My mom used to say that trying to wake me up in the morning was like entering a dragon’s lair. As I got older she would send in my dog, that noble dragon-slaying beagle, who would lay his head on my bed, whine, and occasionally lick any body part that stuck out from under the sheets.
In my college years I would revel in that 3am energy surge. “Fourth wind!” I would shout as I pulled an all-nighter, madly typing that essay with a Red Bull bubbling next to my computer. I was convinced that my best, most creative work happened just before dawn.
But after college, after pushing my body to fit into the 9-to-5 schedule, I started to be less cavalier about my sleep schedule. I could no longer take midday powernaps between classes, and I actually wanted to get things done on the weekends — fun, personal adventures and explorations — rather than sleep the day away. Slowly, my sleep schedule shifted. I stopped going to bed at 1am, but I always struggled with mornings.
Recently, I have been figuring out how to make time to “do it all”. My work schedule is fixed, but I still want to make time to cook tasty, healthy, and unique dinners (no pasta casserole 5 days in a row). I also need to work on The Smudgery — I have so many print ideas swirling in my head, I need to make them a reality! Plus, I have decided to apply for graduate school, so first there’s the application process and then I actually have to go to school! How do I do it all, and have a social life??
After talking with Ben, who wakes up at 4:30am every morning to work on a million freelance projects, and Em who is a master of being a brilliant scientist/engineer and a DIY queen, I came up with a combo plan.
Em recommended that I cut myself a bit of slack on some things. For example, I spend a lot of time cooking meals every week. While I depend on the leftovers for a hot lunch at work, I should pick one or two nights per week to order takeout, which gives me an extra hour or two in a night to focus on a project and relax a bit. The problem before was that I never planned for those nights, so they usually resulted from exhaustion and I couldn’t use the time well. I also would feel like I was cheating on my budget, but with this mindset I know it’s a trade-off. I get to treat myself to some of the delicious food in the neighborhood, AND work on something I love. Double-win!!
The other part of my plan was to shift my sleep schedule. Normally, I would wake up at 7:45am, kick AC’s boyfriend out of the bathroom, get ready and run to work, usually clocking in about 5 minutes late. This week, I have started waking up at 6:30am. The bathroom is free and I get an hour in the morning to work on something, either a linocut carving, some reading, or this blog (it’s nearing 8am as I type this). I’ve also been arriving at work ten minutes early, feeling bright and bushy-tailed.
To make up for the early wake-up, I have been sleeping between 10 and 11pm. This actually has worked out really well, in part because of the standard time change. It has been getting dark at 5pm when I get off of work so after a full day I’m usually winding down around 9:30pm and yawning at 10. I also bought one of those full-spectrum bulbs, which is supposed to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I turn it on in the morning to jumpstart my circadian rhythm.
It’s been almost a full week of this new plan, and I’ve made so much progress on my applications, and even have a chance to blog (see?? proof! you’re reading it!)! Granted, there have been very few schedule interruptions this week. We will see how this schedule holds up during a busy social week, or when a friend is visiting, or even in the summer when the days get longer and the energy of the city is full of heat and electricity.
On another note, I switched my bedsheets to flannel and put up Christmas lights in the window. My room is officially a winter hermit’s dreamland. The photo at the beginning of the entry was from September.