Yeah, it’s crazy to get up at 4:35 am. But it can work. You might be surprised at how much you can get down with just a couple extra hours in the morning.

Dear ‘The Early Bird Catches the Worm,’
The early worm gets eaten.
Sincerely, Sleeping In

My husband posted on Facebook the other day about some successes we’ve had recently. In posting his gratitude, he acknowledged that our rewards justified waking up at 4:35 a.m. most days of the week.

The point on which most people fixated was not the successes but his admission that we wake up so damn early.

You don’t need to wake up early to be successful. Legendary night owls include Leonardo Da Vinci and Bob Dylan.

For us, though, it works to wake up early. Someone asked why, on earth, we do this. So, here you go.

We’re in control of how our days start.

We began this hairy scary schedule when we were both employed by a W-2 and decided we wanted to start a business. Between the commute and the workday, we were always preoccupied from what we really wanted to do. The only way to squeeze more time into the day was to wake up early.

To be sure, we could’ve stayed up later, but by the time we were done with the bullshit of a day’s worth of work for someone else, we simply wanted a bottle of wine, dark chocolate, and Netflix. We don’t crave mimosas until 10 am, so even on weekends waking up at 4:35 gave us five and a half hours’ worth of work.

We’re in sync with New York City.

Both of our careers have been in financial service. We were both traders once and our personal business is personal finance. It’s not a big deal, but for us, we feel like we miss the day if we wake up two or three hours after the stock market does.

Plus, more than half the country is in the eastern time zone and it feels easier to sync up with them.

Idle hands and all.

Waking early means we have more work hours available to us because we have fewer play hours. Knowing that the alarm will go off early tomorrow ensures better decisions early tonight.

We typically eat less junk food and dessert at night. That way, we fall asleep more quickly and we won’t have a glass or two of wine.

On the flip side, we’re not above partying until the wee hours of the morning. When we did, though, we were less productive. Sticking with an early wake-up call helps us avoid the late-night bender.

We have time to take care of ourselves.

Now that our side gig became my main gig and my main man still works for The Man, we don’t wake up at 4:35 am anymore to work. We wake up at 4:30 am to workout.

Working out and staying in shape is important to us. Even just working one full-time job makes working out hard. Add to that more work and our brains can easily talk us out of hitting the gym.

Plus, see above our evening craving for wine, chocolate, and Netflix. Working out towards the end of the day would require a violation of physical law.

We have time to take care of our spirits.

We didn’t fully integrate this practice, too, until I quit my W-2 and we had more bandwidth. Until then, this was a weekend luxury. Now, this is a daily practice before the sun rises in most parts of the United States.

While we’re the most refreshed and rejuvenated, we do our morning ritual of meditation, journaling, and affirmations. Busting these out first thing in the morning ensures that we do them and we feel all the better for it. If we waited until later in the day, we’d skip them.

Now, when we wake up, they’re the very first things we do. So, even while we’re waking, we’re getting ready for our daily practice that keeps us centered and grounded throughout the day.

We avoid the crowds.

Especially when we were both working a W-2, being efficient with our time was a necessity. Only a few crazies are at the gym before 5:30 am. We happily admit we’re two of them.

We’re at the gym when fewer people are, and we bust out a duo superset of weights and cardio all within an hour. We leave before most people arrive. And, my husband still has time to get to work, which is the other benefit.

Rush hour traffic where we live anyway starts about 7 am. If the husband can get on the road by 6:45, he misses most or all the traffic to start his workday early and end his work day earlier.

Our best sleep is the sleep we get before midnight.

Studies show the sleep we get before midnight is more valuable than the sleep we get after midnight.

As we get older, this seems truer. Therefore, we strive to have “heads on pillows” by 9 pm. It doesn’t always happen and whether it does or it doesn’t we can tell the next day.

Everyone else is doing it.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

However, many successful people do it. An amazing boss of mine said to me once, “Find out what successful people do and do that.”

There are many people, such as the Da Vincis and Dylans of the world who rock it late at night. They seem to follow in the sleep cycle of the more creative types.

There’s certainly a strain of creativity in what we do for our side business, but there’s a lot of business, as well as critical and strategic thinking required. For this reason, we’ll follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Obama and Richard Branson.

For us for now, the early schedule works. Very soon the S.O. will quit his J.O.B. (just over broke). After that, we may wake up later, like 5:30 am.

Or, maybe not.

If it’s ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

You don’t want your work performance to suffer because of SAD. If you experience a seasonal problem, take steps to reduce the impact.

It’s been pretty dreary around here lately.

It’s been cold and cloudy. We went a whole week without seeing the sun.

Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you feel stressed, anxious, and down for no reason that you can put your finger on. Or perhaps you think it might be because of gloomy weather and the fact that it’s so dark for so much of the day still.

Those feelings you feel are real. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Yep. It’s a Thing. And it could be dragging you down at work and in other areas of your life.

