Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Routine

This is an unusual blog post for me, not for the content, but for the time of day at which I am writing it. It is 6 a.m. I would not normally be up until 6:40, unless Petunia woke up and insisted otherwise.

I don't have insomnia, or anything like that. I set my alarm and got up at 5:55. I've been doing that for almost a week (not counting the weekend).

It all started a week ago. Tuesdays are my workout days. I left work just a little later than usual- maybe 4:40 instead of 4:30. I headed towards the freeway with music on, in a good mood. But then I turned onto one of the main roads in the area in which I work, and came screeching to a halt. Traffic was unusually bad. It was early on a sunny afternoon, but the traffic looked like 5 p.m. on a rainy day. I inched along for awhile, hoping for a miracle. And then I gave up and called my husband. I'd go get the kids, I said. There was no way I'd get home in time for a full workout. I'd try for the workout again tomorrow.

I actually did get the workout the next day. But I also made a decision on the drive home to change my morning routine.

Laura Vanderkam had sent me an advance copy of her new short eBook What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings--and Life. I'd read it thinking that maybe I'd pick up some ideas for what to do with my mornings once Petunia started sleeping through the night. Back in graduate school, I had once had a routine of getting up for an early morning walk (although early in those days was 7 a.m.), so I wasn't adverse to the idea of doing something other than sleeping before breakfast. However, in my mind, I couldn't do that until Petunia stopped waking up and coming to join us in the middle of the night. She'd wake up when I got up. I'd be too tired.

But the combination of my frustration at missing my workout last Tuesday and the inspiration from Laura's book changed my mind. I realized that mornings are the only time of day I control. That control is tenuous, since my kids are still young enough to need company when they wake up in the morning, but it is more than I have at any other time of the day. There is no traffic, or chief science officer wanting a late meeting, or crisis with the databases. There is just me, the crisp morning air, and whatever I want to do with the time.

So I've been getting up at 5:55. My current plan is to go for a short run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, to do yoga on Thursdays, and to write on Tuesdays. I'll tweak that until I find the right combination of activities for me. But I think I'll keep getting up. I like having the time, my husband likes getting some snuggle time with Petunia, and the new routine is actually getting me ready for work earlier, not later.

I can't quite believe I'm getting up before 6 a.m., though. Younger me would be flabbergasted. I always thought those people who got up at the crack of dawn and didn't have to were crazy. But from where I sit now, it is the sanest decision about time I've made in a while.

What about you? What do you do in the mornings? Would younger you be surprised by what you do now?

49 comments:

  1. That morning routine would backfire horribly at my place. Whenever I get up early, the little one hears me and wants to come too. If no one is up she will often just hang out and play in her own room for ages, but if I'm awake...clearly something fun is happening and she wants in on it. Which makes me a bit crazy, because I'm a morning person and would really like to just get up a little earlier to have some quiet time to myself, but instead I wind up staying up later than I really want.

    Of course none of this actually matters at the moment because I currently have some mystery illness that means 10 hours of sleep is totally insufficient. Can I tell you how frustrating that one is?

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    1. It definitely only works here because Hubby is willing to stay in bed a little longer and snuggle Petunia until I get back. And the two days I've tried doing something in the house have been less successful than the days I've gone out for a run.

      A mystery energy-sapping illness like that would be incredibly frustrating. I hope you get better soon!

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  2. I love the idea, as once I'm actually awake enough to focus, I'm really sharp in the morning. The problem is getting out of bed and getting to that point :(

    If I could even wake at 7am I'd be happy! I've started a horrible habit of drinking caffeine late in the day which means I'm usually awake till 11:30 or midnight which is not conducive to a good start in the am. I'm looking forward to reading Laura's book.

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    1. I don't think it matters what time you start- the key is the "before breakfast" bit, or the fact that you're taking the time before the other parts of your life have had a chance to mess with your plans for the day.

