Throughout my life I have worn many hats. I've held the title of a tree farmer, calf wrestler, admissions counselor, pastor, hotel manager, social worker, bartender, musician, and customer service rep. As I am well within my 30's now, one of the things I started to notice a while back was that my level of exhaustion and lack of motivation had increased. I would wake up tired, trudge through the day tired, and then at night, I would lay in bed realizing I didn't really accomplish anything during the day. This would, in turn, keep me up late until I fell asleep only to wake up to the same routine again.
When I was in my 20's, running around til the sun came up was easy. After all, my work schedule kept me on the clock in the evenings and well in to the night. This made it easy to justify staying up and then sleeping in late the next day. Now, in my 30's, with your typical 8-5 job, I only see midnight if I have a gig. But it wasn't always that way.
I first started the job I am in about 3.5 years ago and was still trying to maintain my night life. I kept at it for a good run, but eventually, this new hat I was wearing was demanding different things from me. Where before, my schedules were not really conducive to setting up a normal routine, even when I was a pastor, this new career was clearly requiring it.
I had never been a fan of routine. In fact, if someone were to ask me on the street if I prefer spontaneity or ritual, I'd go with the former. It's exciting isn't it? Something new every moment grabbing your attention and desire into adventure after adventure? That's the life we see people living in the news or on Instagram. We see the highlighted version of everything and it all seems to fantastic and desirable. We want it. I want it. It's the allure of "making it".
What I have found though, is that between all those highlighted moments cleverly posted for the world to see, is that there is a secret life behind all of these successes. And that life, is one of routine.
I had been going through my days pretty much just reacting and responding to whatever came my way, or whatever popped into my head to do at a certain time, not really paying attention to a clock. I didn't keep track of how often I worked out, or how many hours I slept, or when the last time was I picked up a book to read, etc. I just went through my days with no record of what I had done the previous week, month, etc.
Then, something changed. I didn't make a conscious decision to change things, at least at first. They just started happening. I started keeping track of things I was doing and how often. Mostly just out of curiosity. Then, I started changing my patterns. Here's what I noticed:
It Mattered What Time I Got out of Bed
This is probably the most surprising of everything to me. I had always set my alarm clock for an hour before work. That gave me time to hit the snooze a few times and still be able to get up and shower and rush out the door to make it to work on time. What started happening though is that time I had to get ready got shorter and shorter.
I made the choice to start waking up at 6am. It was hard at first. I had been telling my self that the extra hour of sleep would help throughout the day. What I found though, was that if I slept till 7, I was actually MORE tired then I would be if I woke up at 6! This blew me away. It didn't matter if I went to bed at 9 or 11 at night. As long as I woke up at 6 in the morning, I had energy to last throughout my day with no grogginess.
This, as you can imagine, changed everything. My work ethic increased and I found myself not only getting tasks and projects done at work quicker, but I found myself figuring out and thinking about new ways of doing things at work to improve our quality. I was able to take on more tasks and complete what I had already been assigned, as well as help guide the rest of my team to do the same. This improved everything about how I saw my job. It, in essence, shaped it into a career.
Along with my worth ethic, my hobbie interests increased as well. I have always been someone who is interested in a lot of different things, but having the time, or the energy, to complete or work on things was something that alluded me often. Now, it seems I have time for everything. I wake up at 6, get ready, eat breakfast, walk the dog, read, play guitar, (which turns into writing new music), then I leave for work. During my lunch break I go to the gym. When I get home, I have the energy still to work on post production work with my podcast, The Heath Bar, take another walk or write.
The conversations I have with my wife have gotten better also. My interest level has increased, and the things I want to talk about and do are actually interesting to her. It's not the same, "Work was fine" conversation anymore. We talk about the day, we talk about plans and schedules. We actually spend time getting to know one another.
I never would have guessed that getting up at the same time every day could have such a drastic effect on my life and outlook, but I'm glad it did.
My Time Held More Value
I started being cognizant of what I was spending my time on. It's one thing to think up ideas and things you think would be cool to do, it's an entirely different thing to spend time actually doing them. This blog, my podcast, my music career, this website, all came from this. All came from me asking myself what experiences do I want in life, working out a plan on how to achieve them, then actually spending time on each step to make it possible.
I was spending a lot of time watching reruns of my favorite shows. (Parks and Rec, any Marvel Movie, any Western) Where previously I felt that working all day was consuming my time and energy, I now saw the 5pm-11pm time as a wide open smorgasbord of possibilities for me to accomplish my goals. I now spend 1-2 hours right away when I get home working on things I have going on, then, come 7pm till I decide to go to bed, I spend eating dinner with my family and talking about our day. It's a winding down period for sure, and yes, sometimes we watch a favorite show of ours and laughing. But it's our time, and I'm there for it. Fully of energy and ready to give my focus and heart to my wife and daughters.
My Creativity Seemed to Become Limitless
I can't seem to get my head to stop thinking of ideas. Ways that I can improve things I am working on. New songs to learn, new things to start doing. Better yet, I actually am able to turn these ideas into reality.
My reasoning for doing something I deem creative has changed as well. Previously, if I had an idea, I would find ways to talk myself out of it. "It's not that interesting to people." "No one really cares what you think." "It's been done a hundred times before." Now, don't get me wrong, each of those statements ring true at some point. But, I don't let it stop me anymore. Sure, other people have blogs and talk about the importance of a sleeping routine. Good for them. That doesn't mean I can't as well. That doesn't mean that my experience and my own story about it is less than theirs. I might be writing my story only for me, and in 30 years, I'll be glad I wrote something down to look back on.
I Drink Less
I've never been an alcoholic by any stretch of the word. I enjoy a nice adult beverage as much as the next person and there have been times I have been out at a party or painting the town with my friends that I drank more than my fill. But I can't tell you the last time that happened. It's not that I don't like it, it's that I don't want to do it. I want to spend my time on other things.
I'll pour myself a nice glass of bourbon every now and then, or have a beer if I am out working in the yard. But that's the new norm for me. My health has increased to the point I crave what is considered "healthy" foods. I look forward to the gym and each time I go for a beer, I am aware of when my last one was and how often.
Obviously this is not a fix all. I have days and moments where I feel lethargic and unmotivated. But they are far fewer now then I remember. It's like coming out of a dark tunnel and knowing that a lot was going on inside there, but now there is a way forward. Stumbling happens. But I can now see how far the stumbles are between each other.
So for all of this, I say onward.