We’re starting Week 4 of our Beautiful Mornings Challenge, and this week is about waking just a little earlier, and (optionally) choosing a 3rd thing to do in your lovely morning routine.

In the first two weeks, you woke a bit earlier and took on a new task each week, and then spent the third week focusing on making it a mindful, enjoyable space …. this week, try waking a little earlier (5-10 minutes). And if you feel you have the space, add another small thing to your routine.

At the same time, keep practicing your sacred space and mindfulness from last week.

Finally, I’d like to talk about how to continue to work on this habit beyond this month’s challenge.

The key to this week and beyond is continued slow expansion. There are two crucial reasons for this:

  1. Sleep schedules are slow to change. Lots of people think it’s no problem to just wake an hour or two earlier each day. But while you might be able to do this for a few days or a week, eventually you are likely to crash. And much more likely is that you will struggle even for the first few days. So changing your sleep and wake times slowly is a good idea. In this challenge, I’ve advocated for 5-10 minutes earlier each week (and not at all earlier in the third week), with a maximum of 20 minutes earlier if you’re feeling ambitious. This is a good pace, even if it’s too slow for most people. Your body will adjust without too much trouble if you do it this way.
  2. Slow habit changes last longer. Some people are tempted to dive into their new morning routine with enthusiasm, saying that they’ll meditate for 30 minutes, work out for 45 minutes, write for an hour, and so on. That’s great, but there is a low likelihood of that sticking for more than a week or two (if that long). If you want the best chance of long-term success, do small habit changes that expand only gradually. Meditate for just 5 minutes at first, then 10 minutes the next week, and so on. Do just a little writing at first, and slowly expand. Same with exercise, yoga, and so on. You feel like you can do more, and you can — for the short term. But do less than you think you can do, and you’ll last longer.

That’s the philosophy. Do less. And commit to doing it longer. Be slow to add new things, and when you do, add them in as small a way as possible. Only increase when you’re super confident that they’re dialed in. For example, if you struggle to do the morning meditation for 5 minutes, do not increase it the next week to 10 minutes. Stick with the 5 minutes until it’s locked in nicely.

This applies, of course, not just to this month but beyond. If you want to continue to rise a bit earlier, feel free to do so. Just 5-10 minutes earlier each week, until you land on a time that feels right to you.

And don’t add a dozen things to your morning routine. Keep it simple. Keep the tasks in the routine small, instead of making them an hour each. You don’t want your morning routine to take 3 hours — even if you have the time, it’s a fragile system that will crash when you suddenly don’t have the time, or your energy gets low for a little while. Make your system robust by keeping the routine small.

In the end, this isn’t about cramming more things into our lives. It’s about creating a little space for quiet, solitude, self-care, and breathing.