I haven't set my alarm in 14 years. Oh I get up early. Really early sometimes. But I never set the alarm. I stopped setting it when I realized that I turned it off before the alarm because I didn't want to wake my husband and kids. Then I just stopped setting it altogether. I've found I'm much happier and calmer without it.
Why are so many people dependent on their alarm clocks? How does waking up to an alarm affect your day? How can you scrap the alarm and change your life?
Waking up to an alarm starts your day in "alarm" mode. You are triggering stress hormones before you've even gotten out of bed! You've set the tone for your day. Is that the tone you wanted to set?
Then you press snooze how many times? Giving yourself how many more chances to stress out before you wake up? Pressing the snooze button is essentially a small "failure". You're not getting quality sleep post-snooze, but you are missing your wake-up target. "Oh but I set my clock 15 minutes fast so I think it's later than it is." Really? You start your day by lying to yourself and then trying to do math while sleeping?
Here are some things I've done to kick the alarm clock habit.
- Close out the day. Plant one key thing for tomorrow.
Create a clear delineation between "work" and "rest". For me work includes helping kids with homework and cleaning up after dinner. Rest doesn't start until my kids go to bed. But once rest starts, there's no more work, no more thinking about work, no more signing permission slips, no more work emails. Consider each day an independent event. Run hard all day, and then rest up for the next round.
Before I shut my brain off for the night, I take 30 seconds to review the day and claim one win. What did I accomplish today? Today I renewed my driver's licence. Nothing to do with work, but it was hanging over my head all month. Other days it's a short discussion with a key leader whose mindset slowly started shifting.
And then I plant my target for tomorrow. Again, it may be work and it might not. For me, it could be a key meeting that I think will move things forward. Notice it's not all my meetings, it's just the one key meeting. Sometimes it's simply dinner with friends that I'm looking forward to seeing. When I plant that idea as I close out my day, I wake up in the morning ready to start the day.
And all of this takes about 60 seconds. You don't need to write it down or make a fancy idea board, just keep it simple and have the self-talk. Sometimes I do it in the elevator as I leave the office.
- Go to bed early.
Your mom was right. If you can't get up in the morning, you are not going to bed early enough. Can't fall asleep? Clearly you are tired. I'm not a doctor but closing out the day might help. Relaxation podcasts and apps might help. You're going to have to experiment a bit and find what works for you.
I'm calling BS on those of you who think you've "trained your body to need less sleep". You might not feel tired, but lack of sleep will find another way to show itself. It might show as weight gain, health issues or irritability. Let's not wait to find out, just sleep.
- Build in a buffer
I wake up about 2 hours before I have to leave. I shower, read my personal emails, listen to the news, eat breakfast, catch up on personal administrative stuff. I love that quiet time in the morning. And I hate rushing. I don't want to start my day with stress.
Why is this important? Because if I need an extra hour of sleep, I have the flexibility to take it. Sometimes I'm tired from a tough workout, or a late night dinner. No big deal, I'll skip the news today and sleep in.
These are the things that help me start my day stress-free. What worked for you?