21 Damn Early Days – Week 2 Thoughts
After two weeks of 21 Damn Early Days, my sentiment about waking up at 4:30AM remains the same: my life is awesome when I am getting up early and getting after life. Surprisingly, after week two, which had its fair share of ups and downs, my feelings on this are much stronger.
I’m trying to pin point exactly what it is about waking up at 4:30AM, but I can’t yet. There’s just something about having a routine where I am constantly getting after life that makes me feel really good. It sets the tone for the rest of the day and my days feel much more fulfilled and accomplished. The simple act of getting up at 4:30AM sets the tone for so many other areas of my life and actually makes them better off. It’s the keystone habit that the rest of my day builds on.*
Some Fun In New Orleans, Louisiana
Last week was tough. I was on the road, living out of a hotel, down at a conference in New Orleans.
Aside: if you’ve never been there, go. The place is like no other. It’s alive, it’s vibrant, everyone wants to have fun, it has history and culture and you can drink anywhere [which works well with everyone wanting to have fun]. There’s live music, the sound of jazz filling the street 24 hours a day and some of the most amazing buildings and architecture I’ve ever seen. Everything is colourful, fun and a little bizarre. It has this never-ending Halloween feel to it. And everybody just talks to each other. It’s just a way of life. On the other hand, it’s rough, rugged, and real. It’s been through hell and back and it shows. It’s this crazy balance and it’s like no other place I’ve ever been.
Needless to say, my schedule was all over the place and keeping my routine was hard. Very hard.
Of the four weekdays I was down there, I pulled off two 4:30AM morning (2:30AM Vancouver time). While I know getting up at 4:30AM every day I was down there would have felt like a huge accomplishment [and it would have been], faltering like that actually taught me a lot more about where 4:30AM fits into my life – and it’s all good.
What I learned after 2 weeks of waking up at 4:30AM:
1. Who you surround yourself is SO damn important. This is easily the most important lesson I have learned so far. It’s a lesson I’ve always known, but it definitely hit home more than ever this trip. At home, the people I surround myself know why I want to get up at 4:30AM, support me and some actually get up at 4:30AM with me (thanks G). I can’t even begin to say how much easier it is to do what you want, when you don’t have outside influences that don’t align with doing so. This realization was huge and is something I know I can apply to so many other areas of my life to make even the most difficult areas easy.
I sum this up in one way: bad decisions are so much easier not to make when you there is nothing around you influencing you to make them.
2. 4:30AMs has to be context-specific. Getting up at 4:30AM is something I will keep in my life for a long time. That said, there are definitely going to be times where it doesn’t make sense to do so, and that is fine. If I’m constantly trying to make 4:30AM happen, I’ll likely miss out on some of the best parts of life and since the whole reason I’m doing this is to get more out of life, that doesn’t make any sense. No one will be able to tell me when is a good time to let it slide, but it’s something I’ll likely figure out quickly. On the days it can't happen, just let it slide.
3. First and foremost, sleep is most important. Everyone has heard the stories about those who get by on 4 hours of sleep and go on to build amazing companies and live amazing lives. It’s easy to want to be them. They get an extra four hours of life each day and clearly make the most of it.
I am not one of them. I need my 7-8 hours. I’ve played around with this and it’s just the way I am built. This was surprisingly hard to admit to myself, but I think I’ve come to terms with it. Now it’s just a matter of adjusting my life accordingly. This is one of the major reasons 4:30AMs have to be context-specific for me.
4. Having a routine makes a huge the difference. Having a routine that my body can get used to to makes a huge difference. I used to hate routines, thinking that they were for boring people who didn't enjoy the spontaneity of life.
But what I’ve realized is that having a routine DOESN’T mean you have to live a boring life and it doesn't mean you can't embrace spontaneity – it just means that you build some structure into your life that your body can get used to. This can be as simple as what you do in the first 10 minutes you are up, to living a whole day of routine. Having the structure cuts down on the millions of decisions you have to make every day and leaves your willpower and decision making capacity more open for the things that matter.
5. I’m happier getting up that early. While I knew 4:30AM would be good for productivity and getting after life, I am amazed that it has had such a drastic impact on my happiness. On the days where I fell out of the routine for no apparent reason, I noticed my happiness levels decrease. On days where I got up and got after it, my happiness levels were back up. Life just felt “right”. As I said earlier, I’m still trying to pinpoint exactly what it is about it that works for me, but it just does. And to me, that’s all that matters.
All in all, days 5 to 10 of 21 Damn Early Days have been amazing. Impactful on my life and have taught me a lot about myself already. As week 3 gets underway, I'm looking forward to diving deeper.
Admittedly, getting in from the airport after 1AM this morning, week 3 is off to a slow start [see lessons 2 and 3 above] and I didn't get up until 6:20AM. It's actually funny to see how late that feels now.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and perspectives on them. Feel free to comment below.
*PS. If you haven’t read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, it has been one of the most influential books in understanding myself and why I do the things I do – most of the time unknowingly. The book dives into our habit forming mechanisms [which control a significant portion of our daily lives] and gives you an understanding of what they are, how they form, and how to break the bad ones. It’s definitely worth a read.
If you want to follow along, just throw your email in below to receive updates.