I first heard about the early wake challenge on Instagram and instantly I was intrigued! It’s the one thing I find the hardest to do, waking up early. And believe me, I really really want to. I know exactly how many productive hours I lose simply by staying up late and not waking early with the alarm.
I tried to find where this idea originated, I guess it’s not a new concept and similar ideas were popping up all over my google search.
While researching, I came across Filipe Castro Matos who started the #21earlydays hashtag in his attempt to wake at 4.30am for 21 consecutive days, though he later says he kept to that time only on weekdays.
Let’s go over the why first, incase you need a little convincing
Why 4.30am? Apparently it needs to be absurdly early so it can provide you with enough undisturbed hours in the day for you to focus on achieving your goals. At such early hours, no one else is around to distract you. You can respond to emails and messages without an instant response requiring more of you. You’re able to focus on tasks before the rest of the household wakes and demands your attention. You can get your work-out easily over and done with (my biggest incentive).
It’s also a beautiful time to wake up, to see the day waken after you, to watch the sunrise, and to take that time to be reminded how magical our days really are.
Why 21 days? Each challenge refers back to Dr Maxwell Mattz’ s theory that you can form a new habit in 21 days, and by committing to that duration, you’re (in theory) giving yourself a better chance to keep with it after the challenge is completed.
Why make it a challenge? Lets face it forever or from now on is a long time to consider! It is far easier to commit to anything between 1-3 months as it is considered long enough to actually be beneficial but short enough to be doable.
In addition to that, a short-term goal motivates and gives us a sense of achievement each day we’ve achieved set goal.
Why do the challenge at all? It’s not for everyone. Ultimately, it’s about productivity and make the most of each day. Only you know whether you’re more productive in the evenings or just stay up to binging watch your favourite tv shows or Youtubers *raises hand*. It is the easiest way to add a few extra hours into your day that can be dedicated to your needs alone.
And now the how
There are a number of challenges out there, and each encourage tweaking to work best for your individual needs, and I like that. Usually I prefer a challenge to be clear cut with no flexibility – otherwise it isn’t much of a challenge.
However, I honestly think that in order for this to serve any purpose for you, it must be highly customisable, and somewhat flexible. It would be pointless to exclude people from such a challenge because they have active social weekends and need more sleep, or for those who are parents and have a different set of responsibilities to their family.
Most people suggest the crazy 4.30am start, which I thought was laughable. Sure it might be a great idea for those who usually wake up at 6am, but what about us night owls that can’t crawl out of bed before 9?
Then I thought, if I’m going to go in, I’m going all in. *sobs*
So here are a few tips to help you get through the next 21 days and make the most of this experience:
- If the thought of waking so early makes you nauseous, then compromise and be kind to yourself this first attempt – but try to make it at the latest a 6am wake
- Have the right mind-set. As with anything, remember that attitude is everything. Yes, it’s hard, but these are your own goals, no one is forcing you. Having said that, remember to listen to your body and remain accepting and non-judgemental with yourself. If this was easy then everyone would do it.
- Don’t push that snooze button!!! Not even once! On the same point – don’t go back to sleep! Put your alarm across the room or in the bathroom so that you have to get out of bed to shut that damn thing up.
- Choose an irritating alarm sound. Nothing soft and soothing. You don’t need to be shocked into waking, that isn’t pleasant or recommended, but it shouldn’t be something that can lull you back to sleep.
- Look forward to waking each day. Don’t laugh. It’s a helpful point! If you look forward to the alarm each day, you will make this a much more pleasant experience.
- Do a little research into sleep cycles to best find when the optimal time for you to go to bed and wake are so that you can feel well-rested and ready for your day.
- Don’t wake up at different times each day. If you can’t do the 4.30am wake then do something more realistic but stick to it for at least the weekdays consistently.
- Have a morning/awakening routine. Don’t skip this part just because you want to hit the ground running. It will throw you off balance and waking up will take you even longer. Drink your coffee, wash and get dressed (don’t stay in your pajamas) and do your exercise or meditation routine if that’s what gets you up in the morning.
- Resist the temptation to lay in the bathtub; children’s cubby house; or on the welcome mat curled up in the fetal position to get a few sneaky minutes of shut eye
- Have a plan for when you wake up. Use the time efficiently by going through your to-do list and smashing each task out so that you can feel it’s been worth the sacrifice.
- Keep your home at a comfortable temperature but resist cranking the heater up to high (I’m writing this in the middle of winter, believe me I know your pain) because the heat will just make you think only of sleeping. Studies have shown that the ideal temperature for a productive work space is 21-22ºC (70-72ºF).
- Fill your mornings with things that stimulate you. Go for that walk to watch the sunrise; actively work on your goals and projects; build something; tear something down; keep active! This isn’t the ideal time to catch up on some reading.
- Take an afternoon nap if you need it. Many people say they felt very exhausted around 3-4pm, but I think most of us could do with a nap right about then! Just make sure it’s a power nap of 20-40 minutes and not any longer, otherwise it will make you feel sluggish for the rest of the day. Which in turn results in losing productive hours in the evening, which makes this counterproductive.
For any of you that have decided to try the challenge, I wish you luck! For those of you that have decided to make the most of their sleep-ins, wish me luck!!
Have you completed a similar challenge? What did you do with your ‘extra’ hours?