The secret to bounding out of bed in the morning is…

photo-233…getting into bed on time the night before.

I’ve been realizing this lately as my sleep schedule has been shifting. I’m pretty tired at night, so I’m getting into bed by 10:30 p.m. Provided I make it through the night, I’m waking up on my own around 6 a.m. That makes sense. I know from tracking my time that I tend to settle out at around 7.5 hours/night. It’s still dark at 6 a.m., and the house is pretty cold, but I’ve had adequate sleep, and so I wake up. I can lie there if I want, and sometimes I do, thinking things through as the sun comes up, but I’m perfectly happy to get out of bed and start my day. If I were sleep-deprived, I wouldn’t be.

To be sure, there are other ways to get excited about getting up. Think about a kid on Christmas morning: even if he was up late the night before, he’s probably bounding out of bed because he’s excited to see what happened. My 5-year-old bounded out of bed earlier this week because he was so excited about another post-school playdate.

So if adequate sleep alone isn’t cutting it, another approach is to ask what would make you feel like a kid on Christmas morning. If that seems impossible, the playdate might be a better comparison. What would make you as excited as knowing you’re about to go on a really cool playdate?

Maybe it’s that you and your partner have your own “playdate” before the kids wake up. Maybe you are a big fan of breakfast food and you do it up right: bacon, baked goods, coffee. Maybe you love running or walking with a friend, or a certain exercise class, and you look forward to this as a highlight of the day. Maybe you work long hours, and early mornings are a special time you can play with your kids. Maybe you’ve managed to turn your shower into your own aromatherapy, spa-like experience. Maybe you have a creative hobby that you don’t make adequate time for otherwise. Knowing your paints or scrapbooking materials are waiting for you might be enough incentive to not hit snooze.

Or maybe you just get up, turn on some upbeat tunes and dance. You can call it exercise if you want, but it’s about beginning the day with enough joy that your bed is less inviting. Humans don’t do well with suffering long-term. When people ask me how to create a morning routine, I suggest finding something you really want to do. Otherwise, what’s the point? Extra sleep is better than slogging through.

What makes you excited to get out of bed?

In other news: I’m over at Fast Company, interviewing Working Mother editor Jennifer Owens on the downsides of working part-time. Of course, it can work in some industries, and is the right solution for some people, but as she noted, if you can get the flexibility you need while staying full time, there are reasons to do so. In my time logs, I’ve found that people on PT schedules don’t always work many fewer hours than their FT colleagues. A smart organization would set up an accountability system for this, but that’s not as prevalent as it should be.

Photo: Breakfast this morning — eggs, bacon, banana bread. Yum!

25 thoughts on “The secret to bounding out of bed in the morning is…

  1. Oh banana bread! I would get out of bed for that in a heartbeat! As with most things in life, food remains my best motivation.

    That and the dog wanting something. No matter how much exhausted I am, one of the dogs nosing me asking for water or a walk triggers the DogMom in me that just automatically needs to crawls out. Doesn’t mean I won’t get back in though … 🙂

    Most mornings, though, like you, I’ve found that waking at that 6-7.5 hour mark (my needs are inconsistent) is more conducive to getting out of bed with a minimum of pain. There are definitely days I wish I drank coffee for more motivation though.

    1. @Revanche – I drink a lot of coffee. I keep reading new research about its benefits! Smelling that aroma in the mornings is honestly one of the reasons I get out of bed. I probably should figure out a way to set the coffee maker so it happens automatically.

  2. I’ve been looking for my motivation for some time now…and I’m still at a loss! I start work early (at the office between 6-7am), but would really like to get to the gym, but doing so at 4am is just NOT appealing. I have ALWAYS been lazy; I have not transitioned out of the highschooler sleeping until 12-1pm when I don’t have an appointment. I wake up, and can go right back to bed for 5 more hours. I wish my body would be done sleeping after 6-8 hours, but it could really sleep FOREVER. I’d love to hear other people’s tricks, because I’m still searching for mine.

    1. Holly, I’m in the same boat almost: I start work between 7-7:30, I really need 8-8.5 hours of sleep per night, and if I try to go to bed before 10 it tends to backfire into insomnia.

