6 AM

I am not a morning person.

When my alarm starts buzzing at 6 am it takes all my effort to get out of bed and as the haze of sleep starts to clear up I often ask myself the same questions.

Why wake up at 6 when I work from home?

I ran yesterday, why run today?

Can’t I just be more productive at night instead of pushing myself in the morning?

These are rhetorical questions. I know the answers very clearly… I wake up because I want my life to be more than what I’m paid to do. I wake up because yesterday’s run is part of a lifelong habit and not an excuse to be lazy today. I wake up because I know that I won’t be productive at night if I sleep in, that just isn’t how I work.

Every day there are two finite resources at work: the hours in the day and my motivation to be great. Both of these resources count down regardless of whether I am being productive or not. My drive to write, create, and exercise will be less at 5 pm than it is at 7 am, even if I don’t write, create, or exercise during that time. Mornings are where the magic happens, particularly when it comes to things I find difficult.

There are certain things that I know I will do each day, regardless of circumstances. Maybe they are things I love to do, like reading or listening to podcasts, or maybe they are things that I need to do, like work for pay. Either way, I don’t need to worry about getting them accomplished, they will happen even if I am low on motivation. It is the tough things that I need to knock out in the morning because those are the things that I’ll find excuses for or neglect in the evening.

Whether it is creating a new habit, running five miles, or calling my credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate, it must be done early or it won’t get done. The rest of my life, the habits I’ve developed and the work I know I need to be done can wait.

So, that’s why I wake up early because if I don’t then my life will drift along in mediocrity. I won’t meet my potential, I won’t experience as much of life as I possibly can, I won’t know my limits because I tried to push through them. Whether it is using my mind and body to transform my body or to write a book or to gain financial security, my mind and body are at their best in the morning.

It sucks sometimes, but truly living requires early rising and when you rise early there are plenty of hours in the day.

Setting Myself Up For Success

Working from home provides unique challenges to overcome. Sure, I love the freedom and flexibility of setting my own hours and accepting the jobs I want to accept, but I don’t have a boss peering into my office to make sure I’m being productive. The only pressure I feel is the internal need to do what I promised to do and make sure I have enough cash to not starve. It takes discipline, focus, and a sense of entrepreneurship that school didn’t train me for, particularly when it comes to my professional projects that I don’t get paid for. When I’m writing or creating art or exercising there is even less pressure because the only person I will let down is myself, and I tend to be very forgiving, I can always relate to my own excuses.

But, the most important thing I’ve found to keep me on task and doing my work is to establish a system for success. For me, that system starts before the day does. The most important 30 minutes of every day actually starts the night before when I meditate on the day and prepare for the next.

Every night (well, every night that I’m not a huge slacker), I have a staff meeting with myself to figure out what my goals are for the next day. This includes everything from paid work to exercise plan to writing. I type up my expectations for the next day and then I print it out and set it prominently on my desk.

For example, the list sitting next to me says:

Saturday 2/18
– Khan Academy, Stoic Study, Meditation
– Exercise – 5-Mile Run
– Exercise – Yoga Video #7
– Website – Complete Book Recommendations Page and go ive
– Website – Write one blog post
– Book – Research new computer for Audible recording
– Reading – 1 hour
– Errand – Home Depot for shovel and planting soil
– Work – Civitas – Complete XX project and continue XX project ~4 hours

Once I have a list of tasks for the next day I get my house and office ready. I know that when I wake up my motivation will be at an all time low and I need things as organized as possible to encourage success. First, I set out my workout and work clothes for the next day. Each morning I put on my workout clothes and don’t take them off until I’m done exercising. As much as I loathe pants, I don’t work in pajamas. Then I get the coffee prepped, set the necessary workbooks and such next to my computer, and clean up my desktop.

After that, I clean the house. This involves cleaning the kitchen and bedroom first, and sometimes the bathroom. I don’t clean things deeply but I do pick up the clutter and sweep daily. I’ve found that having a dirty home kills my productivity. Not only does it become a distraction to see things out of place, but it creates an excuse that pulls me away from what I should be doing. It is hard for me to motivate myself to work, particularly my writing, and any excuse I have to procrastinate I am tempted to take. It is amazing at how clean my house can become when there is other work I should be doing. I was the same in college, whenever I had a rough deadline it suddenly became necessary to clean my house, reorganize my bathroom, call my parents, etc. Basically, I remove as many excuses as possible and set things up in a way that allows me to transition into the day with minimal speedbumps.

Maybe this is a little anal of me, but it works for me. Setting up my day the night before has really upped my productivity and happiness. I have fewer wasted days where I look at the clock and wonder where the hell the day went. Maybe someday I won’t need this type of habit to create, but that day isn’t today.