After the better part of a month, I might actually have the hang of waking up when my alarm goes off. I've started the last phase of my trial by setting my alarm for 5:55 a.m. and getting out of bed before my daily wake-up call. The sequence has become fairly fixed: wake-up, shower, write. It's not all smooth sailing though; I can be a tenaciously stubborn sonuvabitch.
I still don't get to sleep early enough most of the time. Sometimes I get caught up reading blags on the interwebs, sometimes people talking through paper thin walls keep me up. Suffice it to say, my planned bedtime of 10:30 doesn't happen on a frequent basis. That would be fine if I didn't get tired around then, but I do. As a result, I have on more than one occasion gone back to bed after going through the sequence above for a quick nap before heading into work. Once or twice I failed to write.
A Great Success?
In my original post, I said that "doing something more with my time is the whole point of this exercise". To get a little more specific, I wanted to change the structure of my daily routine, in a sustainable way, to yield a block of concentrated time for pursuing my own interests. Sounds dry, I know.
If you strictly adhere to the criteria for success indicated at the start of the experiment, then I've failed because I didn't completely fulfill them: I haven't gotten up and written every day. I say bollocks to that.
Having a clear definition of success and metrics to track your progress create motiviation and help you plan small, doable next steps. In the end though, metrics don't count for shit, results do. My screenplay isn't done yet, but (including discarded parts) I've written about a page a day. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I don't feel the same visceral urge to get immediately back in bed. If I do go back to sleep at some point, it's because I've weighed it as an option.
That's a huge change from 24 days ago. I'll take it.
My head feels foggy and my bed looks warm. On a workday, I usually wake up around 9:30. Why then do I sit writing, having awoke at 6:00?
I've often heard the lament that the day has too few hours in it. And while, short of sleep deprivation, you or I can't make more time, we can make more effective use of the time we have. In this regard, getting up early creates a lot of bang for your buck. Having an uninterrupted block of time, while still fresh from a good night's sleep, will give me the opportunity to pursue numerous goals. That's the idea anyway.
Both yesterday and today I forced myself up at 6:00 and groggily made my way through the shower and into the waking world. It takes a strong will for me to resist the temptation to crawl back into bed for a few more hours. Without proper structure, this will not last.
The What, The Why, The How, and The When
I assume you already have some familiarity with the who.
Starting tomorrow (Aug. 26), I will wake up at 6:00 a.m. every day for 30 days, thus creating a new behavior I can use to pursue other goals. I will, upon awakening to my alarm, immediately get out of bed, engage in some physical exertion, and then head to the shower. The inability to consistently wake up early has given me trouble since before I can remember, so I want to get downright Pavlovian with this. As soon as the alarm rings, I should get out of bed without thinking and start my routine.
The notion that I (or anyone) could become so conditioned used to irritate me to no end. I had a deep belief in my free will and capacity to choose, which this sort of conditioning threatened. I realize now that this very reaction reflected my conditioning. Importantly, it was conditioning that I hadn't chosen or consented to.
I still deeply believe in my capacity to choose (I no longer think the quesiton of free will has any weight), but I know that I don't always have the ability to make good, informed decisions in the moment. Since I will have them one way or another, consciously cultivating my set of conditioned responses allows me to exercise choice ahead of time. Then, when the moment comes where I don't have time to choose, I can fall back on my reactions and trust the correctness of my response.
Since doing something more with my time is the whole point of this exercise, I will spend an hour every morning working on a screenplay I've wanted to write for some time, Dead West. It's a zombie thriller set in the old west. Why do that instead of just heading into the office earlier? I enjoy writing, and at the end of the month I'll have a significant accomplishment to show for my efforts. More positive reinforcement. While I have a pretty cool job, it's still a job and spending my newly carved out block of time on it would make me much less likely to succeed. Once I've soundly established the habit of getting up early, I can try and head in an hour or two earlier as needed.
So far, I've neglected to mention one key player in my plan: my sister. What I laid out above sounds solid enough, and for some people with greater reserves of willpower, it might serve. As I've explained in the past, I have almost no willpower. To tip the odds in my favor, my sister will call me every day just before 6:00 and get my lazy ass out of bed. Since she already gets up early, I'm able to piggyback on her good habit to improve my bad habit.
My original plan was to hire someone in India to call me and start doing a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. I think this will work better.
If you want more info on waking up early, check out Steve Pavlina's How to Become an Early Riser article.