This is the approximate breakdown, with clarifying notes:
9:30–10:00 PM - Lights Off
I put this first because it is the most important. I have always - and especially since college - been a night owl, easily staying up till 1:00 AM no problem and even past that sometimes. I could hardly imagine going to bed early, let alone consistently. On January 2, I made myself turn the lights off at 9:30, and that was the beginning of the success. I did not fall asleep for an hour or two, but that was just the first night of the new schedule - it became vastly easier, of course, once I started getting up early.
As someone who finds it easier to fall asleep than to wake up, this was the single most useful change I made.
5:50–6:15 AM - Lights On
I have two alarm clocks. One is my trusty mp3 player (yes, I am ancient), which I've set to play "Clair de Lune" at 5:50 AM. The other is my Philips Wake-Up Light alarm clock, which has a beep that goes off at 6:00 AM. Now here are real the tricks:
- Through this system, I get about 8 hours of sleep every night. Falling asleep at about 10:00 PM makes it easy to get up at 6:00 AM, because I really did get a good night's sleep!
- The wake-up song matters. I used to use "Arabesque I" and also tried songs by Yiruma, but the first notes of "Clair de Lune" are just perfect for me personally.
- Every evening, I place my mp3 player in a different location in my room. In the morning, the little task of finding the mp3 player helps my brain wake up.
7:00–7:30 AM - Study (Work-Related)
On my best days (and I'll be honest, this is not every day), I will try to complete my morning routine by 7:00 AM and then get in some work-related study before I leave home.
8:15 AM - Start Work (with More Studying)
I generally start work by 8:15. My boss really advocates training and self-teaching, so I spend about an hour reading or watching video tutorials. It is sometimes tempting to skip this step - especially if I'm in the middle of an intense task - but I have found that if I spend those quiet morning hours in quiet study, it minimizes the stress of the workplace environment and sets me up for a more productive day.
Additionally, I feel more enthusiastic about training when I do it every day, as opposed to saving it all for a Friday or a low work day.
11:45–Noon - A Real Lunch Break
For the first two years of work, I was in the habit of eating while working. This is terrible for at least three reasons:
- You enjoy your food LESS when you do this.
- You don't give your brain any time to rest.
- Your keyboard/mouse become...gross (TMI, sorry).
5:00 PM - Personal Study Time
I get home around 5-ish, and soon after that is my non-work study time. I start with one lesson of French for Reading, then I read the Bible chapters for the day.
Regarding Bible study - I've been using the "Beginning" study plan from BibleGateway, which is reading Genesis through Revelation in a year. They figure out the whole schedule for you, and you can use their calendar tracker to stay on schedule. I'm reading the NKJV translation for the first time, with a hard copy of the KJV close by for comparison. I also keep a "Bible journal," where I write something about the day's chapters (sometimes a sentence, sometimes a page, whatever comes to mind).
7:30–9:30 PM - My *Favorite Time of the Day
After dinner and a hot bath, I can catch up on blogs and reading! (Also, Blokus - a somewhat addicting board game my sibs and I just learned.)
Do I stick to this schedule 100%? No, I'll be honest I've deviated from the course more than a few times.
That said, whenever I didn't follow it, I noticed a domino of Bad Side Effects, and in general I was less happy (and more stressed) when I didn't adhere to the schedule.
*Interestingly enough, each time of the day is more enjoyable when I follow the schedule than when I don't. But truthfully, this time is probably the most enjoyable of them all.
Having a schedule means taking out things you can't fit into it. You have decide how important it is to not miss that TV episode, or whether you should be watching a 30-minute YouTube video. For example, my favorite show, Good Mythical Morning, starts up again tomorrow. I may end up watching it during my lunch break, since an episode fits into about 15 minutes. However, I might have to postpone watching the new Victoria series, since the first episodes runs till 11:00 PM tonight...we'll see!