      I've started drinking caffeine again (after ~6 years off, for pregnancy and nursing... long story). But I'm trying to keep it an infrequent thing, because I have noticed it screws with my sleep patterns (not surprising). And because I LOVE the magic jolt it gives me when I really need it.

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  3. I get up at 5:45 already, so I can get to work by 7:30 and leave work at 4:30. This schedule varies a little depending on kid dropoffs but I cannot get up earlier than that! I also don't want to leave work too late due to traffic. Right now I am lucky to work out on weekends. I'm just too tired on weeknights! Kudos to those who can do it though.

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    1. I don't think I could push the voluntary early wake up much earlier than I have already- maybe to 5:45. I get around the desire to leave work at 4:30 by not really taking a lunch break, but I know that solution would not work for many people, both because some jobs aren't that flexible and because a lot of people really need that mid day break!

      I did try working out during bath times, and that routine didn't stick. Like you, I'm too tired at night, and I've got too many other things crowding in to do.

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  4. After I stopped nursing Monkey, I also made the switch to morning workouts. I had done this a few times earlier in life, but could never keep it going very long. Now I can't live without it. It is the only time of the week that I get to enjoy a little peace and quiet, think about science, or nothing at all. I don't work out every morning, but this post has got me thinking I should start getting up at 5:15 every morning, maybe do a little blog reading/writing on those mornings I don't go for a run.

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    1. If I'm going to get up early on the weekdays, I have to do it EVERY weekday, or my routine won't stick. That's why I do it. But it was definitely nice having some blogging time this morning.

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  5. mom2boy9:51 AM

    I'm a morning person. I'm happily awake at 6. Having sometime back to myself before everyone else wakes up is heaven. The little things we take for granted when we are younger. :)

    No small joy, finding more time in the day to spend on yourself!

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    1. Ah, I envy you natural morning people....

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  6. I love the idea, but I already get up at 5:20. Getting us all to bed is hard, so it's really unpleasant to think about getting up earlier on a routine basis.

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    1. NO WAY I'd be doing this if my usual wake up time was 5:20! Yikes! We actually made this a factor in our decision on where to buy a house. I could not handle a long commute, largely because I couldn't stand having to get up super early (which would be the smart way to miss traffic).

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  7. I'm pretty sure I was way more productive when I got up at 10 and wandered into the office completely alert and ready to go at 10:30 (15 min getting ready, 15 min drive). These days I get up with the sun or earlier, around 6 because that's what elementary school forces a person to do, and wander into the office around 8, and sometimes won't even get to work until 9am. It's a lot easier to waste time at 6am.

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    1. Oh, I may in fact be more productive if I could sleep in longer and start my day later. As I said above, I think the key to this technique is the "first thing in the morning before other things screw up your plans" aspect, not the time. But my kids and husband all wake up early, and that works best with our schedules, anyway.

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  8. Thanks for the post, Cloud! I am not nearly as good with my mornings as you are, but I'm happy to have inspired you anyway. It really is the time of day we have most control over. Not perfect control, of course, but between work crises, traffic, family stuff, etc., 5pm is always going to be problematic...

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    1. You're welcome! It is early days yet, so we'll see if the routine sticks. I want it to, though, which generally means I'll make it happen. You'll note, though, that I didn't even attempt this until my youngest was 2.5 years old. No way I'd have tried it when she was in the baby stage. My babies just don't sleep well enough for me to be willing to give up any sleep during that phase!

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  9. I'm a super early bird. I'm up and working by 530 most days, crossing my fingers that no one else in the house wakes up until 7. When the kids were really little I worked out and wrote from as early as 430 AM on. As you said, it is the only time of day under my control, and I'm one of those cardio-at-home right away or really really good chance I'm not making it (except for Pilates class). Next semester I have crazy early schedule so I'm thinking of two days a week just getting in car as soon as I get up to beat traffic, writing for a few hours, then getting dressed in my office to teach. The other two I'll probably do cardio before getting in the car. I need to get 45 min of cardio in at least 5 times a day in order not to gain weight (peri menopause SUCKS)

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    1. Yikes! You ARE an early bird. When Pumpkin was a baby, she thought morning started at 4:30. I disagreed.

