People, we need to get more stuff done. Insert whatever word is appropriate for you. We’re a culture consumed by consumption and I think it’s going to suck a lot of life out of our kids. Seriously, it’s going to suck.
As we seek to fill our time with things that are pre-fabricated, manufactured and less original, we lose out on the participation in creation, which is how we got to be awesome as a species in the first place. So, let’s be all commit to being more awesome.
- Learn every day; just…be more learned.
- Wake up early and give yourself an hour for your future self.
- Teach someone, especially kids.
Sleep is awesome. I’m speaking from personal experience as I’ve done it a few times, in fact I’m quickly approaching 13,800 attempts at a night’s rest, many of them successful. I even take a nap most days. But we’re suckers for using sleep on the wrong end of our night. Staying up late is just way more appealing.
Bust Out of Your Funk
But what do we do in those last hours, when we’re the least rested and least focused? We watch House of Cards. Play games. Do the Facebook. Drown in Twitter or Instagram. Lame.
As far as New Years resolutions go, I’m not much of a fan. And since I try to do this every day already, it’s not really much of a commitment for me to make, but I think it’s a great life hack. So, here’s one thing that you can do to make your life better:
Wake up early.
That’s it. No secret sauce, no programs or diets or fads. Just get your arse out of bed.
I’ve been doing this, fairly faithfully for the last couple of years, and it’s something that I’ve started sharing with folks because it works. I can’t possibly make money off of you getting up earlier, so there’s nothing but a good honest recommendation in this.
Why do it? Because you can start to take control of your life, that’s why. You get up early, and things happen. There’s likely less distraction in your house and you’re going to be able to tune in to the task at hand. There are a ton of things you can do in just 45min-1hr:
- Read something you’re interested in
- Gain at least some awareness of world events
- Learn, learn, learn
- Go for a run/walk/bike, take out the trash, do some Yoga, shovel some snow (I do advise against snow blowers and lawn mowers in the wee hours, for the sake of the neighbours. Especially if I’m your neighbour)
- Write, even if you aren’t sharing it
- Solve a problem outside of your normal domain
I’m a software developer (in case you couldn’t tell from my blog) so for me, my goal is to stay caught up on the changes in the industry (cloud, patterns, vNext type stuff), things that influence my industry (electronics, politics, economic trends, job markets) and things that are disruptive to my career (wearables, IoT, startup culture, young kids with big ideas). I write code almost every morning. I try to work out 4 times a week.
If you don’t think that an hour of effort can make a difference, here’s what I did yesterday AM in 64 minutes:
- Created a new Azure Web Site
- Setup DNS for the site
- Created a certificate request for the site
- Applied for SSL with GoDaddy
- Completed the certificate request
- Exported the cert (with cert chain) and uploaded to azure
- Added the site to a GitHub private repo
- Published the site to Azure
- Added two settings to turn “test” and “paypal sandbox” mode to my web.config
- Added those app settings to the Azure website
- Enabled SSL bindings and redirects
TL;DR: I got schtuff done. And yes, I track my time and keep a log. When I look back on my week, I can honestly reflect and say, “Good week, Chambers” or “Pick up the slack, home slice”. It’s not a tool to condemn myself, it’s a way to score wins and keep motivated. Last year I put over 150 hours into “my career” and this year my career is better than last year.
If you’re not a morning person, so what? All you’re saying is that you’re not great at waking up. So wake up earlier, and get over your “not a morning person” time, then get to work.
If you get up early and start doing something meaningful, there’s going to be a few things that happen:
- You’ll start slipping away to bed earlier, because you’ll be tired earlier in the evening. Embrace it.
- You’ll start to lose interest in gossippy, trendy fads.
- Things you have wanted to learn will start to get learned.
- Projects you have wanted to work on will get some attention.
- It will be easier to walk away from your work during the day/evening and spend time with your family because you’re constantly achieving.
- You will see less value in lower forms of entertainment (reality shows) and greater value in the investment in yourself and time with your loved ones.
- You will be happier because you will feel like you’re accomplishing something nearly every single day.
- You will appreciate your rest much more
Oh, yes, rest is important. And I don’t just mean sleep. No athlete worth her salt trains every day of the week, nor should you. Take a day off every week (I try to practice a digital Sabbath) and let yourself recharge. And balance your efforts (I take a walk before and after work). I will write on this soon, as it’s especially important for me as I am a remote worker.
But, But, But…I Like my TV Shows! And I don’t Like to Get up Early!
“Can’t I just do this before I go to bed?” Sure, if that’s what you prefer. But why wait until your last hours of the day – as your concentration and willpower fade – to invest in yourself?
My morning ritual is easy: I get up, put the coffee on, do a quick workout (sometimes as short as 10 minutes), shower, grab my cup of joe and get to work. This takes less than 20 minutes, so I get up about an hour before the rest of the household. Want to know something crazy? I don’t even set an alarm. But, more on that in a future post.
My 11 year old son loves Lego and Dr. Who. He wakes up a couple of times a week and spends 10-15 minutes or so looking at online projects that other Lego-Whovians have built, and then tries to re-create them, or just builds his own, even recently getting into painting his own characters. He gets it: if he wants to learn how to do something, he’s got to put some time into it. He’s got school during the day, homework and music lessons during the evenings, and his parents make him get a reasonable sleep in each night. When else can he do this?
So, wake up early, close down your unnecessary browser tabs (Twitter, Facebook, email) and get some real s#@t done. Spend your early mornings on yourself, your daytime on your job, your evenings with the people you care about most and get a good night’s sleep. It will change your life for the better, guaranteed, or I’ll double your money back.
And happy coding.