How my iPhone did not sleep with me anymore
What’s a habit?
A habit is something that we do on daily basis without thinking about it. And that’s the key! We don’t think about it. When you don’t think about some actions you don’t lose energy.
The best analogy to understand habits I read it in the book from the Heath brothers.
In their book they introduced the theory of the Rider and the Elephant. The Rider represents the rational side. The Rider knows what’s good for you. The Elephant represents the emotional side and the instinct. For example, my Rider wants to have a healthy body, a great beach body! Meanwhile my elephant wants some Oreo cookies and a couple of beers (with salted peanuts). Who wins? I guess I don’t need to take a selfie in Barcelona beach to reveal the winner J
How my small and weak Rider might control the impulsive Elephant? That’s a difficult mission for the poor Rider! There’s only one way to do it, every good habit you introduce in your life it will make your Rider stronger. There will be many, many situations where the Elephant is going to be out of control, however, the key is develop “muscles” in your Rider. Those “muscles” are built by minimizing the number of decisions you take during the day. There are hundreds of decisions we take every day. Every decision weakens our Riders. And when that happens, when the Rider is weak the Elephant always wins. However, there’s a formula to make your Rider stronger! The gym of the Rider is the habit. When a habit is acquired you don’t think about it. You just act. You don’t think if that’s good or bad for you. You just do it.
You save that energy to focus on something more important. Decisions more important. But what if you have a bad habit? The same principles are applied. Bad habits can be only killed in a single way. There’s only one silver bullet to finish them. You need to introduce a good habit to balance the equation. January 2016 I thought it was the right time to kill one of my most resilient bad habits I cultivated during my last years …
I’ve been my whole life a late bird. In Spain primetime starts at 10pm. This can give you an idea about our crazy timetables in this wonderful country I live. Around that time is when my entertainment and relaxing time used to start; playing videogames, watch my favourites TV shows, check social networks… This obviously means going to bed late (around 1am) and wake up also a little bit late (around 8am). However, I’d like to start my days earlier. How might I do this living in a country where it’s perfectly ok (and even normal) to have dinner in a restaurant at 10pm-11pm?
And moreover, why do I want to wake up earlier? I live in country with flexible time and I work in an industry goal oriented not time/timetable oriented. Then, why? Those conditions might be a dream for many people! Why do I want to do this?
The main reason why I decided that I had to find a way to wake up earlier is to grow. Personal growth. Health growth. Individual growth.
I like keep learning, reading, growing as professional; and at the same time being on a good shape.
My whole life I tended to do this around midnight. Going gym around 8pm, having dinner around 10pm and “grow” activities around 11:30pm. I realised during last year that this simply does not work for me anymore. I guess I’m getting older J and although I believed I was still in a good mind-set to do stuff around midnight ,the truth is that I was hardly effective.
A few months ago while preparing a speech for my Diagonal Toastmaster Club I saw an interesting presentation about a guy that woke up 4:30 AM to work on his stuff. (You can find his presentation HERE) 4:30 am is too much for me J but that put a seed in my brain, what would happen if I wake up around 6 or 6:30am? Is it true that I would achieve more as Filipe Castro mentioned in this talk?
What you are going to read now it’s the result of an experiment of waking up earlier than I used to.
· Month 1: Goal => Go to the gym in the morning instead of the afternoon. Wake up 7:30am. Being at the gym 8am. Being at the office 10am. Problems I faced: it was quite difficult to go to bed around midnight. Somehow I did it, but I was cheating myself. I was just lying in the bed, reading my Twitter timeline, Facebook posts, playing Candy Crush J etc etc
· Month 2: Goal => Not use mobile phone in the bed. OMG, this is sooooo difficult !!! During my first month I realised that I felt quite sleepy. In theory I was around 7 hours in my bed, but the reality was that I might be with my smartphone around 1.5 hours before I finally fall sleep. I realised that the key to build this habit of waking up earlier is to get rid of the phone in my bed. I thought to leave the phone in a different room, but since I used the alarm to wake up that wasn’t the best approach for me. I decided I would leave it at my bed table. And I will not look at it.
