Shannon never used to be a morning person. I can think back to many times when I’ve worked in vain to rouse her from a deep slumber only to be met with a few grunts, an adjustment of the covers, followed by light snoring shortly thereafter. Within the last year, though, that’s all changed. These days, we’re almost always both up by 6 am, even on the weekends.
Shannon's literal awakening process came about somewhat suddenly after she started working in a journal called The Morning Sidekick Journal, that focused on dreams, ambitions, and squeezing the most out of life by waking up early! This journal pointed her to a book called, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, that talks about how getting up even 30 minutes earlier can jumpstart not only your day but the entire creative process. Her morning energy has completely splashed over to me, and I’ve begun incorporating the Miracle Morning idea. I’ve since found myself doing some of my best work between the hours of 6 am and 8 am. In fact, I’m writing this post at 6:45 am after already having had a shower, cleaned out the cat box, put the trash cans to the curb, and made up some coffee.
I was already pretty much a morning person, at least on some level. I never really liked getting out of bed. I mean, that’s where all the covers are, and it’s so warm, and we can all agree that sleeping is pretty great, but when it came time actually to get up, I usually didn’t require a ton of coaxing. I do have redundant alarms – I’m not a superhero! So if I need to get up no later than 6 am, then I’ll set an alarm for 5:30 am with the sole intention of snoozing a few times. I’ll then set another, actual alarm for 6 am. This way, by the time the real alarm goes off, I will have gotten the early fog knocked out of my brain.
Even still, as much as I like being in bed, once I’m up, I’m up. I do love my coffee, but I don’t require it to be able to interact with fellow human beings. I generally have a positive demeanor and can tackle any project, chore, or task without feeling too groggy.
While Shannon worked through her journal and the Miracle Morning book, I found a sister book that is specifically geared towards writing called The Miracle Morning for Writers (Hal Elrod, Steve Scott, et al). This book takes the concepts of the original miracle morning and applies them specifically to those looking to write a novel or non-fiction. Truth be told, I was hoping to find a book more suited for composers, or at least one more generalized for the creative process, but for Writers was the closest thing I could find. I figured I could translate the concepts over to the composing process and just imagine “writing” to mean writing music.
This worked for a while, but I quickly found myself enamored by the actual writing of words! I discovered an unexpected desire to write that has led not only the beginnings of a sci-fi novel, but to this very blog itself – both a direct result of the inspiration gathered from those pages (well, sound files… I listened to the audiobook). My greatest challenge now is finding enough time for all the creative things I want to do whether it’s composing music, writing books, or doing voiceover work (yeah, that’s a thing too!), but that's for another post.
How My Miracle Mornings Work
Making my miracle mornings work is very simple. These steps aren’t directly copied from the book itself, but this is how I’ve come to adapt them.
1. Set the Alarm(s) – Set two alarms for the morning: one 30 minutes earlier than you want to get up, and one for the time to actually get out of bed. Plan on snoozing it a few times and relax into it. By the timethe alarm goes off for your actual be-out-of-bed time, you’ll have already had a few trips out of R.E.M. sleep, so waking is much easier. Pro tip: if you do end up getting up before your actual time, be sure to turn that second alarm off! Speaking of alarms, if you need an extra layer of motivation, consider placing your alarm out of arms reach. This will force you to get out of the bed to turn it off. I personally don’t do this because it goes against the plan-to-snooze plan, but you do you.
2. Make the Plan – Make a plan for what you want to accomplish in the morning. This step occurs the night before and should be done when you’re setting your alarms. It’s important that you have a reason to get up, and I can’t stress this enough! For me, not knowing what I want to accomplish in those precious morning hours is more demotivating than even the comfiest of beds, and if I don’t make at least a quick mental list of how I want to take advantage of that time, then I’m much more likely to either keep hitting snooze or worse, read social media for two hours. Yup. Sad, but unfortunately all too true.
3. Make the Coffee – Do your immediate morning, ahem… business and then go put a pot of coffee on (since I’m a coffee snob, we’re only going to talk about coffee). If you can do this before your business, even better! Believe me, your future self will thank you for doing this before all the other tasks. There’s a certain Folgers-commercial-that-makes-you-cry quality to stepping out of the bedroom, dressed and ready to take on the day and there is already coffee!
I suppose you could prepare the pot the night before and program it to come on in the morning (if you have one of those kinds of coffee pots), but I don’t do that for two reasons: 1) shuffling into the kitchen and preparing the coffee maker is part of the waking process, and 2) what – grind my beans a whole eight hours before I’m going to make the coffee?! We're not barbarians!
