My Automated Morning in 2011 (and The Turkey Agreement)

My Automated Morning in 2011 (and The Turkey Agreement)

I have to be honest, Dental School pushes me to my limits. A lot of times I feel like I’m paddling in the middle of the ocean, and just when I get a hold of a raft, they make things harder. They know exactly what we’re going through, they know when we adapt, and they increase the challenge by raising the bar.

That really takes a toll on a person, but at the same time it’s made me capable of accomplishing things I wouldn’t be able to before. It’s given me tremendous focus, much more patience, and the absolute do-or-die need to become even more efficient.

So one of my adaptation strategies for about a month has been to create a new routine through out my day. As opposed to staying up studying until 4am some nights, and then getting up at 7am for lab, and then taking random naps in the day. This unhealthy trend made me crave too many cups of coffee each day (which I usually had with milk and sugar). All of this led me to gaining a bunch of bodyfat, and walking around like a zombie for weeks on end. Not a bad temporary state to be in considering this is me grinding towards my life goals.

However, I’m trying to see if there’s a healthier way. A way to get even more focus and more efficiency out of my days, keeping my body healthy and regular, increasing my daily energy. This seems like a mirage in a great big desert of what some say is the hardest semester of dental school.

The Routine

For about a month I had been going to sleep at 10pm and waking up at 6am, so that I get 8 hours of sleep. This has been working out great, and it’s not just the fact that it’s 8 hours, but the same 8 hours. There have of course been nights where I’ve stayed up a bit later, but rarely, which leaves me with a good reserve of energy to not get tired throughout the day, as long as I get it right the following night.

In order to make 6am mean something to me, I’ve had to look at all my school schedules. Most of the time I either have lab or lecture at 8am, but if I don’t, I know that no matter what, by 8am I am to be studying (either home or library).

The first 30 minutes. Within 30 minutes of waking up, I’m on a schedule. I know I have to weigh myself, check my bodyfat, enter it into an excel, do a quick burst of exercises, and drink a 30g protein shake. For me this is time sensitive, so I don’t have the luxury of hitting the snooze (not that I need to, I feel energized). I believe that it’s good to get that food in within 30 minutes, but even if it’s not as time sensitive as I think, it’s awesome for starting the morning with a rapid pace.

After that I have to go through the process of getting ready to go somewhere, which means I hop in the shower, shave, put on my clothes, and be ready to get out there door by 7 if I needed to be.

The Turkey Agreement. My girlfriend and I have an agreement that whoever gets out of bed last is the Turkey, and has to make the bed. For weeks she was the turkey, now she jumps up same time as me, so we had ‘double turkey’ and made the bed together. I know it’s corny, but, it’s a hack that really works. This one action has served to obliterate any afterthought of wanting to hit the snooze. I realize that this might not be for everyone, but I hope it shows you the type of creative problem solving one can take to hack their mornings.

By the way, I really had to explain this one to Marina, and get her to agree to it in order for it to work. You can’t force someone to be a part of your crazy little plans, but many times when you explain the benefits, make it fair and fun, and give them a tincture of time, they’ll come around.

Getting good sleep. There’s a number of things that you can do to get better sleep. Better sleep means you’ll be better rested and have higher energy. Being regular in your sleep schedule is one thing, keeping your room on the cooler side is another, and just making sure you’re hydrated is yet another. I’m sure you can think of a few more, just make sure your sleep counts.

There’s even a little device called the Zeo that monitors your sleep patterns for you and helps you figure out what’s going on with your cycles. I’m actually a bit curious about it, so if anyone has had experience with it, please share.

You can also take a look at the latest post on Life Optimizer 25 Ways to Wake Up Earlier, which has some tips for getting better sleep. I was actually just commenting there, and because I left a rather long comment, I decided to turn it into a post of it’s own here. Also I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Getting Great Sleep in 2008.

Eating well, and regularly. Aside from being regular, it’s my diet that’s keeping my energy levels up these days. I eat by a very similar mesh of Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Diet in combination with some hack’s from Tim Ferris Four Hour Body, Slow-carb diet (which btw is mostly Mark Sisson’s Primal/Paleo principles and recipes, with a few differences in principle). I eat between 10am-11am, then again between 4pm-5pm, then again if I’m really hungry or just need a healthy snack between 8pm-10pm. The reason I pick these times is that it makes sense for me with my schedule, and keeps me from being hungry throughout the day.