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  10. paola1:19 PM

    Up until we moved to the UK, in summer I would wake up 3 times a week before 6.00 to run. I had to leave the house by 7.30 for work, so even 6 was pushing it sometimes. When I was training for the marathon I was even waking up at 5 some mornings, in the dark, especially when I had a long run which would take 3 hours or so. 8 is sometimes already too late because of the heat in Italy in June/July.

    Now unless I have to work in the mornings I don't wake up early to run. No need when summer doesn't even exist in this part of the world.

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    1. I think in terms of actually really enjoying the run itself, my best bet is a mid-morning run by the bay. But that isn't an option in my life right now! I am finding the early morning neighborhood streets run surprisingly nice, particularly since I am not really a big fan of running in general. It is really peaceful that early.

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  11. Toria2:20 PM

    My preschooler still does the come-into-bed thing for usually the last few hours of sleep. I have discovered that the only way to get him to sleep those last few hours is to be sleeping there with him. If he doesn't have company & snuggles then he'll just wake up for the day. Fortunately he usually wakes happy and oblivious to the fact that he hasn't had enough sleep, but *I* can't function on the reduced sleep if it is combined with extra time with him. I need sleep or alone-time, and for now the option is sleep or nothing, (and some mornings like today I don't even get to choose).

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    1. Oh, I feel your pain. When Petunia is in an extra clingy phase and I spend most of the night with her, and with her really entwined around me, I CRAVE "me" time when I get up, and have to disappear into the office for five minutes or so (if she'll let me).

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. I don't think I'm ready to do this kind of thing yet, but I could see it becoming a very attractive option if/when we have a 2nd child. Like you said, the morning is really the only time you can have to yourself. I *could* work out in the evening, but evening workouts have never worked for me for various reasons.

    There was a six-month period in my mid-20s where I got up at 5:30 to work out. But, at that point in my life, I was in a new city that I hated, so I was able to go to bed early and had nothing else to keep me occupied.

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    1. The time period during which I was most fit was when I lived in a place I didn't really like, and didn't have a lot of friends outside of work. So I exercised a lot. I like things better now, despite the extra weight I'm carrying.

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  13. In theory, I could get up at 6, work out for 30-45 minutes and still hit my normal commute (which, oh how I hate that commute. But I love where we live. Ahh, choices). And in fact, I've been getting up around 6 lately thanks to a toddler wake up call. But I am just not a functioning human that early, no matter what. I can stumble to the shower, or upstairs to get cereal for the kid, or the like, but anything that requires actual coordination? That just doesn't really happen until post 7:30. I've sort of always been that way, even when I had to get up at the crack of dawn in high school and college for marching band--I could get up, and get out the door, but I wasn't really able to do much that required more than that until at least 7-7:30.

    That being said, I have to try and find a place to put some exercise in my day. Between my knees and my back, not to mention the weight I've gained, I really need it. Anyone know of workouts you can do with almost no brain power or coordination?

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    1. I'm pretty groggy as I head out for the run. There is NO way I could do my kickboxing routine this early!

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  14. Yeah, I'm another one with super early bird kids. When we finally got them both sleeping until 6 (Hallelujah), my husband and I traded off mornings and I insisted that we start working out instead of sleeping in. That worked pretty well, but was short-lived - my husband left again, and now they've started again waking up at 5:30. That extra half hour of sleep makes a huge difference to me, though it's true I need to experiment with just getting up and working out. It's possible that the exercise might compensate for the sleep deprivation. But again, that's only possible now because Husband is back (for the time being). It's frustrating to get into a routine to have it last such a short period of time. Sigh.

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    1. Having early rising kids is hugely frustrating, isn't it? I have friends who talk about how their kids will sleep until 8, and that just boggles my mind.

