The title comes from a quote by K. Pattabhi Jois – an old yoga guy who is probably dead. Wait, let me go look that up right now to confirm…
Yes, he did indeed pass away in 2009. Considering he was born in 1915 that’s a pretty darn good run. I also just discovered that he invented what we now call Ashtanga Yoga so I’ve leaned something new today. Considering I’ve been practicing yoga for… a long time, I can’t be bothered to do the math, I think I started in 1997 so I’ll let you figure it out.
Moving on, let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’s not about yoga, it’s about a cool insight I had recently that has dramatically cleared my head and eliminated some pointless anxiety I carried around in my invisible backpack. See, I like to do things the right way. It’s pretty hard to define what the right way is but lets just say some of us are genetically programmed to play by the rules. I know what some of you are thinking:
It’s not genetic you idiot, it’s learned!
It’s pointless to argue with you on this but I’m going to do it anyway. Three years ago I would have agreed with you. Three years ago I didn’t have a mini-me and therefore did not have a good point of reference for my attitudes, character and behaviour so I thought I was:
A) Totally messed up and
B) That I was the result of my upbringing
After observing my mini-me (AKA, my son) for the past three years, like a good scientist, I’m very clear that many of my quirks are something I was born with and not entirely the result of my environment. Yes, my environment did play a role in shaping me but the core attributes of Laurie were there from day one. And one of those attributes is a love of rules and following them closely.
So, now that I’ve wasted all that time not convincing you of anything lets get on with the real reason you’ve stuck with me and read this far: The big insight.
Early to bed, early to rise does not make this woman healthy and wise.
It just makes her stressed when she doesn’t get to spend time with her husband and her brilliant plans are always thwarted by a three year old. So she said, “screw it!”
You may be aware that many experts, gurus, rich people, authors, doctors and thought leaders (gag) insist that going to bed early and getting up early is the key to life of health, wealth and all around greatness. After being totally brainwashed by this belief and after trying to implement it for YEARS, I finally concluded it was B.S.
Sure, that formula might work well for some people in some circumstances but it just doesn’t work for me. I no longer care what anyone else does, I’m darn well old enough to know what I need to make my life work. Though I am a morning person (sort of) my husband and son have unintentionally made a mockery of this theory and because I love them and live with them someone had to bend.
My son goes to bed around 8-8:30pm and instead of me crawling under the covers myself at about the same time, I now sit in the living room and chat with my husband, watch a good show together, read, play on my iPad, and finish up a few small tasks that are just impossible with a pre-schooler around. It’s really lovely. Before this shift, my husband and I were like co-habitating childcare providers, we had little to no relationship at all. Now I actually get to find out what’s going on in his world without the constant interruption of our offspring. It’s remarkable how disruptive one small person can be.
I also now wake up around the same time my son does which is actually great because I often wake in the middle of the night for various reasons and sometimes have trouble getting back to sleep. When I was forcing myself to wake at 5-5:30am this was a total disaster. I would freak out because it was 4am and I’m wide awake and I’m going to be a total mess the next day if I woke at 5am. A normal person, like my husband, could just have a nap mid-day but I gave up naps at 18 months old and apparently never looked back. Sadly, my son takes after his mother (remember the mini-me thing?) and I could lay in bed for an hour and not sleep a wink even though I’m exhausted. The best course of action to cure a mid-night waking is to just lay in bed and “meditate” which means pretending to meditate and then falling asleep and waking up at 7:30am when my son cries out for mommy.
Who needs an alarm clock? Not me.
The other added benefit to going to bed a bit later is most of the people I adore and who make me happy, go to bed after 10pm. If I want to hang out with them, call them or otherwise have a life outside my role as a parent, going to bed later means I get to have fun with my friends and not have to leave at 7pm so I can keep to my damn schedule. These relationships keep me sane and are crucial to my mental health. Why would I give that up because Deepak Chopra or whoever, said I have to wake my ass up by 5:30am? I don’t care how many books you’ve sold or how much you make, your schedule just don’t work for me, buddy.
There is also a second important element to this that has improved my productivity and satisfaction immensely. I call it The Firm vs. Flexible Theory. These same expert, guru, busybodies also claim that we should fit our top priority items in first thing in the morning and that includes exercise, meditation, key projects and writing. The trouble is, I run out of energy for big tasks around 2pm and then get another burst later in the evening, usually after my son is asleep. The more BIG tasks I cram in, the faster I run out of juice so a morning packed with activity means a noon burn-out time. So here’s how I’ve decided to structure my day to fit all the important stuff in without suffering a rapid burn-out.
Do the Firm tasks first and fit in the Flexible ones in throughout the day.
Uh, so what does that mean exactly? Firm tasks are things that tend to have deadlines and also require large time blocks to complete. Writing, design, conference calls and anything else for client projects falls in this category. I usually need at least and hour chunk of time to make progress in these areas and meet my deadlines. The Flexible tasks are also important but do not have deadlines and often can be done in small time frames. Things like yoga, a walk or little errand, meditation, e-mails, quick phone calls, tidying the kitchen, laundry, etc. are all things that I use when I take a break from my big, firm tasks.
For years I believed I needed to meditate or exercise first thing in the morning in order to get them done but those are really things that can be completed in little spurts throughout the day when I need a break from my computer (like right now since I’ve been working on this journal entry for an hour). They still happen but I might do two sessions of 20 min yoga instead of a big chunk in the morning. When my brain is fried by 2pm I use that time to take care of e-mails and other quick but important actions that need to be tackled by the end of the day.
Unlike people without young children, I don’t have the luxury of working past 4:30pm because I have to get the little screamer from daycare. Once he is home our place is no longer my office but his wild stomping grounds and there’s no way I’m going to be able to take on any big task until the next morning. I can barely even pull dinner together!
Don’t even get me started about those working moms who also cook dinner. Who are these people? My family should be grateful when I make anything more elaborate than cereal for dinner.
Finally, before I forget, I must credit Claudia Azula Altucher for the quote that became today’s title. Earlier this week she sent it out in an e-mail along with a sample podcast she wanted to run by her mailing list as an idea. It sounds pretty cool – she wants to create a brief, daily podcast based on a powerful quote to help her listeners start the day inspired. It’s a great concept and I hope it takes off. Check out her work and subscribe to her blog. She doesn’t send out e-mails very often but they are always amazing. I totally have a yoga crush on her.