Fighting a House Fire with a Squirt Gun – Beating the Morning before the Day Begins

Professional Development

As I plowed through my adolescent years, I never knew what I wanted to do when I got older. However, one thing I thought I knew was how every morning would start no matter what I did.

Here’s the picture: I would be awakened by my wife opening the blinds and the warm sun streaming in on my face, she would have a cup of steaming coffee ready, she would give me a gentle pat on the hand and tell me I was going to dominate whatever the world brought to my plate today. I would smile, gracefully roll out of bed, body feeling more energetic than a red-tailed squirrel and attack the day with the ferocity and vigor of a caffeinated 5-year-old at Chuckie Cheese.

This is exactly what the movies taught me and exactly what 18-year-old Steve assumed the pre-morning workday would look like.

Harsh Reality

Now that we got that fantasy out of the way, flashback to January of 2021. The 6:00 am alarm blares. It is darker than a black crayon inside my room. I am 28 in the middle of a northeastern Ohio winter. I had an old friend that I called the sun, who disappeared months ago resulting in my complexion rapidly resembling Casper the friendly ghost.

The alarm clock screeches for 10-plus minutes until my wife provides a switch blast to my left kidney – a gentle reminder that she loves me, and the day has to start. I take the hint and the pain-free body I was promised that is not so pain-free, starts the procedure of rolling out of bed. “Ah, a new pain in my back. Boy, that’s an exciting new development” I think to myself as I stagger to the kitchen.

I reach for a cup of coffee and wonder if there is a way I can create some sort of coffee IV to get things started a litter quicker, then I realize I need to address this kidney pain compliments of my beloved before I tackle this new coffee IV idea. I get my coffee and plop on the recliner and proceed to fall into a partial comatose state as I stare into cyberspace and like a boy with his tongue stuck to a flagpole in the winter I think “My word, how did I get to this point?”

Fighting House Fires with A Squirt Gun

I have always believed that what you do before your workday starts is a strong influencer on how your workday will go. I have never claimed to be a morning person, but things never used to be this bad for me. I used to get up, feel tired but somewhat awake and motivated, do my morning routine, and drive to work. But now times are different in this work from home environment. As the alarm unleashed its painful alert every morning my body is tucked in cozier than a baby kangaroo in its pouch and my brain knows that I can sleep in 15 minutes longer because my new office is only 15 feet from my cocoon.

It did not take me long to realize I needed to change this pattern of morning destruction. It was time to figure out a solution and I tried everything. I started by hiding my phone everywhere in my bedroom the night before – that did not work. I discovered rapidly that I could beat an entire elementary school in hide and seek because I found it every time. I purchased songs that used to get me pumped up and excited and made them my alarm tone. Other than giving me vivid dreams of me having an intense mullet and learning to play the banjo it was ineffective.

I even got as desperate to download an alarm clock that makes you do math problems before it turns off. I rapidly learned two things with that tactic. One, I needed to go back to 4th grade because as soon as I ran out of fingers and toes, I could not figure out simple arithmetic and two this was not working, and I had a deeper issue. I was trying to fight this problem with the wrong strategies. I was battling a house fire with a squirt gun.

Finding Purpose

This was tremendously frustrating for me as every night I would look in the mirror and tell myself I could not wait for the morning because I was going to get up and be productive. Then morning would come and WW3 with my snooze button would begin all over again.

What was I missing?

One evening, I set my alarm clock particularly early. I was not worried about getting up because I had an appointment that next day and I knew if I did not get up in time, I would miss it. Then it hit me. I had nothing set in stone that I needed to accomplish before I logged in every morning to work! Flashback to when I went into the office daily. I knew I had to get up at least 40 minutes early to squeeze in my typical morning routine. Working from home, I knew that my office was 15 feet away from my bed so I could afford to hit snooze repeatedly and still get to work on time. Right there it dawned on me – my pre-work morning routines were unsuccessful because I was completely winging them! I had nothing that I needed to accomplish before my day began.

After a few mornings of tinkering and experimenting I came up with the following recipe that worked for me to defeat the snooze button:

  1. I wrote down all the goals I wanted to accomplish that week before my workday started
  2. The previous day I picked out two goals from that master list and wrote them down
  3. I reminded myself of those goals before going to bed
  4. Once you accomplish that goal in the morning cross it off your list. (There is something very rewarding about this and I believe it was a huge part of my morning success.)

I have woken up consistently at 6:00 am and started work at 7:00 am for months now. While I cannot say that I still am not battling some of the issues I detailed above, I realized that I thrived on goal completion. I feel much of the modern workforce does as well. Would a project ever be completed if there was not some sort of established goal set forth at the beginning? Of course not! Then why should our day-to-day be any different? The way I detailed it above may not work for everyone else but do yourself a favor and take 30 minutes tonight and research the powerful effect goal setting has on us as humans and apply that to an area of life you would like to conquer!