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.
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.