Let's Talk Routines

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"Most people know what to do, they just don't have the willpower and structure to get to it consistently."

Routine – it's become dreaded word in our culture, a word we closely correlate with monotony. But for these 21 days, I want you to break that notion.

When directed towards things that matter, routine is what allows us to stay on track, reduce the willpower we need, and move further, faster.

It is what will help you break your current habits and build new ones.

By definition, a routine is simply a sequence of actions you follow regularly. In this case, we'll be talking about the routines you set up and follow each night and morning. These are what will ensure you are able to create the space you need.

If you take the time to set them up properly and, most importantly stick to them, you'll walk away from 21 Damn Early Days further than you thought possible.

 

Let's Start With Bedtime 

Getting up at 4:30AM doesn’t start when your alarm clock goes off, it starts the afternoon before. Yep – a full 12 hours before you wake up you should be thinking about it because the decisions you make then will effect how easy it is for you.

We've got some things to think about and do below:

1. Your Bedtime

This is one of the biggest things you'll need to understand – how many hours of sleep do you need?

For most men, it’s between 7 and 9 hours and for most women it’s 8 to 9 hours. Of course, this is a uniquely individual thing that you have to figure out for yourself. 

Spend time figuring this out and then count back from 4:30AM – that’s your bed time. If you need 7.5 hours of sleep, then you need to be asleep by 9PM. Given that it takes roughly 15 – 30 minutes to fall asleep, you should be in bed with the lights out by between 8:30PM and 8:45PM.

This might sound early right now, but once you get the hang of early mornings and realize how much you can accomplish early on in the day, it won't be seem so bad. Trust us.

HOMEWORK
figure out how much sleep you need.
determine what you bed time is.

 

2. Building a Night Time Routine

The easiest way to consistently get to bed at an hour you aren't used to is to have a routine around it. The body is way smarter than most of us give it credit for and creating a night time routine serves as a cue that it should start getting ready for sleep.

During it you can prep yourself for bed, sip herbal tea, read a book, prepare for the next morning (setting up coffee, getting out gym clothes, etc.), set your alarm, mediate to something that calms you, and/or mentally go through the process of getting up in the morning.

Keep things simple and you will thank yourself.

Note: Preparing for the next day, the night before, is one of those little things that’s going to help you succeed. You are much more likely to get out of bed and hit the gym in the morning if your bag is already packed and all you have to do it throw on your shoes and head out the door.

Three simple rules to your routine:

  1. Your routine should take at least 15 minutes.
  2. Be similar each night.
  3. Be done at the same time each night.

To do:

  • Spend some time developing a night time routine. Think about how you want to wind down. We put some suggestions and an example below.
  • Write it down, print it out, and leave it somewhere you can go back to each night
  • Set your alarm clock for 30 minutes and then 10 minutes before this starts. This will be your reminder that you need to start thinking about closing it down for the night.

You can find an example of a nighttime routine here:

I need a solid 7.5 hours each night and generally fall asleep quickly, so I need to be in bed by 8:45PM and asleep by 9:00PM. I like to do a little more with my night time routine as I use it to decompress from the day, remind myself where I'm at, and get prepped for the next so I budget 30 minutes.

Here's an example of what it'll look like:

7:45PM - First alarm goes off telling me I have 30 minutes until I have to start winding down.
8:05PM - Second alarm goes off, telling me I have 10 minutes. I begin shutting down what I'm doing.
8:15PM - Brush my teeth, make tea, shut off my phone, and set my alarm for tomorrow.
8:15PM - Turn on some chill music. I use the same song each night, which tells my body it's time to go to bed. Spend the next 15 minutes decompressing from the day, writing down thoughts, going over what happened that day, understanding what went well and what did, and looking at my agenda for tomorrow. This takes about 15 minutes.
8:30PM - Read a book for 15 minutes.

8:45PM - Crawl into bed.
9:00PM - Good night.

