How many of you have started 2020 with a New Year’s resolution? If you are one of the many people that immediately answered with an affirmative “yes” then great, this article is for you. I want to capture your attention now, while your motivations are at their highest, and your commitment is genuine.
Now for the hard truth. Most of you reading this will not maintain them. It is sad but true. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Scranton found that 23% of people quit their resolution after just one week, which highlights those good intentions do not necessarily result in successful outcomes.
Whether your resolution focuses on losing weight, paying off debts, achieving a promotion or just doing something different, the fact remains that most people fail. Ultimately, we discover that either we were not quite ready to change, we underestimated the size of the task, we lacked preparation, or we did not prepare for the trade-off regarding what we had to give up.
So, what can be done to make these resolutions last? I say change the resolution. Instead, commit to a new declaration of “waking earlier each day”. The morning hours can provide us all with the time we need to plan to make good habits stick. Whether that means learning a new instrument, committing pen to paper as you write your first book or attending the gym, it is in the early hours of the working day that all of us can achieve great things. Waking up earlier is budget-sensitive, does not require you to spend less time with the family or prevent you from missing your favourite late-night show.
Making New Year resolutions can improve well-being. They help us to consider the goals we value most and then they commit us to making them happen. The beauty of investing in the resolution of waking up earlier than usual is you will quickly discover a period in the day that can be truly “yours”. For me, these are the hours between 6:00am, and 8:00am. For you, the hours may differ. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his mornings at 3:45am, whereas Olympic athlete and gold medallist, Rebecca Adlington, wakes up at 5:00am. We all know that waking up can be one of the most challenging and dreaded parts of the day, but some of the most successful people in art, business and sports attribute rising early as being key to their overall success.
If you make waking up earlier as your New Year’s resolution, it will provide you with the extra hours you need to get a head-start and be super-productive. The early morning grogginess will quickly be replaced by smugness as you relish in the achievements you are accomplishing. Meanwhile, your willpower will strengthen thanks to your newfound ability to overcome the inner voice that tries to keep you in bed.
These early hours are critical if you want to achieve your 2020 goals. They are free from the maelstrom of noise and distractions that are thrust upon you the second you start work, which inevitably end-up ruining your best-laid post-work plans. New Year resolutions that require post-work commitments rarely succeed. Simply put, we are too tired, too fatigued, too distracted and to demotivated after a busy day in the office to commit to them consistently.
However, it is in the mornings that you truly can shape your life in your own design and achieve those New Year goals. The early hours provide you with uninterrupted opportunities to learn, discover and develop, without distraction.
Far too many of us see our mornings as a frantic sprint to get “ready” for the day in the least time possible. How many of you have brushed your teeth in the shower, ironed a shirt while eating a piece of toast or slurped down a scalding hot coffee while speed-walking to the station? It needn’t be this way.
Moving your wake-up alarm to an earlier time in the day may even help you to feel more awake and energised. I know, it sounds counter-productive. However, shifting your circadian rhythms can benefit sleep health. How we feel when we wake up is often related to the stage of sleep cycle we are experiencing when the alarm goes off. If we can time the alarm to coincide with the end of our sleep cycle (which typically lasts 90 minutes), then you will feel less tired. Knowing this means you can plan your sleep-in advance. If you want to have the recommended five cycles of sleep (approx. 7.5 hours), you can work backwards from your new alarm time to calculate the optimum time you need to go to bed. Play with your own alarm, alter it in 15-minute increments until you find the “perfect wake up time” for you. When it goes off during an NREM1 or NREM2 light-sleep cycle, you will know as you will rouse easily, and you will feel energised and alert, ready to start the day.
Once you have nailed your wake-up time, then the early morning wake-up routine can become the most productive part of your day. It can stimulate you into getting a head start on everyone else too. Knowing how the first 60-90 minutes of your day is going to be structured helps you feel in control and allows you to save your energy for the important decisions to come when the “proper day” starts.
We make New Year resolutions we want to stick to (or why make them in the first place). So, my pledge to you is this. You can beat the statistics and achieve your goals if you commit to owning the mornings. My goal for 2020 is to get back into Ironman triathlon shape. So my alarm is now set to go off at 06:00 am every morning at which time I will slip out of my bed and into my trainers, wetsuit or cycling shoes (which I lay out the night before) so that I can fit in training before my children wake up. No excuses. My weekly ritual will become one that involves watching the sunrise before breakfast and enjoying some “me time” before the real day of school drop-offs, work and other distractions take over.
A New Year’s Resolution is a contract with yourself. So is a morning routine. If you can commit to it and not to let anything disturb it, you can transform your life. Recognise what you will gain from the new habits and goals you will achieve, and you can make all your 2020 resolutions last and endure. Prepare for the challenge of an earlier start and ignore that snooze button to make it happen. Do this and you really can make your resolutions stick this year. Plus, you will feel smug all day.
Written by Nick Day, Founder of the award-winning recruitment agency, JGA Recruitment Group.
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