      I don’t have all the answers yet!! Right now I’m trying to just recognize that morning exercise – or morning ANYTHING other than getting ready for work – might not be reasonable for me with my current schedule and my body.

      Good luck! Hoping someone else will post back here with some better ideas. 🙂

      1. @B – see my answer to Holly. It might not be reasonable, and that’s fine. On the other hand, it may help to recognize that something doesn’t have to happen *every single day* to be part of your life. You don’t want to wake up at 5 a.m. daily, but twice a week could happen.

        1. That’s an interesting idea! I tend to get locked into the idea that I have to wake up at the same time every day, in order to get used to it…

          1. @B – that can be a wise approach, but it’s not the only one. And if you’re not getting up at all because you think it has to happen every day, then trying it twice a week is a lot better than none. Also, when people say “every day” they often only mean Mon-Fri. That’s not actually every day, it’s 5x/week. So doing something 2-3x/week isn’t that much different.

    2. I just read an article about a study that confirms there are 4 types of sleep schedules: early riser, night owl, energetic all the time, and “lethargic” all day. Phew, I am finally recognized! I definitely fall into the last category.
      A couple of things that get me up when I don’t have other obligations:
      -the thought of a nice, warm shower (appealing especially in winter) or making a nice cup of pourover coffee (aroma + caffeine + kind of a slow, fancy treat)
      -if I’m awake in bed, I have a tendency to passively think about projects of personal interest to me (e.g.,craft, house, organization) that I would like to complete at some point; my eyes are closed and I would be happy to sleep longer, but once ideas are rolling around in the back of my head, after a while, I just feel compelled to put those ideas into action.
      But even then, it still takes me a while to actually get out of bed. I rarely “bound.”

      1. @Christine – ok, maybe “roll” or “crawl” or “climb.” As long as one’s feet eventually touch the floor…

    3. @holly – getting to the gym at 4 a.m. isn’t appealing to me either. If you find the idea of AM exercise appealing (and not everyone does, and that’s OK!) is there some way you could do it semi-regularly without adding so much time to your morning routine daily? Maybe 2x week you get into the office at 6:55 (that’s still between 6 and 7!) and do your exercise before then. Things don’t have to happen daily to be part of your life. There also might be ways to exercise that don’t involve a trip to the gym: workout videos, buying a used treadmill off Craigslist, etc. (depending on your space constraints and whether you’d wake anyone else in the household up).

  3. This really works for me with writing, which I love to do so I can usually crawl out of bed crazy early to get it done.
    But if I tell myself I have to get up early and exercise then the snooze button makes a repeat apperance.

    1. @Keda – exactly. We aren’t going to bound out of bed for things we don’t want to do. Morning exercise is convenient for many people, but if it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t really matter how convenient it is.

  4. This is so timely! I remember you writing about this in your “Mornings” ebook with the mom who needed something to look forward to in order to get up early and get her day started.

    I have been really successful the last few weeks in getting up early – 5:30am on good days, and 6:30am on most other days, which for me is phenomenal – but the “reward” for me is most definitely NOT exercise, though I’d LIKE to get it over with in the morning.

    The reward is a cup of Trader Joe’s vanilla cinnamon black tea (only available at Christmas time!) and time for my morning pages and meditation in my craft room.

    Once I “let” myself do this first, it makes it a LOT easier to get out of bed when it is still dark out. (And I am SO not a morning person.)

    1. @ARC – sounds like a great morning routine! If exercise is not alluring, it’s not going to work. There’s no real way around this, alas…

  5. Re: working part time, I’ll comment here. It seems to me completely obvious that one is less committed to career when switching from a full-time to a part-time role at the same company. I doubt anyone who does this thinks they’ll have the same career velocity as part-timer.

    I think it’s easy to say “just keep the full time job” and work flexible hours, but most managers and companies I’ve worked for would have a hard time accommodating me being completely gone from 3pm-7pm and resuming work later. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but it is about as hard to find as those elusive part-time gigs 🙂

    1. @ARC – I think this may come down to how much each party is willing to compromise. For instance, what if you found a gig where you could leave at 3pm 3 days per week (and made up some time at night), but worked until 5 or 6 the other 2? There’s a lot of gray area on flexibility, and I think it’s important to look at many options. But yes, it does make sense that one’s career velocity would be slower.

