also be doing a week long detox (which should make her crabby as all hell).

Rochelle, just ripe from a decade of excess, is going to work on her financial situation (which should make her ridiculously desperate and scattered).

Should be fun!

(Not really…it’ll probably be ugly).

Maybe it will be funny?

(…that’s all we can hope for).