Most of my ‘goals’ the past several years were just wishes. They were lofty and I gave them arbitrary timelines in order to be SMART. Even as a highly organized person, I didn’t know what was realistic to accomplish in a day. I constantly over-planned and over-scheduled and let myself down. My unintended mantra was “I’m overwhelmed.”
I’d exhaust myself and tap out of achieving anything for long stretches. This system clearly wasn’t getting me very far.
When a friend told me that she had changed her in-bed schedule to 9pm to 6am and her adrenal hormones were finally re-balancing, I was intrigued.
I challenged myself to get to bed earlier…and yet again struggled with a goal.
Maybe there was a middle way? Something between procrastination and unwavering discipline.
First, I decided to change the time of my ‘get ready for bed routine.’ We all have a time that we observe when we need to brush our teeth and do those last things. Until THIS time changed, I couldn’t manage to get in bed early on a regular basis.
The second idea is where I really cemented this habit change. I decided to move my wake time from 7am to 6am, but to do so by moving my alarm clock by one minute a day. Moving my wake time by a whole hour at once was a hard pass for my psyche. One minute a day was super-reasonable.
Yes, this took a couple of months. And I didn’t stick to the policy on weekends. And once I got to 6:07, it was easy to jump to 6. As my wake time shifted, I was tired earlier and it was easier to get into bed by about 9:30 each night.
Waking up one minute earlier has brought me wonderful benefits:
- I have double the energy if I’m asleep by 10pm, even with the same number of hours. If I stay up until midnight and sleep until 8am, I feel like I have a mild hangover!
- I enjoy being up before others start making demands on my time.
- I consistently practice a morning routine, which fills me up before I have to give anything. I practice yoga, meditation, and prayer for about an hour total. This has led to much less need for escape activities like zoning out on TV. I’m able to be active around the house until my wind down time.
Sometimes we’re called to dramatic change. I’ve certainly shifted dramatically at times, but this process opened my eyes to a new way of creating change.
If you too have felt let down by your own well-meaning ambitions, this year I invite you to make habit change easy, instead of urgent.
- If your goal is 20 minutes of daily meditation, close your eyes for one breath today, then two tomorrow.
- If your goal is weight loss, maybe you don’t need a diet plan. Just put one less scoop of food on your plate. The average human stomach can hold about 4 cups of food. Decide what the right capacity is for you and slowly wean down your servings.
- If you’d like to be more fit and active, start with circling one block or doing one push-up a day this week, then increase next week.
- If you’d like to read more, commit to reading one paragraph before your turn on the TV or open the game app.
- Instead of (procrastinating on) starting the GAPS Diet, just drink one cup of meat stock a day this week.
Whether you’d like to adjust your sleep schedule to feel better, or have another goal set for yourself, know that these tiny, yet consistent, actions add up to sustainable long term changes. We are what we do consistently.
You probably don’t have an extra hour, but we all have one minute each day that we can change. Own your one minute.
“All great things have their origin in that which is small.” – Lao Tzu