5am: Day 1

I stayed up to watch the Super Bowl with my wife last night. After that, I had trouble falling asleep because my body was basically saying, “Dude, what are you doing? It’s not even midnight yet.”

5am arrived sooner than I would have liked.

Thankfully, my wife — who is awesome — had set the daylight alarm clock to go off at 5am, so when my tablet started playing music at me, the room was already bright.

My gym clothes were already laid out, so I got changed, ate a yogurt, and got to the gym a bit before 5:30. I worked out for an hour and was home by 6:30. After showering and eating a banana, I had my coffee ready to go by 7am — my regular wake up time.

I generally start work at 8am, so with an hour to play with, I decided to fire up Medibang Paint and create some art. It only took 30 seconds of staring at the blank canvas to understand that my brain is not quite ready for kicking ass this early, so instead of shooting for “art”, I just played around with the different brushes that the program offers, just to see what kinds of things they do.

The end result is basically a toddler’s fever dream:

I hope this isn't the one thing I do that survives the ages.

I hope this isn’t the one thing I do that survives the ages.

I feel good. I’m tired from not getting enough sleep, but I think that will work itself out over the next few days. I love that I’ve already exercised today. I’m going to need extra coffee, and I need to eat more food, but I’m glad I tried this.

Trying Something Crazy

My wife recently read a book called “The 5am Miracle,” which she summed up as, “You can get a lot done if you get up really early.” Obvious, right? Sometimes we need to read a book about something obvious before we give it a shot. Does anyone else do this?

The book doesn’t use 5am as the magical wakey time that works for everyone — the idea is simply to do some stuff in the morning before your obligations kick in. This week, I’m thinking I’ll just go all-in and set my alarm for 5.

Currently, my average day goes something like this:

  • 7am: Wake up
  • 8am: Begin work day
  • 4:30pm: End work day; begin sitting on couch, possible nap
  • 6pm: Maybe go work on something for a bit, like writing or drawing
  • 7:30pm: Begin TV or video games, maybe.
  • 9pm: Decide not to go to the gym; tomorrow night?
  • 11:30: Get ready for bed; stare at tablet or phone
  • 12 or 1am: Fall asleep

This week, I’m aiming to get up at 5am and go straight to the gym. Once I’m home and showered, I’ll have time to write for a bit before I start working. Depending on how long I work out and write, I may shift my work day back a bit, or maybe just find another thing to do in the morning.

But man, 5am sounds brutal right now. We’ll see how well it works and if I can stick to it. I’ll write about the experience next week.

Self-Honesty: I Don’t Care

“I don’t have time.”

This is one of the many phrases that English-speakers have developed for saying “no” without actually saying “no”. For whatever reason, we as a society have agreed that a simple, “No thanks” is too flippant — borderline aggressive, even — and requires a further explanation that implies, “I would, if only…”

“Sorry, I already have plans that night.”
“I can’t — I haven’t slept well and feel like shit.”

The worst part is when we internalize this idea and start lying to ourselves about why we’re not doing things we say we want to do. My personal lie, for many years, has been “I don’t have time.”

I want to get better at drawing, but I don’t have time.
I’d love to record more Christmas music, but I don’t have time.
I want to read this stack of books, but I don’t have time.

There’s a resentment that comes from believing reality is structured specifically to prevent me from engaging in everything that catches my fancy. Time is a finite resource, but my fascination is boundless! Surely the greatest tragedy in life is that I won’t be able to watch everything available on Netflix in my lifetime.

Recently, I learned a magical incantation that reshaped reality to my benefit: “I don’t care.”

Look at this stack of books… eh, I don’t care.
I keep hearing that I should watch Orange is the New Black… I don’t care.
I still haven’t tried all of the games I acquired through Humble Bundle… I don’t care.

Revolutionary, I know.

Like “no, thanks,” the phrase “I don’t care” seems to have negative connotations. I get it — it can feel judgmental when someone shrugs and admits they don’t care for something you feel strongly about. It’s certainly not a phrase I’m about to deploy against other people.

But, when I use it on myself, it cuts through the nonsense and shows me where I’ve been lying to myself. Sometimes, saying “I don’t care” rings false. Over the summer, I tried to tell myself I didn’t care about working on my drawing skills. It backfired — I realized I do care; I care enough that for the last six months I’ve made time to draw almost every day.

However, I was getting stressed out about the fact that I wasn’t writing music. I love writing music! It’s amazing! One of my favorite things! Why was that particular interest gathering dust if I loved it so much? Cautiously, I tried out my incantation: I don’t care about making music.

It rang mostly true, but I had to amend it to “I don’t care about making music right now.”

That felt great. It felt like giving myself permission to focus on something I was excited about without feeling guilty for not doing everything that I was interested in.

On top of the mental improvement, learning to say, “I don’t care” has made it possible to delete a ton of stuff from my Netflix queue.