Here’s what you need to know with SAD affecting your work:

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes out as the seasons change. It can result in feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression during fall and winter.

The days are shorter, and the weather often means that the sun is hidden behind clouds.

You might feel better when spring pushes the winter away and you start seeing the sun again.

However, just because you know this seasonal depression will go away, it doesn’t mean you should just try to power through all winter.

SAD affecting your work can have consequences that go beyond just the weather and the time of year. You want to address the issue in a way that makes sense so that you maintain your job performance (and your job).

Plus there’s no reason to feel crummy four to six months of the year just because seasons.

SAD affecting your work.

Do you feel like SAD is dragging you down at work? You’re not alone.

According to Purdue, SAD costs the United States about $44 billion a year in lost productivity, sick days, and other illnesses.

Some of the ways SAD could be impacting the way you do your work include:

  • Difficulty concentrating on the task at hand.
  • Drop in your energy level.
  • Feelings of fatigue.
  • Irritability (including with your coworkers).
  • Hard time motivating yourself to do your work.

This goes beyond a need to just suck it up and do the thing.

SAD can really cause problems for your productivity, and keep you from accomplishing everything you’d like to do.

Plus, when your work performance suffers and you start missing deadlines, that could mean a real problem at work.

While it would be nice if all employers were understanding and willing to help mitigate the impacts of SAD in the workplace, the fact is many of them are just going to look at your performance.

If your work performance is dropping off, if you’re missing deadlines and making a lot of unacceptable mistakes, that could be grounds for firing.

When you find SAD affecting your work, it’s time to get help.

On your own: attempts to ward off SAD yourself.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to get professional help until you’ve tried to take care of the issue on your own.

The good news is that there are some things you can do to boost your mood and chase the SAD blues away. According to WebMD, some of the things you can try on your own include:

  • Regular exercise. Regular exercise is a mood-booster. You can help your energy level, help your brain, and fight against SAD with regular exercise. Bonus points if you can do at least some of your exercise outside (take a brisk walk) or near a window so you get that natural light.
  • Open a window. I find myself less inclined to open windows during the winter. I’ve been fighting that, and it helps my mood. Even if the day is cloudy, that extra natural light can help.
  • Melatonin. WebMD points out that some people find results from melatonin, which can help you regulate your biological clock. You do need to be careful, though, since this (and other complementary methods) can interact with current medications and have other issues.
  • Pay attention to your diet. When you’re feeling SAD, it’s common to crave junk food and eat foods that aren’t the best for you. If possible, eat healthy. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help your body function better.
  • Take time for yourself. Don’t forget to relax. Take time for yourself. Meditate. You might be surprised at how good sleep, time for relaxation, and enforced meditation can help your mood.

Sometimes, though, the SAD is too strong to keep away yourself. You might actually need to seek professional help.

Common treatments for SAD.

With SAD affecting your work, it’s vital that you get professional help if attempts to fight the feeling on your own are failing.

There’s nothing wrong with getting help.

Light therapy.

One of the most common treatments for SAD is light therapy. With light therapy, you use a special bulb to provide you with more light in your day. The idea is to provide you with more exposure to light, either in the morning or in the evening (or both).

Many people with SAD improve with the help of light therapy and little else is needed beyond that.

Counseling.

Another way to get help with SAD is to get counseling. In general, I support the idea that everyone should get therapy at some point. It can be really helpful.

Counseling can help you by giving you someone to talk to. Additionally, a therapist that is well-versed in SAD and how to use cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat patients can be especially helpful.

Medication.

Finally, many people need to resort to medication to help them with SAD. For many of us, medication is an absolute last resort. However, if you need it, there’s no shame in getting a little pharmacological help.

As long as you use your antidepressants as prescribed and you remain in contact with your health care professional about your progress, it can be one way to beat SAD, especially when used in conjunction with other treatments.

Get your work back on track.

Once you understand the problem and how it impacts you, you can get your work back on track. You can keep SAD from being a detriment to your work.

It’s still a struggle some of the time, and you might fight to stay focused and motivated at work, but with the right help, it should be possible.

Do you get SAD? How does it affect your work and other areas of your life? Share your story with us in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns when you work from home. Here’s how to stay focused on what really matters when you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck.

When you start working from home, the future looks paved with gold.

No commute, no pesky coworkers, and no distractions. Right?

Unfortunately, reality always rears its ugly head. While you may have more free time on paper, it’s easy to let those hours slip through your fingers when you become your own boss. The fear of underperforming starts to disappear, and by the time you realize how much your productivity has slipped it could be too late.

Rather than learning the hard way, nip those lazy tendencies in the bud. Here are three strategies for staying focused when working from home, cobbled together from over 10 years of experience as a freelance journalist and blogger:

Analyze your distractions.

In the 13 months I’ve been working from home, I’ve found a few repeat distractions: I can’t work if it’s messy around me, I need to sit in a real chair (not the couch), and I can’t be distracted by conversation.

