When I started my new job at Automattic a couple weeks ago, I went from having a lot of time on my hands as a never-busy-enough freelancer to suddenly being at my desk for 8 hours a day during my Happiness Rotation. (On rotation, I have the freedom to decide my own schedule for doing support work, but the best time to do it is while everyone else is at work and school.) Suddenly I felt like I had no time for anything- I’d get the kid off to school, do a full a day of work, and then it was time to head out to pick up my son and have evening family time. 

Looking at my color-coded schedule (a post about my planner is coming another day), I realized that the only way I was likely to get another hour in my day is to get up an hour earlier. I can do that and still get enough sleep, but I’ve never been a morning person, so this is going to be a hard habit to establish. 

I read recently that the only way to establish a habit like getting up early is to tie it to something you’re excited about doing instead of something you “should” do- if you’re getting up to clean the house or work more, you’re never going to make yourself do it. But if you’re getting up to do something you like – reading, catching up on your favorite TV show, making art – then you’ll be motivated to actually get up out of your comfy bed and get moving.  (It sounds obvious, but this was a little bit of a revelation to me, after reading a million profiles of tech dudes who swear that they only need 5 hours of sleep and get up before the sun every morning to walk the dog and meditate.)

Anyway, partway through week I declared The Hour of Tiff, AKA, Time for Doing Whatever the F— I Want. Here’s how it went:

Thursday: Got up early, showered, and maybe didn’t get moving quite as fast as I’d like, but managed to get myself a solid half hour of me-time, during which I filled my new watercolor travel palette without trying to keep a small child away from it. Verdict: Success!

Friday: I stayed up too late each of the previous nights, and between that and the adjustment to the new job, I was exhausted. The alarm went off, and nothing I could have done with that time sounded better than sleeping. Verdict: Sleep is a valid choice for this time! But I need to be more attentive to my own bedtime if I’m going to make early-rising a habit. 

I expect that when I join my regular team and my day-to-day work is no longer front-line tech support, my daytimes will feel more flexible and I’ll feel more in control of my time, but I think I’ll keep this up. So often, the time when I could be engaging in a hobby is frittered away by thinking of the things I could or should be doing. The gift of one hour during which I get to do something just because I want to, regardless of what else needs doing, is still valuable.