HOMEWORK
spend some time and figure out how you'll wind down your nights
 

3. Some (Tried and tested) Afternoon & Night Time Rules

Trust us when we say we've messed this up just about every single way you can. Whether it's been 21 Damn Early Days or the chases we've done, more than once we've found ourselves sitting there at midnight, wired and not able to fall asleep.

To save you the struggles, we've put down some of the best rules for making your nights easy:

1. Ditch The Phone

As powerful as they are, your phone is likely the biggest distraction in your life. We recommend leaving your phone charging outside of the bedroom and investing in a $20 on an alarm clock to get you up each morning. This does two things: 1. it stops you from being on your phone in bed and 2. it forces you to get up to check-in each morning.

2. Technology Cut-Off

Speaking of technology, we recommend cutting it out at least an hour before bed. The blue light from your phone/computer screen will tell your brain to stay awake and stop the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). Unplugging at least an hour before will tell you body it's allowed to fall asleep. The science is here .

3. Food Cut-Off – Try not to eat 2 hours before bed. It makes a different in how you well you sleep.

4. Caffeine Cut-Off –  Cut out caffeine six (yes, 6) hours before bed. That means if bedtime is 9PM, then 3PM is your last call for lattes.

5. Gym Cut-Off – If fitness is a part of your routine, get your work outs in by the early afternoon at the latest. Exercising late in the day can signal to your body that it shouldn't be ready to sleep yet.

6. Have A Plan and Stay The Course
You are saying yes to an unbelievable morning, so stick to your plan and feel good about saying no to things that come up last minute – no to a late meal, no to going out (even for just one drink), no to (insert pseudo FOMO or shiny object here).

And last but not least, have some damn confidence in yourself. You got this.

The end.

A Couple of Thoughts Going Into This

1. It won’t be easy.

Like all good things in life, this will be a challenge, especially for those used to a later bedtime. Throughout it, keep in mind why you’re doing it, rely on support/accountability to help you and be willing to experiment with things that will make it easier. Give it everything you got, and if you stumble, be willing to get right back on track. We’ve been there, we know how it is, and we know you can get through this.
 

2. Understand why you are doing this.

This is one of the most important things to know. Take some time right now and really dive into why you are doing this. Write it down and keep it close. Look at it the night before and when you wake up. Refer back to it again and again, especially on nights you don’t want to go to bed and on the mornings you don’t want to get up.

Early mornings will help you get up and get after life. When you get up that early, you’re getting up because you want to, not because you have to. That’s a simple, but insanely powerful feeling. It gives you a sense of control over how you spend your day and sets the right tone for the rest of it.

By waking up hours before the rest of the world, at the end of each week, you are essentially giving yourself an extra day to live. This is the 8th day of the week that people dream they could have, and you're getting it for yourself. Make the most of it.

To do: take a few minutes and write down why you are doing this.
 

3. Remember that this is an experiment.

If you’ve never done this before, keep in mind it is an experiment that lasts for 21 days. The purpose of it isn’t just to get up at 4:30AM, it’s to see if that lifestyle fits you. 21 days is roughly how long it takes to form a habit, so by committing to this for 21 days you will truly know whether it's for you or not.

At the end of it, if you absolutely hate it, that’s all good. At least you can say you have done it and know it’s not for you - unlike the person who says they could never be vegetarian, but hasn’t tried going a day without meat. #dontbelikethem
 

4. Let go of your expectations and morning baggage.

If you’re like most people, you’ve spent years cultivating a “mornings are f*cking evil” attitude. With the stress of work/school/society, it’s basically been forced on us since age 5. By the time we’re young adults, we’ve built this mechanism of hitting snooze 20,291 times, dragging our ass out of bed, making coffee, and stumbling into work.

Yeah, let all that go. Throw away every misconception instilled in you since grade school and start 21 Damn Early Days with a clean slate and open mind. That mindset, at the very least, will make it a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

On the upside, you’ll realize like we did, that it was completely wrong. People just aren’t starting their mornings the right way, and there is so much more to be gained than just a couple hours.