Epic fail, 3 days later I discovered myself checking it in the middle of the night. I felt like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, My treasureeeeee! it was almost impossible to get rid of my inner voice begging to grab my iPhone
· Month 3: Same goal as month 2. No mobile in bed. I decided that I would put my docking station in a different room. I would leave the phone in a different room. Maximum volume to wake up and I take a book in bed instead of mobile phone. Epic fail, one of the first days I did not hear the alarm and I woke up 8:48am. On top of this I just read 2 pages before falling sleep. Waking up earlier was not working, reading at bed was not working and going to bed earlier consistently was very difficult. Stop playing Fifa’16 before midnight was difficult. Not watching Breaking Bad was also quite challenging. As a result of this someday I was in bed at 11pm others 2am (depending the number of re-matches I do in Fifa, I hate losing in the overtime or golden goal J). This random pattern is the worst attitude I might have to build a habit.
· Month 4. I took some time to think about why I was failing to build this habit. Reasons were clear, but the solutions were not. Now the solution I got seems very obvious to me, however at that time it wasn’t obvious at all!!! Problem 1: Random time to go to bed. Problem 2: Having the iPhone around was distracting me to sleep earlier. Technology is my enemy, but it has to be my friend!! Technology must be my friend. I need to detox from having my mobile phone around the bed. I need to detox from technology, less iPad before going to bed, less videogames. However, how do I detox from technology when I work in a techie environment? How do I detox when I love technology? The solution to my problem was with more technology!!! Solution: Fitbit!! This little device changed my life, why? It has a silent alarm and I’m able to wake up! It starts buzzing, and it does not matter that I don’t listen to the phone. This alarm I can feel it! With the acquisition of my Fitbit I solved 2 problems, I created the habit of waking up earlier, and I created the habit to go to bed earlier. I can’t believe how much value this little device brought to my life. I’m able to setup a sleep scheme and I get reminders to go to bed and then I’m able to wake up without having my addicting phone around.
· Month 5. It’s been 3 weeks without checking phone in my bed, and I feel good about it! Moreover with the help of my Fitbit I’m getting a pattern of sleep and I go to bed more or less at the same time and I wake up consistently!!!. On top this I start feeling that I can wake up even earlier, I’m getting over 7 hours of sleep and I’m not sleepy anymore in the morning. After all the 1 or 1.5 hour that I was hanging around with the phone now I’m sleeping!, and I can feel that extra hour makes a difference in my well-being. I started asking myself what might happen if I wake up even earlier and I go to the gym in the morning instead of the afternoon? I decided to try for a month to wake up 6:30am, go to the gym and work on my personal projects before going to the office.
· Month 6. The trial is working very well. I’m at the gym every morning around 7am and I’m sleeping 7-7.5 hours thanks to my Fitbit. Another interesting feature I discovered in the Fitbit app is the ability to setup a sleep scheme pattern. There’s a wizard and it suggests you time to go to bed and time to wake up based on your historical data. When you setup this reminder you will get a notification stating that it’s time to prepare go to bed. This feature (more info here) changed my life, literally. I sleep more and I have a better sleep, more quality (by being consistent in my pattern go to bed/wake up). This means I have more energy to achieve more, I can work out in the gym. I can work on my own goals for an hour while having breakfast before going to the office (get better at blogging, get better at public speaking, read 2 books per month, increase my knowledge in the Localization industry, recycling in my coding skills …) and overall I feel for some reasons that I cannot explain that I’m living a better life. I feel good J
Today it’s Saturday, it’s 8:57am. I already finished my workout , I already wrote a post in my blog ….shortly my kids will wake up and my real main life goal will start. Ensure they grow happy, ensure they are nice and friendly human beings …
Have a wonderful day!