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    2. Yes! But I try to focus on the upside, which for us is early bedtimes, which means for most of their lives, my kiddos have been tucked in by 6:30 or even 6 (and during my elder's disastrous 18 month sleep regression, 5:45). Opens up the evening for some downtime at least.

      And I should add, this morning I took the little one out in the stroller for a job-walk and it felt fantastic.

      Completely OT, but I've been watching PBS's This Emotional Life on Netflix streaming, and the third episode is all about happiness, and it's tremendously interesting (talking about resilience and adaptability as factors in happiness). I thought I'd share in case you hadn't heard of it!

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    3. Wow. Petunia's light goes out at 8:30, and when we're in a good sleep time the adult can leave the room between 8:45 and 9. In bad sleep times... well, there have been nights when she is still awake at 10, and I have just given up and gone about my chores. Pumpkin's light goes out at 9. Most nights the adult is out by 9:10 and that's that. Sometimes we are called back repeatedly, usually not past about 9:30, but again, there have been nights when it was still going on well past 10.

      And both kids wake up easily in the morning. Petunia wakes up on her own at about 6:30. Pumpkin often has to be woken up at about 7. Once she's out of day care and not getting naptime every day, we hope to sneak her bedtime back 30 minutes or so. We'll see how that goes.

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    4. Oh, and thanks for the show recommendation. I'll look for it!

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  15. I work in academia and have a fairly flexible schedule, which is a major benefit of such employment IMHO. This year, I was also on sabbatical, so I was able to drop off my kids at daycare, go work out 9-9:45 at the kickboxing center near my home, and be back to shower, pump breastmilk, then start working in my home office around 10:30. It's been great, but I haven't lost much weight :(, although it's my fault (must adjust meals).

    However, what I haven't liked is that this exercise time does eat up my most productive time of the day -- the time right after kid drop off. I can't go to exercise earlier because kids usually hear me get up and then they wake up too (especially the light-sleeping yet really noisy middle one, who then wakes up the baby). So my only reliable workout time has to be when the little kids are daycare.

    In September I will be teaching at 9:45, so the 9 am kickboxing classes are out of the question. The idea is to get up at 6:30 to get the oldest boy out, then handle the two little ones for 8 am drop off, leave work around 4 to work out 4:30-5:15, pick up the little kids 5:15-5:45 (all sweaty), hopefully get in a quick shower before dinner, and then squeeze in a few hours of work and probably tomorrow's dinner prep between kids' and my bedtime.

    Putting it on paper like this makes me feel guilty that I don't put in more hours, but the only time I can work out is by chipping it away from work... I have to become more protective of my time, no more service that's not absolutely necessary, if I am to keep productive with these somewhat reduced hours.

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    1. Resist the guilt! Are you getting done what you need to get done? If so, why should you work longer hours? Also, I think exercise helps clear your brain so you can solve problems. So it is good for your work!

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  16. I also can't consider doing something like this--getting up early to do ANY kind of work--until my littlest doesn't require me in the bed with him in order to sleep. I tried to get up early to write when my older child was little, and she'd end up waking up too, which defeated the purpose.

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    1. Yes, this only works because there is another warm body to leave in bed with Petunia. And it probably wouldn't have worked about 6 months ago, when she was even more aggressively mommy-centered than she is now.

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  17. The milliner8:26 PM

    L is generally an early riser. If he sleeps past 6, it's sleeping in for him. Lately wake up time is between 5&5:30...in our bed. He's been coming to join us in the middle of the night for the past few months. I always try to get him to sleep/stay in bed at least until 6. Sometimes an iPad is involved in reaching this goal.

    DH & I switch off the am dog walk. On my mornings (T, Th, S), I go running with the dog at the park close to our house, usually around 6:30 am. This is the only way I can consistently get some exercise. Even on the mornings when I'm exhausted & dragging my ass around the park, I feel great after. I'd love to start doing yoga on the deck with L on my non-dog walk mornings. Hopefully will get to it soon.