Set your intentions for the day, crush your goals, and carry that momentum forward into all areas of your life.

To do: if you got expectations and baggage, drop it.
 

5. You’re not in this alone.

We’re all going through this together. Use the Facebook Group as a place to share your thoughts, triumphs, things that helped, and even the struggles. Really, we want to know, and we are sure somebody else in the group has had the exact same thought or feeling. Don’t be the person in class hoping somebody else raises their hand and asks a question that you want to know the answer to. Take the initiative, step up, and ask away. We are in this together, and it’s through sharing our experiences that the whole process gets easier.
 

6. Understand what in your life will be impacted by this.

We all have different jobs, schedules, living arrangements and partnerships. Take a survey of what in your life will be impacted by you getting up at 4:30AM. If it's a partner, let them know what you are doing and why, and get their support (note: you should have probably already done this... #ByeFelicia). If it's a negotiable scheduled item, make sure you plan your day before and after to catch up on sleep. Planning ahead goes a long way with this.

To do: figure out what things in your life will be impacted by this and if you need to any adjustments for them.

 

Keeping You On Track

1. Refuse to break the chain.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the productivity hack “break the chain,” where you consider each day you accomplish your new habit a “chain link.” If you miss a day, you break the chain. It’s a great (and simple) way to stay motivated and push through the mornings you’d rather bathe with a toaster than wake up early. That said, when you stumble, just try and get back on the next day. If you're having issues, reach out and we will do our best to help you along the way.

To do: print yourself off a one month calendar and get yourself a sharpie to cross off the days you get up.
 

2. Keep track of what you’ve accomplished.

A huge motivator to continue waking up is keeping track of what you accomplish when you first get up. For us, having all of our major work accomplished by 9AM, when the rest of the world was just getting started feels unreal. It brings a sense of calm to the rest of the day and we don't have to worry about interruptions or distractions preventing us from accomplishing our goals – because they are already met. Checkmate.

To do: decide how you're going to keep track of what you've accomplished (journal, to-do lists, note pad, etc.)
 

3. Eliminate excuses to sleep in.

As you continue to adjust your sleep cycle, some days will be harder than others. There will be mornings where you’ll do everything to justify shutting off your alarm and going right back to sleep. Sometimes it will work, and you’ll want to slap yourself later for letting it happen.

During this rough patch, do what you can to make your mornings easier. If you’re so tired you even dread making coffee, program your coffee maker. If your home is cold in the morning, leave your housecoat and slippers beside your bed. If your mind flat lines when you try to decide on breakfast, decide the night before and prep the ingredients. Better yet, prep the entire week. Eventually, your abilities to wake up early and function will happen at the same time, but for now, throw yourself a bone.

To do: write a list of all the excuses you know you'll come up with. Keep adding to it as you go.

If there’s one thing we hope you get out of 21 Damn Early Days, it's an increased sense of self-awareness. A better understanding of who you are and what you want from life.

Why...?

Because in a world that's noisier than ever, with millions of ideas, opinions and thoughts hurled at you each day – each one designed to convince you of one thing or anything – your ability to understand "you" and make choices that align with that is more important than ever.

Oh, it also has the added benefit of bringing you closer to the life you want.

The truth is, there is no one that knows what will work for you and what matters to you better than yourself. There are few decisions that someone else can make for you with the same understanding, insight, and knowledge of who you are as you do.

Once you accept that, and the responsibility to yourself that comes with it, it becomes much easier to embrace the importance of self-awareness.

No, I’m not saying you should make every decision on your own without guidance and insight from others, but to live a good life (as determined by no one but you), you need to be in tune with who you are.

While you may not have all the answers and knowledge in the beginning, self-awareness is the foundation in which all decisions in your life should be made in.

But it only works if you know yourself first.
 

