Single habits have exponential effect.
Think about it. You start exercising regularly, and you become more discerning about your food choices; you might even find yourself getting better sleep and reading more Scripture. Somehow, one habit had exponential effect on multiple areas. Charles Duhigg called these “keystone” habits, which include regular exercise, tracking your eating, regular family meals, and even making your bed in the morning.
For me, one keystone habit is making a huge difference: getting up early.
Some of you have doubts already. You starting to check out. I can hear you saying, “Oh, that’s great for you, but I’m not a morning person.” Can I challenge you on that? You can be, starting with just a small step and getting up slightly earlier than you normally do. Michael Hyatt helped me see how anyone can become a morning person, and I’ve taken his advice to heart. I’ve got my alarm set for 4:55am each morning, and on most days, that’s when I’m getting up.
Hey, I don’t bounce out of the bed like some people do. I drag myself to the coffee maker. The other morning, holding that terrible alarm in my hands, I almost reset it for another half-hour. But then, suddenly, through the pre-caff grogginess, I heard myself saying, “The battle is won or lost based on what I do, right now.” So I got up, and I was glad I did. Most mornings are great.
I’ve got to tell you: this one habit is having enormous effect. The benefits have been so evident that I’m excited to get up even as I’m going to bed at night (which I’ve been doing earlier, obviously).
How has rising early benefited me? In at least 5 ways.
- Unhurried time for Scripture, prayer and spiritual reading. I’ve been reading through the Bible every year for years now, using the YouVersion App for the last few. This habit was already established, but now it never gets crammed in to another part of my day because the morning got away on me. I’m able to read the Scripture and spend time praying, with no interruptions and no pressure. I sip my coffee, eat my breakfast, and read, both Scripture and other spiritual readings.
- Keeping a Journal. I’ve wanted to journal for years, but I wrote in fits and starts, with long periods with nothing at all. Whenever I went on retreats, I’d journal a lot, and I found it very helpful. And yet I just couldn’t integrate it into my regular life–until now. Getting up earlier has given me the unhurried space I needed to journal, often becoming an extension of my prayer time.
- Leadership Reading. As a leader, I’m committed to growing as a leader. Because “leaders are readers,” I always have a leadership book on the go. I’m a bit astonished what a difference my morning time has made–in the first two months of 2016, I read six leadership books! These readings are helping me grow as a leader, and that will have exponential effect on the rest of my life and ministry. One habit = exponential effect.
- Developing my writing. Well, here I am, in the wee hours of the morning, writing to you. Yes, blogging is part of this morning routine. I’ve wanted to write for years, but (you guessed it) never found the time to do it consistently. Guess what? I found it! The time was hiding away in those moments before I normally got up. Now I’m writing at least an hour a day, focusing mostly on this blog for now. This would not be happening if it were not for this one keystone habit of getting up early.
- Getting time alone. Even though I’m an extrovert who enjoys a lot of people time in a day, I need time alone. As I get older, I value my solo time even more. What I noticed is this: by getting up early, I’m get the alone time I need so that I’m more mentally ready, more relationally available, and more emotionally present to others when I am with them. This has been especially evident in my family life, as they emerge from the morning fog. Because I’ve already been up for a while, I’m ready for them. And it carries me through the rest of my day. I’ve had time with God and time by myself, so I’m not running on empty. My early morning alone time helps me give more to others.
This one habit is having exponential effect in my life. Could it do the same for you?
I’m not saying you do exactly what I do–not at all. But what do you wish you had more time for? What do you value that always seems be shoved out of your daily calendar? Give rising earlier a try and see what a difference it can make. My practical suggestion is this: get up 30 minutes earlier for 3 weeks. Be intentional with those 30 minutes; do something you value that never gets done. Do you need to sit quietly in the presence of God and pet the cat? Or start a short Bible reading plan? You might try journaling, exercise, poetry, or praying the Lord’s Prayer in a reflective way. I’m confident that you will benefit by simply carving out the time and seeing where it goes!
How have you found the morning helpful for you?
What other keystone habits are making a difference in your life?