I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a mystery of conditioning and beliefs, but if I go to bed at 2am and get up at 9am I feel far less tired than if I go to bed at 11pm and got up at 6am–both are 7 hours of sleep but you wouldn’t be able to convince my body of that (on that point you probably wouldn’t be able to convince my body to fall asleep at 11pm without prescription sleep medicine). My life as it is now allows my natural schedule, I typically go to bed around 12:30-1:30am and get up between 8:30-9:30am on weekdays. I am married to someone with the same sort of schedule, so we typically go to sleep and wake up around the same times.
One of my best friends is in a relationship with a teacher–these folks are notoriously early risers–they get up every morning around 5am (even though she doesn’t have to be to work until 9am). They even get up early on the weekends (granted they go to bed MUCH earlier than Mark and I do). My mom is a nurse–another profession that gives you no choice but to get up before the sun–she gets up at 4am for her 12-hour shifts, and lies awake waiting for me to wake up when she comes to visit.
Getting up at 5am sounds like hell to me, but I am starting to realize the potentional in the mornings. On our honeymoon in Napa we took a Hot Air balloon ride (checked #12 off my life long goals list!). We had to get up at 4 am for our sunrise flight–it hard, but after the first tried half hour and cup of coffee I felt the same way I do at 10am. We had achomplished a life long dream, had a huge breakfast and were back at our hotel for a nap by 9am, then an hour later we had the whole day in front of us. That was the best day of the honeymoon–it went on forever, we got to do so many things.
Which is what I’ve realized about early risers–they get more day! Typically a normal weekday I see my husband off to work, eat, make the bed, do yoga, get dressed, etc. and by the time I sit down at my computer it’s 10:30am. Then before I know it, I’m hungry and I notice it’s 1pm. After lunch and email/blog/facebook checking it is suddenly 3pm–everyday it seems 3pm sneaks up like a mystery and I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. Then I tell myself, OK you are going to get a lot done, but suddenly it’s after 6pm and I’m calling it quits for the day and making dinner. Then it’s evening and we are going out, or watching TV or doing some sort of project (it had been wedding stuff for the past year), but the “work day” is done.
So after reading this article about how to be more productive my getting up earlier and making use of your mornings, I’ve decided to try this whole morning thing out. Well kind of. In small steps.
The article suggests that to build the habit, you start small and get up 15 mins earlier and pick one thing you want to do (i.e. not ‘start running AND write a blog post’). I think I might amend this to get up an hour earlier and let myself have the weekends and one weekday to still have my old habits.
After losing two full hours this morning to tying to find a new doctor, I’m going to give another stab at schedule making (I’ve done it before only to unsurprisingly discover that a million things interrupt it). I’m hoping though that the quiet of the morning and the feeling like I have the whole day ahead of me will help me get more done before 3pm mysteriously appears.
Aside from daily and weekly schedule and to do-list making (both of which I am a champion at), here are a few other ideas for time management(in no particular order):
1) Tracking every hour (and half hour) of your day. Laura Vanderkam suggests a 168 hour time management spreadsheet, to “bill your time” like a lawyer and see where you spend most of your time and how you can change it.
2) Track Your Computer Time with Software. Related, there’s lots of free downloads that track how you spend you time on your computer (both online and in applications like Word, Photoshop, etc). I downloaded Rescue Time because I felt like I was checking Facebook too much, but then I never looked at my reports from the service, so it did me little good–it also doesn’t know what you are doing the sites and applications you are using, you could be spending 2 hours on gmail writing work-related emails or 2 hours of chatting with your friends–it all looks the same.
3) Blocking Some Sites Completely. Which is why I’ve often thought about blocking sites altogether (Lifehacker tells you how), but then there are times when I actually need to look something up on Facebook (really), so I haven’t tried that. There are various methods for this that can block a site during only certain hours or completely.
4) Working without a WiFi net. This only works if you are working on a computer on a project that doesn’t require internet. Another writer friend of my says she went to a coffee shop that didn’t have WiFi everyday for a week and finished a short story that she was too distracted to write at home.
5) Kitchen Timer. This is the most useful one I’ve found (perhaps because I invented it). When I have to transcribe an interview or I’ve decided to write for one hour only, I bring the kitchen timer in the office and set it for an hour–I let myself, Mark, and the kitties know that I am doing this one thing and nothing else for that hour–no checking email, no getting up to get a snack. I am duty-bound to do that one task until I hear the buzzer. Its hard, but I always get the most done when I set the kitchen timer.
What about you? What keeps you on task? What time of day are you most productive? What distracts you the most?