Mind & Body

Maximize Your Mornings: Doing More by Doing Less


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#MUNIonThis:

As soon as we wake up, many of us have that immediate compulsion to check our phones for messages or e-mails. And while our gadgets need to be plugged in to an energy source in order to power up, one of the best ways we can power up as humans (vs. hyper-connected, workaholic cyborgs) is by consciously choosing to unplug or disconnected, particularly in the early hours of the morning when our minds are usually at their peak performance.

Various resources – books like Laura Vanderkam’s, articles on Entrepreneur, Women’s Health, Fast Company, research studies and so on, have pointed at the habit of waking up early as a means to living a happier, healthier, more satisfying life. How is this so?

  1. You can have quiet time for solitary introspection.
    Some may call it time for meditation, or for prayer, but regardless of your spiritual inclinations, just having time to quiet your mind and check in on yourself – where you are, what you value, and what you are grateful for today, is a great way to start the day in good spirits.2
  2. You can devote time to things that matter to you, undisturbed.
    Whether it’s writing something for your own pleasure / benefit, or planning for a personal project you’ve been wanting to execute, it’s best to get at it before you busy yourself with the daily grind of work demands, because chances are, you won’t get around to doing it during the day.
  3. You can have a morning exercise routine.
    Even when we think that the most successful individuals are hyper-busy with the work they do, they make time for exercise in their day, whether it lasts as short as 15 minutes or runs to an hour, more so for the benefits it gives our minds than our bodies, as exercise releases endorphins which life our spirits. Time allotted for exercise also allows our mind time to focus on another activity and tune in to our bodies.
  4. You can have breakfast properly.
    Though many have said it’s the most important meal of the day, it still remains an often neglected one for many. And it’s not necessarily about having a complex breakfast feast, as it can be as simple as fresh fruit, oatmeal, or a green smoothie. What’s important here is the act of taking the time to slow down and savor your food, perhaps in the company of loved ones, and be present.

We may often wake up, with our to-do lists already in mind, and deliverables we owe to this person and that, but in taking the time to relish the quiet hours of our morning to consciously do less, we become that much more effective in the times that we allot to accomplish work tasks.

Now, this all nice and fluffy, and perhaps easier said or thought about than done. What’s key here is starting small, having a sense of accountability, and yes, getting to the root of the problem of waking up early.

  • Adjust your wake up time by 15- to 30-minute increments.
    Habits aren’t formed overnight, and it might be a drastic leap to start waking up at 5:30AM when you were accustomed to waking up at 8:00AM. So be kind to yourself and start with manageable, incremental adjustments, coupled with purposeful activities to fill in with those extra moments awake, in order to further motivate yourself to get off the bed when the alarm goes off.
  • Share your goals with someone else.
    Having someone to report to is key in habit formation. Whether it’s someone who lives in the same house (who you may or may not influence with your newfound goal of early rising), or a close friend who lives elsewhere, letting someone know about your intent to wake up early, and what you intend to do with that extra time, will give you a greater sense of accountability and have someone to share your new habit victories with, big or small.
  • Sleep early.
    One of the reasons why a lot of people have a difficult time waking up early is because many of us go to bed late too. It wouldn’t do much good to wake up early if your cognitive functions are compromised. One study showed that people who slept just 6 hours a night for 2 weeks had the same cognitive function (or dysfunction) of those who are legally drunk [1]. So, it would be a good practice to clock in 7-8 hours a night, by being disciplined enough to shut off devices after a certain time in order to get your mind and body ready for sleep.

Jen HornJEN HORN (@nomadmanager) is a wanderer, writer, and designer out to build the MUNI community, create a culture of caring for self, others, and the planet, and make choosing better a way of life as MUNI’s Chief Collaborator. A graduate of AB-Psychology from De La Salle University, she has always had a fascination with the inner workings of the human mind, though she opted to pursue entrepreneurship, writing, and design after graduation. She is also a lover of handwoven textiles, and aims to keep weaving traditions alive through the use of Philippine textiles in modern fashion with her side project Tala Luna.

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