From Night Owl to Early Bird: How I stopped hitting the Snooze Button
Memories of my mornings from grade school to University all begin with hitting the snooze button 24 times until I was 45 seconds away from needing to leave my home without being late… I was almost always late. During University, I found the solution to my problem.. I became a bartender. I finally had an excuse to wake up in the afternoons thanks to working a shift until three o’clock in the morning. I figured that I was wired to be a night owl and that I simply needed a career that allowed me to sleep the way I needed to.
This false fantasy dissolved quickly when I decided to open a juice company which required me to do home deliveries of freshly pressed juice starting at 5am in the morning. I was miserable. I was still hitting snooze until the last minute, but the ramifications were now much more severe. I would show up late for deliveries, I would open up my shop downtown with 30 seconds to spare before clients started to walk in while trying to rub away the pillow marks that were still visible on my cheek.
A wave of shame and guilt would always wash over me once I had time to reflect over my chaotic morning - What the &*@# was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I wake up in the mornings? Why was I always exhausted, even after changing my lifestyle and consistently eating a healthy and energy-rich diet?
I had a few things happened that made me decide that I was going to break out of my destruction cycle:
#1 - One morning in the first few months of owning my shop downtown I slept through my alarm and showed up 30 minutes late to open the door. I had two clients standing in the cold waiting for me. It was a sucker punch to the stomach. These wonderful people had decided to show up at 8am to come and support their local juice shop that had just opened. The shame I felt as I walked past them to unlock the door is forever burned in my brain.
#2 - I showed up to a morning event that I was catering at 5:55am with zero minutes to spare looking like a zombie. I handed out the meal packages to everyone at 6am with a smile on my face. After everyone left my mentor, who had given me the catering opportunity, pulled me aside and told me that what I had just done was unacceptable. I was confused because I had delivered the packages on time, but she pointed out to me that I looked exhausted, I looked like I had just gotten out of bed (I had). She told me that it was my job to show up full of energy because I owed it to the clients who showed up for a 5am workout to match their energy. It was a wake up call that I desperately needed and will forever be grateful for.
I would love to tell you that those incidents were the catalyst for instant change, but even after those valuable lessons, it would still be years until I found a system that allowed me to become the morning person that I always dreamed of.
How I transformed myself into “Morning Madi”
(My old self would have loathed Morning Madi.. But that’s the beautiful thing about growth, you evolve into something that has less insecurities.)
Evolving into a human who wakes up before the sun rise took many years of trial and error to find the tools that worked for me. For me it was about finding a combination of habits that kept me honest with myself enough until I started to feel myself smile when the alarm went off.
Habit #1 - Self-Confidence = Self-Respect. In the words of Ed Mylett, you build confidence by keeping the promises you make to yourself. I began to promise myself that I was going to wake up at 5:45am in the morning when the alarm went off. So when the alarm went off, I remembered my promise, and actually did the thing. Not only was I keeping my promise to myself, but I was starting off my day with a boost of self confidence which allowed me to feel like I had already succeeded in something that day.
Habit #2 - Predict your bad habits. I knew that my worst habit when it came to waking up in the morning was my ability to hit snooze dozens of times, so I put in place a system that forced me to break that habit through physical force. I decided to move my phone’s charging station across the room. This meant that every morning when my alarm went off, I had to physically drag my ass out of bed, stumble across the room, and turn the alarm off. It worked a few times in the beginning but then I found that I had another bad habit of crawling back into bed WITH my phone and hit the snooze button. I knew I needed another line of defence.
Habit #3 - Bring in the Sticky notes. Mel Robbins always talks about how we aim higher when we plan for our future self because we are proactively thinking of the best outcomes we could achieve versus reacting to the situation in the moment without time to plan. After a few mornings of crawling back into bed I knew that I needed another line of defence against my bad habits. So I began to use sticky notes. At the end of the night when I was putting my phone away, I would write notes to my future self that I would be required to read BEFORE I could turn my alarm off because I would cover the front of my phone with the note. Some examples of what I wrote to myself are:
“You know that you want to start your morning right now, don’t go back to bed.”
“Dude - You %&!(*!@# did it!! You’re awake before 6am!!"
“Be GRATEFUL that you GET to wake up today.”
“You don’t need more sleep - You need more time to organize your thoughts.”
“Do 10 jumping jacks right now. GO.”
“Put your head into your journal - Not your pillow.”
“You feel 1000% better when you meditate & journal before you start your day.”
“Hey - I’m really proud of you.”
“Do not let yourself feel the guilt you WILL feel if you go back to bed.”
“Your morning routine makes you feel invincible, don’t take that way from yourself.”
I began writing anything I could think of the night before that would stop me from snaking back to bed. I tried shaming myself, I tried celebrating myself, I tried forcing myself into physical activity on demand. Over the weeks I noticed that the more positive my notes to self were, the more positive I felt about myself which set myself up for a positive day.
Habit #4 - Get crystal clear about your WHY. This one was a game changer for me over the last few years. By getting clear on my WHY (aka. The reason we do what we do) it allowed me to use it as the fuel I needed to wake up, especially on the days that I felt exhausted or cold or under the weather. When you understand your why, you want to wake up to start to work on it.
Habit #5 - Create a morning routine that makes your heart sing. By building a routine that you actually love, you actually start to look forward to the morning. This takes more time than we want to admit because it requires a lot of testing, listening, researching, and tracking to see what speaks to you personally. My morning routine won’t work for everyone due to our work schedules, lack of children, and desired goals but here is a look at my weekly morning routines:
Mondays & Fridays
5:40am - Wake Up, Drink 1 ltr water w/ lemon + Make Coffee
6:00am to 6:30am - Journal session + Meditate / Breathing Session
6:30am to 8:30am - Walk to Boxing studio for 1 hr Session
8:30am to 9am - Cold Shower + Breakfast w/ music that makes me dance
** Do not check the phone (no emails / no social) until after boxing
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday
5:40am - Wake Up, Drink 1 ltr water w/ lemon + Make Coffee
6:00am to 6:30am - Journal session + Meditate / Breathing session
6:30am to 8:00am - Workout OR Head to the Lake for a Cold Dip
8:00am to 8:30am - Shower + Breakfast w/ music that makes me dance
** Do not check the phone (no emails / no social) until after workout or lake dip
Do I wake up at 5:45am every single morning without fail? No. Especially not on Saturdays. If I have a late night event, I plan to allow myself to sleep in the next morning because I understand the importance of sleep. But I no longer fear the mornings, I now look forward to the quiet darkness that they offer and the creative space they provide. Mornings are my favourite part of the day because I’ve designed my mornings to make me feel good, both physically, mentally, and spiritually.
If you’re struggling to create your morning routine please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I’ve experienced all of the negative self talk that comes with this struggle and find few things more exciting than helping my clients turn their mornings into their source of creativity and self growth.