What Happens When You Don’t Know Yourself

If you don’t spend time to understand yourself you’ll be drawn to the endless, often conflicting advice and ideas out there. You’ll straddled between multiple seemingly good ideas, never sure which to choose. And when you finally do choose, you run the risk of going too far down a road that doesn’t matter, because what’s at the end doesn’t even resonate with you.
 

A World of Conflicting Ideas

The problem now a days is that we have way too many choices and many of them have at least some value – or they are sold like they do.

Whether its a high-fat diet vs low-fat diet, skipping university vs getting a degree, growing-up now vs growing-up later, blondes vs brunettes, lifting heavy vs cardio, pilates vs yoga, the married life vs staying single – the list goes on and is virtual endless – we're left to choose between multiple seemingly valuable ideas.

We're stuck in the middle with no idea which way to go.

In reality, what separates whether it is good or bad then is you and your understanding of what you need for where you want to go.

Many times we search for answers from the exterior world, falling in love with the certainty that comes from a single, definable and concrete answer given to us by someone else. This answer feels secure and right, and we don’t have to do the work to sort it out, so we buy into it.

What we should be doing is , never stopping to ask whether the road you’re on is right for you leads you to have a coin-flip chance at getting where you want to go in life.

Looking at this for 21 Damn Early Days, for example, for certain people, their body’s work well waking up in the early morning and for others it’s a disaster. We honestly can’t tell you if it’s good or bad for you. That comes from your understanding of yourself. Maybe it’s great, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s not right now.

It’s only by understanding who you are and diving into it and playing around that you’ll get a sense of what works for you.

At the end of 21 Damn Early Days, some of you will walk away knowing with complete certainty that mornings are the best things for their life, as we did, and for others they’ll know it’s just not right. Both are totally okay as long as you gave it an honest chance and reflect on how it affects your life.

Without an understanding of who you are and what matters to you, you’ll be left to flail between many ideas and concept, leaving your like a fish out of water, flopping around.

Self-awareness will bring you closer to your thoughts, feelings emotions and understandings of you and help you to make decisions that ultimately work out for you, regardless of the advice anyone else can give you.

Self-awareness is the foundation of good decision making – maybe not for the world around you, but for you and where you wanting to and need to go.

How To Make More Self-Aware Decisions

To help you, we've put some thoughts together on how to make better and more self-aware decisions.

1. Know What You Want – Or At Least Have An Idea

Let’s start with the obvious. The best way to make good decisions is to know what you want. The more time you spend up front figuring this out, the easier your decisions will be. More than that, being able to distinguish between what you want right now (that next glass of wine) and what you won’t in the long-run (to wake up feeling good).

If you don’t know what you want, I highly recommend spending some time upfront figuring it out. Like I mean actual time sitting down and exploring this – purposefully.

2. Have Some Faith

If you don't have any faith in yourself to make a choice, then you'll live your life afraid to choose.

Whether it’s the media, marketing, or the institutions we belong to, we’re constantly bombarded with messages that we’re not good enough. While this message works well to convince us to work harder, think less and buy more stuff, it also causes ourselves to constantly and unfairly question our worth.

Hearing it often, we begin to downplay our ability to make judgements for ourselves and disbelieve that we have anything to offer to this world. It forces us to look externally for all the answers, rather than internally, which leads us to follow paths that might not align well with who we actually are *cue midlife crisis*.

So, if we have any advice it’s have some faith in who you are and what you want for yourself. You got more in you than you think. We’ll admit, having the confidence to trust yourself is a task on its own, but as you gain it, you’ll feel better about making big decisions in the future.

3. Mess Up

Learning to make good decisions that align with you is both a skill and an art. It’s never easy but is worth taking your entire life to pursue. For many of us, we have shame around making decisions that align with who we are. If we make the right decision, we feel it’s selfish. If we make the wrong decision, we tell ourselves we should have stuck with the status quo.

This mentality is toxic, so stop it. Let yourself mess up. 

