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The Unconventional Guide to Work

Life’s too short to be bored at work. We can help.

The sleepyhead's guide to becoming a morning person

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It has been said you can divide the population on earth into two types of people: those who leap out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning, bright-of-eye and ready to face the day ... and all the normal people.

I must confess that I am one of those weird, naturally bouncy, bright-eyed morning people. As soon as my alarm goes, my brain switches out of sleep mode and into “get shit done” mode. It probably helps that if I try to sleep in, the cat will pointedly jab his paw into my eyelids until I get up to feed him.

If you are one of those normal people who only just discovered there was a 6 o’clock in the AM and have to wrap your alarm clock in padding to prevent it being damaged every time you throw it at the wall, then maybe it’s time you thought about a different approach. Are you ready to do the unthinkable … and become a morning person?

Here are my ten tips to get you out of bed and into work mode earlier:

1. Put your alarm on the other side of the room

A simple hack to get you mobile is to place your alarm clock on the other side of the room. If you want that annoying tinny version of “Fur Elise” to stop, then you’re going to have to get out of bed to make it happen.

You could also try changing up your alarm tune to something designed to get you amped. My husband - who is not great at getting out of bed - has his alarm tune set to “Ghost of Perdition” by progressive metal band Opeth. There’s nothing like death metal to send you out of bed!

2. If an alarm clock fails, get a cat

Or a dog. Or a hamster … whatever animal you like, as long as it gets hungry early in the morning, and is exceptionally vocal about that hunger.

It’s pretty hard to stay in bed with a vicious, hungry hamster jumping on your head.

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3. Dump that caffeine

Avoid drinking caffeine before you go to bed. It keeps your brain awake and alert, which is not what you need when you’re trying to sleep. And anything that helps you sleep better will also help you wake up better.

4. Get some sun ASAP

Apart from injecting your body with awesome vitamin D, sunlight sends a message to your brain to shut off melatonin production - that’s the hormone that makes you sleepy. The sooner you get some exposure to sunlight, the better your brain will produce it for the following night.

We have french doors in our bedroom. As soon as I get up, I pull back the curtains and open the doors, letting the light and sunshine in. I also go outside to feed the animals and will sometimes go for a run as well. It never fails to instantly boost your energy levels.

5. Turn off that tablet!

For at least an hour before you go to bed, try to avoid any access to electronic devices. This includes the TV, your phone, your laptop or tablet, the timer on the microwave oven … turn them all off. The light from electronic screens tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Plus, if you’re playing games or doing anything that stimulates your brain before bed, you’ll still be wired from it and you’ll have trouble sleeping.

6. Read a book

Experts are actually divided on whether reading a book before bed can be beneficial to sleep or not. The research certainly suggests that any book you read should be in the traditional print format or on an ereader without a backlight. Personally, I’ve been reading for 30mins before I sleep since I was old enough to read, and I think it’s one of the best habits I have, provided I choose the book carefully.

I like to escape into another world before I sleep. It allows the problems and stresses of the day to fade away. It gives me something to think about as I’m drifting off that isn’t, “Do I have enough money to pay that bill?” or “Is little Billy doing OK at Summer Camp?” As long as I don’t read books that are too terrifying (I love horror books, but not before bed) or too dense (I do read non-fiction, but usually biographies or interesting books like these, not reference books)

7. Plan your day in advance

I just finished reading Eat That Frog by productivity guru Brian Tracey. In it, he talks about techniques to help you become more productive, and one of them that I’ve adopted is to plan your day the night before. This means writing my to-do list for the following day in my diary.

You can even extend this night-before planning to include tasks you usually do in the morning. For example, I pack our lunches and measure out food for the chickens and sheep before I go to bed in the evenings. Sometimes, if I have an important event or meeting to attend the next day, I lay out my clothes the night before. Then, in the morning, all I have to do is get up, find my things, and rock out the door.

8. Schedule Less Arduous Tasks for the Morning

This might sound like a bit of a cop-out, but ask yourself why you’re struggling so much in the morning? Is it that you are trying to do your most mentally-taxing tasks in the morning, when your body and mind aren’t yet up to the task?

One thing I’ve always found useful is to tackle something small and easily achievable first thing in the morning. When it isn’t even 7am and you can tick a task off your to-do list, it really helps to motivate you for the rest of the day.

9. Fake it till you make it

If you want to be a morning person, then just pretend you’re a morning person. Pretend you’re enjoying your morning bus ride - all that extra time to read or play games on your phone - and that you just love making small talk with your co-workers while you wait for the coffee machine to free up. Pretend you love opening the curtains and letting that sunshine pour in, and that you are so excited to be getting shit done before the sun has even fully risen.

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If you start looking for the good in every situation, eventually you won’t be pretending any more. You will be a morning person.

10. Eat a Yummy Breakfast

Having a healthy breakfast is a great way to jumpstart you for the day and pack your body full of energy for your morning tasks. Sadly, breakfast is one of those meals that many people skip, and I think the world is poorer for it.

So make it a habit to eat a healthy breakfast. But I say go one step further. Don’t just have a nutritious breakfast - make it something yummy that you look forward to eating. I know when I cook banana pancakes on the weekends, the smell will get my husband out of bed hours before he’d usually rise.

Too often people leave breakfast as a kind of afterthought and so often skip it as it’s not exciting or interesting like lunch or dinner. But it doesn’t have to be! I have berries and primal cereal with a scoop of greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey, or sometimes I’ll blend all my favourite ingredients into a fruit smoothie. On weekends I will make pancakes or I’ll get up really early to make a loaf of bread and we have a European-style breakfast with cheese and meats. You could do this in the week easily if you had a bread maker - imagine waking up to fresh-baked bread! I couldn’t stay in bed long with that smell!

Are you a morning person? What are your tips for rising early and getting going first thing in the morning?