In my opinion, it’s all about the morning routine, if you’re interested in having a great day and working toward your bigger life goals. It helps if you have a schedule like work or school to be at, and if not, create a ‘fake’ starting time to your day, that you can duplicate each day. Then see what you can get done in an hour, or two hours, that will take you closer to your life goals. BTW, I wrote about my morning routine for 2008. In some ways it’s very similar to what it is now, except now I wake up earlier.

It’s helps to record and keep track of the morning routine. There will be days when you won’t be able to help but be thrown off (like today, because I got really into writing this article that I wanted to see it through), but don’t let that be an excuse to stop it all together. Just get back to your routine the very next day, and automate your success.

Perhaps you want to be in better shape, well then do some exercise and get a high protein healthy meal in first thing (try for within 30 minutes). Do you want to become knowledgeable in something? With just 10 pages a day, you’ll read about 1 book a month, and 12 in a year, which will get you a SIGNIFICANT amount of knowledge about a subject.

What else can you get done? Just automate it and make it your reason for living.

Posted by in Health, Personal Development, Productivity | January 13, 2011 | Digg | | Stumble | Print | 8 comments

  • Katie Brandt

    Congratulations for creating a routine for success and sticking to it. I know my day stays on course more if I start off that way with my routine (wake, brush teeth, shower, hair, make up, eat yogurt granola and fruit, brush teeth and on my way I go). I play a game to see if I can get that all done before 6:55 when I leave. Today I was out the door at 6:49 and so far I have been super productive.

    • Alex Shalman

      That’s awesome. I like how you made a game out of it.

      I think time is such an interesting concept. To understand it, play with it, use it to our advantage… things to be explored 🙂

      Just an afterthought. Marina used to do the fruit and yogurt thing in the morning. Now she switched to protein shakes with me, and she’s seeing some pretty good results.

  • Life Exceptional

    This is really something I am trying to do at the moment, I’ve looked at my sleeping patterns and the times I eat and I’ve made improvements. I guess I’m going through the adaptation phase at the moment where my body is resisting the habit change, but I’m sure I will push through! The other thing I have done is to add more exercise into my daily routine. I try to start each day with a run now, and every other day I go for a swim in the afternoon.

    • Alex Shalman

      I think it’s easier to make habit changes that involve our health when we’re making choices that are healthy and give us more energy. With that said, yes, sometimes it just takes pure force to get through the old habits and establish new ones, so don’t give up! Good luck 🙂

  • Van Beek

    Sleeping enough is very important. I read once that 6 hours of sleep should be enough. No way. This is different for every person. I tried it for a few month with 6 hours to give me a few extra hours per day. In the long run it did not work for me. You productivity and sharpness goes down over time when you sleep too little. By testing I have found that 7 hours per night is good for me. I do not need 8 but 6 is too little.

    One recommendation: ensure that you enjoy the first 30 minutes of your day. No stress. No bad news. Just a simple routine, some exercise, no pressing actions, maybe reading some uplifting notes about books that you read recently, etc.. This works well for me.

    • Alex Shalman

      Hi Van, thanks for your comment and personal story. I agree that how much sleep people need varies from person to person. On a side note, I think that as people get older they think they can do with less sleep, but I don’t think that’s true.

      I’d say one should enjoy their day without stress or bad news throughout the whole day, why limit a good thing to only the first 30 minutes? 😉

  • Arinanikitina

    Ingenious!!! That making the bed routine is a sure way to pump motivation, huh! This gave me an idea about that very tiny turkey figurine someone gave me like two or three years ago. Somehow, I couldn’t throw it away or keep it among the store-away goods in my work space. Because it’s cute and the figure reminds me I don’t know what to do with it! Too light for a paper weight, substandard for a desk decor and yet too precious was the giver. Will put it on my night table, beside the alarm clock. The turkey will remind me. Every time. For sure.Thanks, Alex… you inspired a decision, albeit in a strange way! LOL! But still, when I see that turkey each waking hour, I’d be reminded of the wisdom of this post.

    • Alex Shalman

      Lol Arina, this is one of the cutest comments I’ve ever gotten. I hope the new found meaning of your turkey serves you well 🙂