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How to be a Morning Person

How to be a Morning Person
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For the original unedited article, visit Greatist.

At 6 am, we’re lucky if we have the energy to reach for a cup of coffee. Mornings may be rough for some of us, but hold off on sleeping in: There are perks to waking up with the sun. (And we have some tips to make it easier, too!).

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SNOOZE AND LOSE — THE NEED-TO-KNOW

The old “I’m just too tired” complaint may be more than a sorry excuse for waking up late. Research suggests there are biological differences between early larks, who wake up at the same time every morning and feel most active around 9 am, and night owls, who get more sh!t done once the sun goes down. One survey found more than half of Americans fall into the morning category, saying they’re at their “personal best” from 5 am to 12 pm. And it may get easier to greet the day at dawn as we get older, thanks to body clock changes as we age.

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It turns out the early bird may get more than the worm. According to self-reports from college students, those who wake up earlier feel more optimistic and proactive than those who rise later. Other studies have found morning larks tend to be harder working and conscientious than night owls. (Still, it’s not clear whether waking up early actually makes someone more productive or optimistic.) And perhaps the secret to a 4.0 isn’t only hitting the books: Another study of university undergraduates found those who said they function better in the morning received higher grades than those who preferred the evening. That’s possibly because morning risers are more likely to get to class on time or to forgo late-night partying. Researchers also suggest memory may improve during sleep, so getting to bed earlier in preparation for a morning alarm could help those exam notes soak in.

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Being a morning person may actually be good for our health, too. When UK researchers questioned adults about their sleep habits, they found people who stay under the covers on the weekdays until 9 am are more likely to be stressed, overweight, and depressed than those who get up at 7 am. Another study found teenagers who went to bed and woke up late were less inclined to hit the gym and more likely to be overweight than those who went to bed and woke up early. Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. (Again, remember it’s not clear that waking up early causes stress, depression, or weight gain.)

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GOOD DAY SUNSHINE — YOUR ACTION PLAN

But night owls aren’t totally out of luck. One study found evening lovers are more productive than morning people are at night. Still, being a morning person may be more advantageous for most people’s work schedules and routines, since the workday typically starts around 9 am and the office is (usually!) not open at midnight. Regardless of the situation, there are ways to reset the body clock and happily greet the day:

  • Get enough sleep. It may seem obvious, but getting those recommended seven to nine hours will make getting up earlier easier. Pro tip? Keep the laptop and other work out of the bed to sleep soundly.
  • Stay consistent. Try to set the alarm clock for the same time every morning —including weekends. A constant wakeup call may make it progressively easier to jump out of bed.
  • Start slowly. Pick a new wakeup time and gradually work towards it. Want to wake up at 7 am but stuck at 8 am? Start by setting the clock for 7:45, and move down in 15-minute increments until that new time goal is reached.
  • Skip the snooze. Disrupting sleep an hour or so before actually getting out of bed may disturb our REM cycle, which helps stimulate brain regions linked to cognition. Don’t want to mess with that (or bug a roommate with multiple alarms!). Set one alarm for when it’s time to rise — and maybe another a few minutes later in case you snooze through!
  • Set some happy sounds. Skip the beeps and blares and set an alarm tone to something soothing or fun.
  • Let in the light. Research shows a little light may be all we need to reset the body block. A simple solution is to keep the blinds open during the night. Orgreet the day and brush your teeth outside! (While waving to the neighbors…)
  • Eat breakfast. Sleepiness doesn’t disappear just from drinking a cup of coffee. Having enough time for some green eggs and ham (or maybe just a yogurt parfait) will also provide energy, not to mention it’ll boost that brainpower, too.
  • Hit the gym. Those tired eyes may go away once a morning workout routine is in order. Exercise will definitely boost energy — give these early-bird exercises a try!
  • Treat yo’self. Have a reward waiting in the a.m. to motivate climbing out of the covers. Dive into some freshly baked fruit and nut bars, or slide into a warm bath instead of taking a quick shower.
  • J.F.D.I. Sometimes we need to bite the bullet and “just f’ing do it.”Researchers have found that creativity may flourish when we feel groggy, so don’t let a little drowsiness interrupt seizing the day!
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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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