You may have noticed the 21 early days hashtag popping up on my Instagram. This is a challenge of getting up everyday at 4.30am for three weeks – which is approximately how long it takes to form a habit.
4.30am seemed just a teeny weeny bit TOO early for me, so I opted for 5 am instead. It’s not much better, but the extra half an hour in bed helps a lot.
The idea of getting up that early has never appealed to me. Then again, does anybody really want to get up at that time? I love sleeping. I love my bed. Given the choice, I’d spend all of my time there. I like to get a minimum of 8 hours sleep in whenever I can.
So why on earth would I choose to get up at 5 am?!
As counselling was drawing to a close, I started to think about the next steps. I needed to think of ways to take care of myself, and live the life I wanted. One of my biggest concerns was that I would become a hermit. More often than not, counselling would be one of the only times I’d venture out of the flat.
All of these plans came into my head. They were things I should have been doing all along, but hadn’t. Eat better. Get outside. Drink more water. The trouble was, I didn’t want to sacrifice my routine to do that. I didn’t want to miss out on time with Neal by having to push my work back to squeeze these things in.
The solution? Make better use of the time I had.
Enter the 21 early days challenge.
Before I even discovered this, I felt like the world was sending me little signs to switch up my routine. Through getting up with Neal at 5am when he was doing some training, I realised I was efficient in those early hours. I joked about doing it more often, then felt the winter blues kick in and changed my mind.
Then, videos about getting up early worked their way into my life. It started with this one from Casey Neistat. In it, he gives an overview of his routine, and discusses with a Navy Seal Commander why it’s beneficial to get up earlier.
Neal was watching it while I was doing something else, but it caught my attention. Casey mentioned how the time between 5am and 7am is when most people are sleeping. Everything is quiet. The distractions are very limited. It’s possible to send an email, and know you won’t get a response right away. You can focus on what you need to do. What he said made a lot of sense to me. So, I told Neal I was going to start getting up earlier and getting things done.
I lasted two days. They were two highly productive and satisfying days. But, my love for my cosy bed was too strong.
Then, again, scrolling through YouTube, I found a video about a 5am morning routine. I was charmed by the fact this person had time to do the things I wanted to do. She was talking just as much sense as Casey, and I felt another tug towards the 5 am club.
The icing on the cake was a TED talk by Filipe Castro Matos about 21 early days. Instead of getting up at 6am, he was getting up at 4.30am. A simple change with huge benefits.
Once I started thinking about the ways this could be helpful for me, I knew I needed to give it a go. For me, it would be a more dramatic change. I go to bed at around midnight and get up at 8-8.30. But, I wanted to try. It didn’t mean I had to miss out on any sleep. I would simply need to go to bed earlier.
The first day, I managed without much issue. By 8am, I had been out for a walk, showered, drank 600ml of water and done several things on my to do list. A blog post was written. I was all caught up on social media notifications. I watched the sun rise. By the time other people were waking up, I had already done so much.
It felt AMAZING.
Better yet, it freed up time later in the day. Completely free time. No stressing about what I needed to get done. I had already taken care of it. Being on social media was more fun. It was no longer distracting me from pressing matters. There was finally space in my day to put my feet up and read.
Despite my success on the first day, the second day didn’t go so well. Actually, I failed miserably. I turned off four different alarms. You won’t have seen any Instagram updates from me in the early hours, because I wasn’t awake to see it.
Rather than let that be the end of it, though, I tried again the next day. Neal got up with me this time, which I think made it a little easier. I didn’t have to deal with the envy of him being cosy in bed. Once again, it was another highly productive day.
I am currently on day seven. There have been successes and failures. On more than one occasion, I’ve ended up going back to bed, or needing a nap later in the day. Let’s face it, I wasn’t going to be able to adjust easily!
Yet, in doing this, I think I’ve achieved more in the past week than I’ve done in the month. I’m going to keep pushing forward with it, and see how it goes.
It’s strange, because I’ve always been skeptical of the idea. Turns out, these crazy people who get up at the crack of dawn might just be on to something. And I might be turning into one of them.