The photo above is the view from my bedroom – that I’ve so often slept through. It’s been nice to see it!
For the last year I’ve had an item on my bucket list that I’ve found harder than running a marathon, moving to a tropical island, or speaking in front of a large audience.
It’s been so far in fact that I’ve never even been closer than 1/7 of the way towards achieving it.
My mom has said numerous times to me “why don’t you just do it? It’s easy.”
But it’s not easy.
That goal? “Wake up at 6am everyday for 2 weeks.”
I know I’m most productive in the mornings. I lose focus in the afternoons, and on a typical day after 5pm pretty much all work goes away.
So I know if I’m going to get stuff done, the earlier I get up the better.
Well despite my constant attempts to wake up before 6 on a regular basis – it’s just proved too difficult.
Until last month.
As expected, when I returned from Scotland I found myself wide awake at 5:30, so I figured, what the hell, let’s get up and ride this out for as long as I can.
I was already motivated to get down to business due to the month(ish) long vacation I’d just experienced.
Since then, I’ve been up around 6am every weekday morning, and the result has blown me away.
The gist of the story, is that all the projects I’ve been wanting to push over the edge for years are finally coming to fruition. All of those “business growth” projects and tasks that had been pushed aside in favor of maintenance or fun were finally getting the time they deserved – and the feeling has been spectacular.
One day in particular stood out. I was up early, I got two blog posts written, all of my emails responded to, and I played 18 holes of golf – then was back at my desk by 9:58 for a meeting. I could get used to that.
So what changed, and why has this period of time been different than all the times in the past?
Well first off, I changed my email habits.
You may know that I’m a huge proponent of spending personal time responding to emails – it’s one of the biggest reasons for myself, but often I get swamped in it.
So what did I change? Well I still made it first priority, and I still try to respond to everyone, but I made inbox zero much more important than it had ever been in the past.
Usually I’d respond to maybe half of my emails in any given day, so after a week or two I’d have a few hundred unanswered ones sitting in my inbox, taunting me, stressing me out, and making me look like an ass for not giving them a prompt response.
After a binge on that first day of responding to all my emails and getting to inbox zero, I made a point to keep it that way.
Twice a day, once first thing in the morning, and once in the afternoon. I’d respond to everything in my inbox. At this point it usually only took 15 minutes or so due to the lack of build up.
By not having it hanging over my head, and not taking up hours of my day, it formed the basis for all of the other positive changes.
A Clear To Do List
Recently I identified one of the biggest reasons I had trouble waking up early. Want to know what it is?
Because I didn’t have to.
There was nothing so pressing in my life that I felt like I had to get up early to accomplish it.
For quite awhile I hadn’t been good at preparing a clear to do list the night before, so whenever I did wake up I usually stared at my computer or spent an hour wasting time on the internet before I found something productive to do.
Now I knew I had to get to inbox zero early in the day, but the night before I also had a list of “must dos” for the day.
What was funny was once I started doing this, and waking up early, most days the list would be complete by 9. It didn’t take long before I started being a bit more ambitious with my goals.
Oh, and having the list on an actual piece of paper, rather than my “reminders” app made a big difference as well.
Strict Writing Schedule
For years there are various bloggers I know who adhered to a strict “1,000 words a day” schedule. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do and more than once I’ve declared it as a goal for the year. But never followed through.
Part of that is lack of planning.
For me, when I write, I want there to be a purpose. I’m not someone who has hundreds of draft articles that will never see the light of day. Usually if I think a topic is worth sitting down and writing about, I’ll get it published (this probably makes me a terrible writer).
That said, all too often I sit down (and in a similar manner to when I dont have a to do list), I’m not sure what to write.
Well, Liz and I have been working to setup an editorial calendar for both Location 180 and Breaking Eighty – so now I know what needs to be written a month in advance. I also have a clearer idea of content I need to create for Location Rebel and other projects, because I’ve set timelines around those projects too.
You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t this own a business 101? Be organized?” – and to that I say, hey, we all have our strengths and weaknesses
Bottom line, now at any given time I have 5 to 10 things I know I need to write, and that makes it much easier to bang out my 1,000 words a day.
A Clearer Vision for the Future
As I’ve touched on a bit in this post and others, taking some time away to travel has given me a lot of time to think about the future of the business and where I want it to go.
It’s tough to make a bunch of big, forward steps if you aren’t sure where those steps are leading.
Well now I have a much better sense of what path I want to be on, and where I want all of this to go.
Location 180 has always been about two things:
- Practical, how to strategies for building a small business that allows you to work from where ever you want
- Inspiration to get you to actually take action
Now I’ve been doing that, but I haven’t been doing it as effectively as I’d like. Different people respond to different types of content and styles – so we’re broadening that, and being more consistent with the message.
You’ll start to see the evolution of this over the coming weeks. My point with this one, is that if you don’t have a clear vision, you have no reason to get up early to work on it. When you can see the bigger picture of where things are heading, and you understand the steps you need to take to get there, that’s when things get really exciting.
So, What’s Happened?
By having these two weeks where I’ve actually been up and out of bed early, I’ve made more forward progress on the large scale business plans than I’ve had all year long. Content has been spilling out of me, I’m feeling more energized during the days, and with every big to do item accomplished I’m even more motivated to knock off the next.
There’s been next to no change in my social calendar either. I still golf a few times a week and hang out with friends at night – I just try and go to bed a little bit earlier.
If you want to wake up early do these things:
- Have a clear vision for why you’re doing the things you’re doing
- Have your to do list written the night before
- Set an early morning meeting if you need to, to force yourself up
- Within 3 days I bet you don’t even need an alarm and within 20 mins of your desired time you’ll be out of bed. I didn’t set an alarm once in 2 weeks.