The Future of Work Doesn’t Matter if We Don’t Do This

Too often when we talk about the future of work, we focus on the “how” we’ll work. However, none of the new ways of work will matter if we don’t also update how we live.

It’s 2015. For months after switching to remote work, I continued to use an alarm. I’m not a morning person, and being jolted awake immediately always left me cranky. Then one day, I woke up and finally decided to ask, “Why?”. There was no traffic to beat or excessive getting ready routines. In fact, I was starting my work earlier than I needed to because I had no idea what to do with the extra time.

Standard wake up methods involve being forced awake with a blaring alarm. There is no regard to what stage of the sleep cycle you’re in. Waking up to a heart attack means that the first feeling we’re starting our day with is stress. This doesn’t set the right tone when you want to be focused, productive, and agreeable on morning calls. Beyond that, many of us are instantly reaching for the snooze button, so we’re also starting the day with a withdrawal from our self discipline account.

Ultimately, the only reason why I used an alarm clock was to make sure I got up at a certain time every day. But was this the best and only option to achieve this goal? Turns out, no. I’m able to achieve this through waking up naturally while getting rid of all the downsides.

Flash forward to now, I haven’t used an alarm clock to wake up in years. I wake up naturally every day around 6:30am. Instead of starting my day in a panic, I wake up slowly and naturally. Shockingly, a regular calm, rested wake up experience led me to switch from being a lifelong night owl to a morning person. I start my day feeling ready and this has a huge impact on the quality of my work.

The Problem:

As we switch to new ways of work, our default routines no longer serve us. How we wake up is just one example of this.

The Solution:

Look at your default routines and call out what is working and not working about them. Recognize that these habits are probably deeply ingrained, and tiny changes will be your best course of action. Here are the steps I took to change how I woke up:

  1. Create a consistent sleep schedule — Of course you’re going to sleep in if you’re not getting enough rest. Figure out how much sleep you need, be consistent with going to bed at the same time every night, optimize your sleeping environment (temperature, bed, sheets, etc.) to make it ideal, and have a go to bed ritual. You need to have this foundation in place before moving onto next steps.
  2. Alter your source of wake up — Ease yourself in. If you’re currently using an obnoxious beeping noise, switch to nature sounds or calming music. If you’re using a calm sound, try switching to waking up by light. You can do this through leaving curtains open for a window that gives natural light or by simulating a sunrise. I’ve had a great experience with creating a simulation through Philips Hue Lighting and Philips Sunrise Alarm Clock.
  3. Iterate — Recognize what works and what doesn’t. Switch it up until you get it right. In the beginning, my body would force wake me up in the middle of night worried about oversleeping without an alarm clock. So I set a back-up late alarm as a just in case measure for peace of mind. I ended up never needing to use it and got rid of it within a couple of weeks, but it helped with easing the transition.

Remember: The point of this is not to say the only solution is waking up without an alarm clock, or this works for everyone. The point is to say that many of our current routines, are still tied to our old ways of work. As you shift into new work, remember to question whether those old ways of life still serve you in the best way.

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