      1. Yep, compromise is a good strategy, but it is often harder to make daycare schedules work around that. (Though for full-time work, it probably makes sense to pay for full time daycare even if you pick up kids early on some days.)

        Every daycare I looked into had a very strict schedule for part-timers, and nannies here typically don’t want part-time hours either, so that’s another challenge with getting a part-time schedule that works for both me and my employer.

  6. Laura-
    I read ur blog everyday but am a first time poster. I am an army officer so my days start early, but this changes due to mission requirements. I completely agree that when its time to get up its time. Some days are different than others and the best way to reset the clock is to go to bed early! Thank you for your continuous posts they make a huge difference in my life.

  7. The idea of doing something that motivates you in the morning really resonates with me, but I find it a bit hard to reconcile with that also being a great time to do something like exercise that, later during the day, you just might not do. See, I actually do not like to exercise in the morning. (Honestly, I don’t really love exercising at all, which is part of the problem. If I could be fit and healthy without exercise, I’d probably rarely do it!) But I find if I force myself to get it done in the morning, well, then it’s just done, and I usually feel good when it’s over. But I actually enjoy getting some quiet work done when everybody is sleeping more…So, in short, I’m motivated to get up to do something that doesn’t really have to be done in the morning and that I can more easily do later on. I’d like to do morning exercise, but am less motivated to get up for that. Sigh…

    I also read with interest your post on part-time work. I have had pretty much the identical theory for most of my working life. However, with impending changes to the family, I actually do not think that full-time will be possible for me for a couple of years. So we’ll see if I can make it work in a way that is fair for me and for work!

    1. @Rinna – Yes, morning is a great time to exercise. But I really do think that most people (even people with lots of willpower!) find it difficult to stick, long term, with something they don’t want to do. Exercise can take many forms, and if there’s a form you don’t like, maybe there’s another form that’s better. Maybe going for a run is better than going for a walk on one’s lunch break, but if the former isn’t going to happen, the latter is infinitely better than nothing (and likely doesn’t require a shower after!)

      I’ve found that part-time arrangements are most effective in companies/industries where there is accountability for hours. So if you bill time, then yes, going part-time can mean you work less. A billable hour target of 1500 hours is generally going to require less work time than 1800 hours.

      1. I actually think part-time works best when your job is linked to a certain number of hours of being at work/available. So, for example, if you work in customer service, and you are change from working Mon – Fri 9 am – 5 pm to Mon, Wed, Fri at the same hours, then that will work great. When you are not there, then somebody else answers the phone. A similar situation can work for a family doctor. I have a few friends that only work 2-3 days a week. If their patients are sick on another day, they have to see one of the other doctors in the practice (and vice versa).

        I am not sure the billable hours situation works as well. Yes, in theory, you may only have to bill 1500. However, if you have a project-based environment, which is the case for most jobs with billable hours, then you may estimate that the projects you take on will take 1500 hours, but you just can’t know for sure. And it’s not like you can just stop when you hit that 1500 magic number if you’re still in the middle of two big projects. The latter situation is the one I find myself in. So, I actually think it’s more important to be as realistic as possible about how long the projects will take and say yes to fewer projects. But still kick butt on the one that I actually do!

        1. Rinna,
          I completely agree with the challenges of project work/employer flexibility and hours. A blog reader with kids in age similar to mine is an ER physician in a saturated market. Her negotiating power is enormously greater for the days/month she flies to rural Alaska to practice.

        2. Rinna,
          I completely agree with the challenges of project work/employer flexibility and hours. A blog reader with kids in age similar to mine is an ER physician in a saturated market. Her negotiating power is enormously greater for the days/month she flies to rural Alaska to practice.

          The decision to change states, especially a decision like moving to rural Alaska full-time, is a big one.

  8. I’ve always felt both lucky and unlucky that my brain just immediately “wakes up” as soon as my body starts to. Even if I’m not particularly excited about the day, I get up because it’s pointless to lie there and think about what I’m going to do instead of doing it. Sometimes I wish I were capable of sleeping later and ignoring the voice in my head that says, “BE PRODUCTIVE!” but for the most part, I’m glad I’m a morning person. I tend to expend my energy steadily until abut 8:15 PM, and then I’m just done.

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