Become a Successful Morning Person
Geoff Starling CSC
Last month I wrote about making exercise happen within your busy life as a dad. There was quite a lot jammed into that piece so please join me over the next 3 issues as I unpack the key components that go into making healthy choices part of your daily routine. To kick things off, I am going to lay out some of the most effective strategies for joining the ranks of those pesky Morning People who seem to have boundless energy and free time to play with their kids after the demands of the day are met. How do they do it? By following a simple set of principles.
In October I celebrated my first anniversary of being self-employed as a parent and breadwinner. I had operated a couple of small businesses before this but always with the safety net of another income to fall back on. This time around the stakes were much higher as the livelihood of 4 people fell under my care. There were many sections along the road when it became a challenge to fit everything in and I merit my success at maintaining a regular exercise regimen in the most part to applying 3 Key Principles on a daily basis: Plan, Prepare and Practice.
As a parent, every day is slightly different and carries a constant whiff of unpredictability (“he did WHAT at recess?! Ok, I’ll meet you at the school..). It is important to create as clear a map as you can for each day and make as many decisions as possible when you have the headspace to do so. Fitting exercise in first thing in the morning is one of the best ways to protect it from the likely chaos of the rest of the day. Having a gameplan in place for what you’ll do, say when you hit the gym, is also vital. Many dads go to all the effort of making it onto the weight floor only to stand there waiting to be ‘inspired’ by a rack of barbells. This is an easy problem to solve and one that we’ll spend time on later in the series.
One of the practices I perfected over my first year as a ‘solopreneur’ was to invest time each evening applying my plan to ensure that everything I needed for the following day was ready and waiting when I got up. This included my clothes and workout gear, a packed lunch and utensil (very important), breakfast materials (I mix up a bunch of stuff in the blender then take it with me), laptop, headphones, appropriate footwear (check the forecast). This process initially took upwards of 30 minutes and many items would still be forgotten (where are my keys?!). With practice and repetition it now takes around 15. Which leads nicely to...
The more times you reinforce a pattern, the easier it is to repeat it with minimal attention-span. Repetition is invaluable in making our kids’ day a success and plays an important role in making ours one too. Relying on rote patterns when you’re exhausted after a long day can often be the only way you’ll get through your prep before the lights go out. Checklists can be useful as you build your experience points too.
Once you’re up and ready to conquer the day, it’s then a matter of finding the most effective way to engage in some physical activity. Here are a few examples to try out:
- Cycle to work. An ‘invigorating’ way to start the day as the mercury drops!
- Spend 20min digesting the upcoming day and previous night's happenings while on a bike, elliptical or treadmill at home. Some light activity along with your morning coffee can really get the grey cells moving.
- Keep your headphones handy and take phone calls on your feet or moving about the office. Walking meetings are also becoming increasingly acceptable practice.
- Hit the gym before you hit your desk or as close to arriving as possible. That way it’s done and you will be more motivated to make healthy choices for the remainder of the day to support your hard work.
- Start a fitness challenge amongst your friends or colleagues and see if your employer will throw in some swag to support you. Step counting, total minutes of activity and trying something new are all well proven methods to set trackable goals for a bit of friendly competition.
Set aside two weeks to give mornings a chance and get ready to hit the pillow soon after your kiddos. Getting up before the sun is rarely the difficult part, it’s getting to bed early enough that you’re not sacrificing quality rest to fuel your new endeavor. Practice your Plan and Prepare to set your alarm - you’re going to become a Morning Person!
Geoff is a father of two busy kids under six. He is a writer, speaker and fitness professional living in Calgary, Canada