4. Take the Shower - This is something the book directly speaks to. After the coffee is going, then get thee to the shower, and while the water is warming up, go on and brush your teeth. Your brain will respond to the act of brushing and bathing and will engage the waking process even faster. Maybe we’re just programmed to sense the oncoming day when toothpaste, warm water, soap, and shampoo are involved, but you’ll be really surprised at how well this works. Even on the days when I know I won’t be taking a shower (don’t judge me, you know you have those days too), I will still brush my teeth first thing in the morning. It turns out that a clean mouth and a clean ass really prepares you for whatever the day brings! When you're done, go grab a cuppa from the now effervescing carafe of liquid motivation and let’s get going!
5. Eat the Frogs - “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” This quote is (most likely mistakenly) attributed to Mark Twain and is a staple of productivity and motivational books everywhere. Shannon and I prefer a variant of this quote: "If your job is to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning else he will croak at you the rest of the day.” The idea is simple: if you have something you have to do but don’t necessarily want to do it, then do it first thing in the morning. Then it’s done and out of the way and you’re free to give your full attention to what you want to be doing. If not, then that thing you have to do (the frog) will needle at you (croak) throughout the day and genuinely rob you of the peace of doing your work free from any dangling undone tasks. This is very much easier said than done, but I’ve never regretted eating my frogs. I have, however, very much regretting not eating my frogs when I could/should have.
For my mornings, frogs usually include small chores like cleaning the kitty box, maybe putting a load of laundry on, or something that doesn't take a lot of time. Once those frogs are eaten, then I can really fall into my creative flow knowing there are no more open loops tugging at my brain, even if only subconsciously.
Speaking of eating, you should work breakfast in however you want, whether it’s a trip to your favorite cafe, some fruit on the back patio, or a bowl of cereal at the desk. More often than not, because my miracle mornings happen before work, I’ll actually get breakfast on the way into the office and eat it there. Your mileage may vary.
6. Work the Plan - Now that you’re up, showered, coffee in hand and free from your frogs it’s time to start creating! This is where it’s vital that you have a plan from the night before. That’s not to say that it’s terrible to sit down and start improvising your work, but I’ve found that without specific direction for my miracle time, then I’ll kind of putz around, maybe watch some tutorials, answer emails, or just dabble here or there. Rhat’s all well and good, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but for me, I’ve put so much energy and dedication into arriving at this miracle morning place that I want to get the absolute most out of it. It would be like taking a vacation to New York City, saving up for a year, even staying at the nicest hotel, and just kind of winging it when you arrive. Sure, you’d like to see a Broadway show, but Hamilton is sold out! If you’d have done a little planning, then you could be sure to see what you want and dined where you wanted, all while leaving room for those improvised times as well! Sometimes your plan could and should include non-task type items. Go ahead and put “goof off on YouTube for 30 minutes” on your to-do list.
Like I mentioned earlier, many times my plan is nothing more than a rough mental outline made the night before moments before bed. For example, last night I made tomorrow morning’s plan one item: write Woke Husband blog entry. That was it! Some plans are more involved, of course, like yesterday’s morning that consisted of editing two podcast episodes, providing an updated arrangement for a publisher, and writing several emails I had been putting off. The day before that, the plan was simply to write a single piece of music. So yes, it varies from day to day, but the consistent part is that I plan specific things to accomplish each miracle morning.
I could write a whole new post on Shannon’s own miracle morning journey, but I’ll leave that for her own blog, but what I can say is that the proof is in the output! I’ve never seen her leap out of bed and jump into projects until these last few months! She really doesn’t need much goading out of bed anymore, and I no longer hear the desperate pleading for “just 5 more minutes.” Who knew there was this dormant morning person nestled down inside her all along? I guess she just needed the motivation and also a purpose for sacrificing her cherished mornings in bed. The best part is it’s totally made me up my morning game and I've since been having some of the most productive times of my career!
Special note: The products listed throughout this article are posted because I believe in them. That said, I may get a tiny commision if you buy the book through these links, so yay! Thanks!
Dave was born in Hawaii, grew up in San Diego, and wound up in Orlando, FL by way of both High Point, NC and Memphis, TN.
He is a husband of 24 years to his wife, Shannon, and is a crazy cat dad. When he’s not rambling on about life here, he can be found writing music for film and TV, playing music, or teaching music at Full Sail University.