Don’t be so afraid of making mistakes. Fear of the choice being “bad” keeps you stuck. Accept that you are human. As far as I know, all humans make mistakes. The only ones that won’t give you grace are the ones that have no grace for themselves. So lighten up a bit.

4. Seek Advice, Not Answers

Whether the decision is about your job, your relationships, your health or anything else, every decision you make has one thing in common: you. There is no answer that can come from somebody else. There is no one else living your life, no one else that understands what your day-to-day, thoughts, or gut instincts are like, and no one else that has to spend their entire life with the outcomes of that decision.

That said, being stuck inside our own heads like we often get, it’s never a bad idea to ask for input from an outsider’s perspective. Preferably someone who has been there that can show you what you don’t know you don’t know. This outside perspective will help you weigh your options and spot any biases or irrational tendencies you have.

At the end of the day though, the advice is just advice. While it’s totally cool to get help from others, at the end of the day you got to make the decision for you.

Ask for advice if you feel you need it, but take it with a grain of salt. In the end, you are the one who needs to live with your decision. The gurus won’t be the one with the consequences of your choice.

5. Come At It With The Right Space

We’ve all been there – pissed off, in a mood, and making the worst decisions ever in the moment.

When it comes to important decisions, make sure you’re feeling comfortable and easy before you decide which way to go. Create space and make time to make the decision. If you’re looking for 

It's easy to make poor decisions when you're in a bad mood, especially when you're hungry, sleepy, or stressed. 

But when it comes to life-changing decisions, try to make sure you're feeling comfortable and at ease before you decide what your next move is going be. Before making the decision, ask yourself these questions from Beth Burgess, a solution-focused therapist. They'll help you slow down and open your views before you make any rash decisions.

6. Listen To Your Brain & Your Gut

Whether you believe it or not, you know yourself better than you think you do. Most often, you just ignore what your instincts are telling you because a) it’s scary, b) you sometimes, you ignore what your gut is telling you because you may not want to face the reality of the decision you have to make.

How to get over this? When you’re making a decision that’s tough, write down everything you’re thinking and try and figure out why you’re feeling that way. Use this to start an inner dialogue with yourself, pulling from both your head and your heart. Once the dialogue starts, you’ll start to see more pieces become clear.

PS. This is basically what a therapist does.

Most importantly…

7. Test Yourself

With every decision you have to make, keep a small journal and write down what your head says and what your gut says, then go ahead and make one of the two decisions. Write down which decision you made and why you made it. Once the dust settles from the decision, refer back to it and see how revisit how it all went. f you do this often enough, you’ll notice patterns.

PS. I did this once and realized I’m in a constant conflict between what my head wants (generally what the worlds asking of me) and what my heart wants. I realized that even though my gut decisions weren’t always the best in the short-term, they generally lead to me to be happier and in a better place in the long-term.

But there is no shame in speaking from a place of truth.

You do know things and that far from a bad thing. Actually, you probably know a lot more than you admit to yourself. Thinking you don’t know keeps you from taking the very same good advice you would give to others – and it keeps you dependent on other people.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up and take personal responsibility for your life and actually “own” your decisions.

People seem to lose respect for people who are wishy-washy and can’t make their own decisions. In other words, people who can’t think for themselves are also people who don’t respect themselves because they don’t respect their own opinions.

I know some truths that I need to stop denying and start accepting. That unsettled feeling in my gut is there for a reason.

For me, I have come to the belief that I need to always trust my best judgement in situations. Sure, I’ll seek advice, but ultimately the decision is mine and I need to stick to it and follow through.

There are times I will fail, but ultimately, each one will inch me closer to where I want to go. Even if we make the worst possible choice, we still have the freedom to make adjustments.

So let yourself try what feels right for you, and don’t worry about making the “wrong” decision. One of the best things I have learned is that the world is a place to explore, and it will embrace you if you embrace it.
 

And that to me is a life well lived.