I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. which has left less energy for working out during the day. But it has made other areas of my life explode.
Those first hours of the day are awesome for doing the things that otherwise just don’t get done, which for me include studying new code for web design and learning other things for business in general.
These first hours end up being what I will probably look back upon later in my life and realize have shaped my career most profoundly.
But they come at a trade-off.
I can no longer stay up past 9:30pm and have a reasonable expectation to get up at 5 a.m. This means I’ve sacrificed doing some things that I really love, at night, like playing sports. I now only play organized sports once a week, and when I do I wake up at 7 the next morning, not 5.
I’ve set some very aggressive goals for 2018, and in order to properly approach these I’ve had to switch things up pretty hard. My new rule for drinking is I can’t drink past 8 p.m. I’m not allowed to have coffee past 2 p.m. I don’t check my email until 10 a.m. And then again at 4 p.m. 30 minutes total (15 minutes each check).
I don’t always succeed in meeting my email goals or my drinking goals or my caffeine goals but I’ve being tracking it and I’ve been pretty damn consistent – with one or two slip-ups.
The overall change has been very dramatic and does actually cause me a lot of anxiety and stress. Apparently the ego produces these feelings when the status quo is threatened and your very identity starts to change.
This is a protective mechanism designed to keep us from doing risky things and generally has served well over the course of evolution, but for one person trying to change his behavior, it creates such insane internal dissonance that quitting becomes very attractive.
However, simply knowing that that’s what’s going on helps me not quit. I keep getting up at 5 a.m. even on the days that I don’t want to. I think a big part of this is having a piece of paper on my wall where I write the times that I wake up every morning, and tick off the hours I spend in deep practice.
On that same piece of paper I give myself a daily score out of 10: 3 points for family. 3 points for work. Three points for learning. 1 point for myself.
Knowing that I’m being graded, even by myself, cues me to focus on the area of my day that I’ve been lacking in. So if I put up a pretty big work day, I’ll hang up the computer and work hard at being present with Isla and Lia. It sounds funny to say “work hard” but I think it’s important to realize that the same level of effort applied to my learning and my work needs to be applied to my family.
The scoring format is extremely informal. On weekends I’m actually being scored in the work category for not working.
I look for excuses to give myself good scores, and will give myself a perfect self score of 1 even if I just managed to lay down for 15 minutes that day and prevent myself from pushing through exhaustion. In therapy, my counselor told me that the big area for me to improve is my self-care. Naps, longer showers, meditation, journaling, and other ways of relaxing have paid off huge in my bigger picture.
Being better rested has allowed me to work a lot harder, get up earlier, and be more creative. More work has been coming in than ever before. I’m always at the edge of what I’m able to do, but I’m learning that the discomfort that comes with this is a good thing.
To quote a book I absolutely loved (Peak Performance): stress + rest = growth.
And, struggle = skill.