"I'm going to go to bed at 10, and wake up at 4:30 every day this week." That's what I told Adriana last weekend. I had been listening to a few podcast episodes that talked about early morning routines, and it got me eager to try something that I've done many times before on accident—on purpose.

About once every three weeks or so, I'll wake up really early (between 4 and 5) and have a quiet, productive time—answering emails, writing code, reading, etc. However, this is always on accident. I'll just happen to randomly wake up with a lot of energy and decide not to go back to sleep. And these mornings are always great. They make me feel like I stole back some time to actually move slowly and get some good, uninterrupted work done.

One of the podcast episodes that I listened to was Pat Flynn interviewing Hal Elrod about his book The Miracle Morning. In it, he tells the story about how waking up early to practice many of the best self-improvement techniques changed his life.

The framework

While some of the specific techniques and philosophies around his framework were a little too existential and "new-agey" for my taste, I definitely saw that there was truth and wisdom in the idea as a whole, so I wanted to try it out and see how it went.

One of his most profound suggestions is setting your mind and intention towards how good your morning will be instead of how tired you're going to wake up. It's like when a kid pretends to be sick to get out of school and actually ends up not feeling well. The apostle Paul's admonishment is true after all:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praise worthy—think on these things.

Simply put, the book really encourages waking up at least an hour early every day and practicing the following "S.A.V.E.R.S".

  1. Silence, prayer, meditation, etc.
  2. Affirmation
  3. Visualization
  4. Exercise
  5. Reading
  6. "Scribing" (writing)

I take my faith very seriously, so I'm very careful about what sort of practices that I take part in, and there were a few pieces of this that I decided not to do per his prescription. However, where there is truth, it is God's truth, so I wanted to be open to whatever would help me grow closer to Him and as a better version of myself in general.

Putting it into practice

The first piece of all of this is waking up early—and that's no small feat for many of us. However, I was able to do it every single day this week without much effort, and if that's not already proof enough of a "miracle morning", I'm not sure what is.

To wake up early, I first set two alarms on my watch for 4:25 and 4:30. I'm using a second-hand (many versions behind) Apple Watch, which has a really good silent alarm feature, but I previously used a FitBit Charge 2 that worked almost as well.

I'd also set a phone alarm for 4:35, and put the phone across the room so that if I unconsciously slept through my watch alarms, I'd have a backup in place to physically get me out of bed. Thankfully, I only needed this once this week.

Here's how I practiced each part of the routine:

  1. S: Sitting in silence and breathing intentionally to get my mind ready for prayer. I'd then start out with long lists of thanks to God for His many blessings in our lives. Finally, I'd move into a time of praying for those in my life who are in need.
  2. A: If I understand them properly, "affirmations" are really a version of what the Bible calls "blessings". In the tradition of King David, I've been taking this time to speak God's word "to my soul". I'll actually talk out loud and remind myself of what God says about me and how I want to apply it.
  3. V: For someone who has a very distractable mind, I've had to learn how to sit and "think straight" over the years now. This week, I've tried to think through my entire day, and "visualize" what it is that I have to do, and how I'll do it. As a software engineer, much of my productivity depends on setting my mind to the right problems and solving them, so this has been time well spent.
  4. E: I've recently gotten back into running, but I usually do this at night and not the morning. I did, however, go running the first day of this new routine. About a mile away from my house, I tripped and hit my hand and elbow and had to hurry back home bleeding the whole way. We'll have to try to do this a little better next week, haha!
  5. R: I have often said that I feel like I'm at my best when I'm studying the Bible on a regular basis. Charles Duhigg would refer to this as a "keystone habit". That's why I've been using this time to study a small portion of scripture and reflect on it.
  6. S: I love journaling and really need no excuse to sit and write something down, but having this time set aside each day to write or work through a problem has been great. Sometimes it's just journaling what I'm studying in scripture, but two of the days I worked on a plan for being a better steward of our finances.

The conclusion

I'm actually on a trip out of town with my wife at the moment, and guess what, I slept in... and woke up at 5am instead of 4:30. Normally, I would have slept until 9 or so, but I've just been enjoying this "stolen time" too much to revert so easily.

This week has not been perfect, but here are a few selling points that I hope will make you consider trying this because it has been amazing so far:

  • I spent time in intentional prayer every day
  • I studied the Bible more consistently than I have in months
  • My energy levels were much more consistent throughout the day
  • Focusing on work was far easier than it has been in a long time
  • I got our personal budget to the best place that it has been in years
  • I actually looked forward to waking up each day

The cool thing is that this week wasn't perfect: I didn't exercise as much as I would have liked, I struggled with staying focused in my prayers, and my consistency in the routine wasn't as strong as it could have been. But the above list of results gives me a lot of encouragement for what's to come. If that's how the first pass turned out, I wonder what it will be like in a year?

If this is something that you'd like to try, be sure to let me know! I'm really excited about living a little more intentionally each day, and I hope that you are too.