Having a solid sleep schedule has proven to be the most important thing I can possibly do for my productivity.
If I'm getting up early, at the same time every day, I get lots of work done. I'll wake up, make my coffee, get my morning prayers and spiritual reading in, have a workout, shower, eat breakfast, and get to work – all before 7am.
If I get that routine in, it's nearly a guarantee that my day will be productive. But I can't get that routine in unless I wake up on time – 5am.
Every minute past 5am that I get up ruins my sleep schedule, my morning routine, and guarantees that my day will be less productive, or not productive at all.
It's a bit all or nothing with me. Either I'm getting up at 4:45 to 5am, or I'm out of bed somewhere between 9am and 11am. I almost never wake up between 7am and 9am. I'm not sure why that is, but I've come to respect that fact as incontrovertible.
My sleep schedule is bad right now
Today, I didn't get out of bed until 10am. I didn't even eat breakfast until 11:45am between showering (and showering the baby), making the bed, cleaning up a little, and making food.
My current losing streak started when I decided to finish writing my book last November. It was about halfway through the month, and I had only a single chapter written, because I hadn't decided yet to really make a go of it. But over the next two weeks I wrote ~120 pages (25k words, give or take).
I wrote quickly, but it cost me my good schedule – I got into the habit of working late to get the thing done, and in fact I didn't go to bed on launch night until 3am.
I've come to view this phenomenon as "spending" whatever routine I've developed, and I think that's happens with crunch times: you spend whatever effort you've put into getting a good routine worked out all at once, pouring it all into meeting your deadline. And then after that, you're toast for a while.
For me, after a couple of weeks of recovery (from December 1st on), it was already starting to be the holidays and I knew that even if I did get my schedule sorted out it would probably fall off the rails again almost immediately.
Now that we're through the festivities and into "windup week" for my next two months of freedom, I need to get my sleep schedule into shape so I can reconstitute my normal, productive routine.
Routines have momentum
One thing I've noticed is that since getting married, my routines have more momentum to them. When it was just me, I could change my habits and routines on a dime. But when there are more people involved, it seems like it's more difficult to do that. There are other people who have their own habits and routines that they're settled into, and it's harder to make course corrections.
That's why I've decided that these "crunch time" deals are not so good for me any more, and I'm going to try to severely limit them. I can get a lot done in a short time frame, and I've always worked best under pressure, but the lack of productivity over the following weeks and months means that it'll only rarely be worth making that investment.
With that all said, I'm planning on fixing my sleep schedule over the next two weeks to get back on track to getting up at 5am.
Tools I'll use to fix my schedule
The single most helpful tool I've found for getting on a good sleep schedule is putting my phone down away from my bed. This one simple change has helped me fix my sleep schedule more times than I can remember, and yet I always seem to forget it when I need it most.
Really, it doesn't matter how many alarms I set. If my phone is within reach, I'll always turn them off, either without waking up (and thus having no conscious memory of it), or if I do wake up then I end up going on my phone until I fall asleep again. That's what I did this morning at 8am, for example.
Instead, what I'm going to do is put my phone where I have to get out of bed to reach it. Once I've gotten out of bed, I'll have the momentum I need to keep moving through the rest of my morning and into a productive day.
I'm going to start tomorrow with that one simple change.
The other tool I use is also pretty common – just setting my alarm earlier and earlier every day.
I'm setting my alarm for 8am again tomorrow morning, and then the day after that I'll set it for 7:45am. On Friday it'll be 7:30am and so on, until I'm getting up at 5am. That should take aboooouuut two weeks (technically, twelve days, but I'm counting a couple of messup days in there as well).
Some people like to use a smaller interval, but a) I'm impatient and b) my uptime isn't consistent enough right now for a five minute interval to make a sigificant difference, I think.
With those two changes, I should be back on my routine by January 19th. If I'm not, I'll donate an extra $20 to charity via my church.
Here's to a good sleep schedule!
P.S. If my sleep schedule gets sorted out on time, I'm going to credit this writeup for having gotten me to commit to a date and two concrete actions that I'm going to take in order to fix it, and that will mean this blog is being super helpful and getting me to exactly where I need to go!