    I quite like being outside first thing in the am. My younger night owl self would be very surprised by this.

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    1. It is really nice and peaceful early in the morning, isn't it? That is a big advantage. Quiet time.

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  18. Um, totally OT but I saw your post on the Grumpy blog re: target weights and wanted to put in a plug for the Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks as an alternative to canoes (or other kayaks) with little kids. I bought the 330, which is basically the smallest, cheapest model they've got (though I did pay extra for the better seats) about a year ago, and it's been great with my then 4-, now 5-year old. Though truthfully it should be called an inflatable canoe rather than an inflatable kayak because its profile is basically that of a canoe -- it sits (mostly) above, not in/below the water.

    Pros: cheap, very transportable (deflated, and fairly so, inflated), a cinch to inflate (takes 20 minutes tops, *with* the assistance of a preschooler -- less without, of course). Seems to be entirely durable. Very, very difficult to tip over (this is SO NICE with a LO inside, or getting inside. Or getting out!). Rides very high, so good in shallow water which our local floatable rivers tend to have.

    Cons: high profile makes it hard(er) work to paddle against the wind; does not track well, so not good if precision is your thing. Ostensibly OK for rapids, but those aren't my thing and I've never tested it in those conditions.

    I have used mine in a number of local rivers and lakes and enjoyed it consistently, and also stashed it in a duffel bag and took it on a trip to Maine where I used it in the Atlantic (minimally and close to shore, but all the same). The 330, which is the one I have, is a good size for 1 adult + 1 kid but is too small (IMO) for 2 adults to use comfortably (though I have done it and it is do-able).

    Since I bought mine, they've introduced one with what appear to be much better skegs, but it's also much more expensive. I'm happy with what we've got for casual kid friendly kayaking. The need to inflate/deflate the thing (ease of doing so, noted above, notwithstanding) is a bit of a nuisance, but it's possible to leave it partially inflated and cram it in a car. Fully deflated I can fit it, 1 paddle (taken apart), all accoutrements (seats, foot pump) and 2 life jackets inside a 42 quart Rubbermaid. Or an LL Bean rolling duffel, as noted...

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    1. I really appreciate this info! My husband has been wanting to buy a kayak or inflatable boat since my kids got a little bigger.

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    2. Thanks! We think Pumpkin would be old enough to go out with us, but we don't feel comfortable yet going out with Petunia. Maybe soon....

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    3. Well, when you're ready, I do think the SE 330 is a good way/place to start!

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  19. I tried a similar experiment in work-life balance before getting pregnant with our younger daughter...twice a week I lurched out of bed at 5AM to head to the studio, got an hour or so of craftiness in, and then lurched home to shower and catch my 7:10 bus to work. It was surprisingly successful while it lasted. The problem was that I was a total basket case by the evening unless I had all my other healthy-lifestyle ducks in strict military rows. Getting up at 5 took all the discipline I had - getting up at 5, eating decently, AND getting to bed at a reasonable hour was just more ninja-like than I could muster.

    A comment of yours above makes me think that it might work better if I did it *every* day. Maybe I should try it when I go back to work in a couple weeks...I'm torn between thinking I should try to get into the groove right away and thinking I should go easy on myself. I guess it depends if my youngest (turning one in July) actually lets me sleep at night anyway :P

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    1. I have to get up at roughly the same time every week day or I end up tired. And my body wakes me up at the earliest time, anyway. Also, I don't want to mess with changing the alarm (although I know there are alarms that can do different things on different days).

      Getting up at 5 would be very hard for me, because my kids don't go to bed until 9ish, so the earliest it is feasible to expect I can get to bed is about 10 p.m. And I like to have at least the theoretical possibility of 8 hours of sleep each night!

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  20. Just one look at my name and you might guess I'm an early bird. If my to-do tasks don't happen by noon, they might not happen at all. My spouse has mostly taken the family morning shift so I can get to work early. I have done the evening shift/dinner.

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