Your distractions might be different. Maybe you need total silence. Maybe working too close to the kitchen inspires too many snack breaks. If you need silence, get noise-cancelling headphones. Move your home office further from the kitchen.

Everyone has different preferences, so analyze how you feel working in various spaces. Even though I feel most comfortable working in bed, it’s not where I’m most productive. I have to sit at a desk or table to feel like I’m working.

Use technology to help you.

Use Technology to Stay Focused

I’m attached to my phone 24/7, and I recognize that it’s my biggest barrier to productivity. I try to leave it in a different room when I’m working or keep it out of sight (right now it’s behind my laptop where I can’t see it). Some people also turn their WiFi off to avoid the lure of surfing the internet.

Technology can either help you stay on track or derail you entirely. If you’re interested in leveling up, here are some of my favorite apps and tools:

  • StayFocusd. I use this app to limit how much time I can spend on Facebook and other addictive sites. You can allot yourself a certain amount of time for different websites, keeping you abreast of your daily news feeds without allowing yourself to drown in them.
  • Kill News Feed. This app blocks my Facebook news feed so I don’t go down the black hole of updates. This is mostly so I can only use Facebook to update my blog’s Facebook page and check in the professional groups I’m part of. It doesn’t stop you from Facebook stalking your ex, though, so I use it conjunction with StayFocusd.
  • Simple Blocker. This is another app that blocks any website you want (Reddit and Wikipedia are two other big culprits for me). You can enter as many websites as you like.
  • Tomato Timer. I love using the Pomodoro Method (25 minutes on task with five-minute breaks) and this website simplifies the process. It’s much better than setting a Google “five-minute timer” over and over.
  • Trello. Trello is one of my favorite to-do apps. You create cards for each task and can assign specific due dates, upload documents, and even transfer them to other people. I have a variety of Trello boards for writing assignments, working on my blog, creating my course, and more. I have one Trello board that I use for organizing article ideas that I can use when pitching clients.

One of my low-tech standbys for staying focused when working from home is an old-fashioned paper planner. At the beginning of each month, I write down what I have to do that month and assign those tasks to specific work days. That way, I know on each day what I’m supposed to do.

Find an accountability partner.

One of the biggest reasons I stay focused is that I have an accountability group I check in with daily. We share what we did the day before and our goals for today.

One day I was feeling sick and lazy and reported that I hadn’t completed any of my goals. One of my accountability partners immediately responded and ask what he could do to help me reach my goals. He asked what was holding me back. I felt so guilty that I completed all my tasks as soon as I signed off.

When you work from home, you likely don’t have anyone standing over your shoulder wondering why you’re looking at Buzzfeed listicles or cat videos instead of working. Finding an accountability group can help you re-create the atmosphere of a boss monitoring your productivity. If you do get stuck on a project, you’ll also have someone to brainstorm with.

My group uses Slack to check in. It’s easier to use than text and can be done on your phone or your desktop.

Working from home offers amazing advantages, but you do need to stay focused. What are your best strategies for staying on task when you work from home?

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Does your phone run your life? Peel it off of your face and start engaging in the world around you.

Everywhere I go, I have my phone.

When I don’t have my phone I feel stressed. What if I miss something?

I like to point to the time I missed a call from my son to pick him up due to illness as the reason I’m obsessed with keeping my phone nearby. But let’s be honest: most of us are just addicted.

What you do — and seeing who acknowledges you — on social media is addictive. When you see the likes, the messages, the replies, and all the signs that someone sees what you’re doing (and perhaps approves?), the rewards centers in your brain trigger. In fact, your addiction to your mobile phone is probably due, in part, to the fact that you can enjoy a reward whenever you want just by checking your social media.

And it really can be addicting, with the brain patterns of compulsive social media use remarkably similar to the brain patterns of drug addicts.

It’s not just about the addiction, though. I noticed that I experience life better when I’m not totally attached to my phone. Moving away from the phone as my default allows me to experience life more fully.

Now that I’m making a conscious effort to step away from the phone, including time to unplug on the weekends and evenings and to put my phone in DND mode at night (with the exceptions of my parents, my son, and my ex), my life has improved dramatically.

Here are 5 good reasons to unplug at least some of the time:

1. Boost your creativity.

When you’re constantly consuming media, you aren’t creating anything. And you don’t have to be creative all the time. I specialize in writing uncreative non-fiction. My attempts at fiction suck. But I still take time to try my hand at creative efforts, including music and sad attempts at fiction. I’ve even started adult coloring. And I never really liked coloring. I also crochet, and I’m useless at anything more complicated than a scarf. But I find these efforts oddly satisfying.

Creativity is a process. Our creative “muscles” can strengthen or weaken. When all you do is consume, consume, consume, your creative muscles atrophy. If you want to be more creative, put the phone down, and work on something else. You might be surprised at how the time flies, and at how you are less bored than you could have imagined.

2. Feel better about yourself.

Constantly checking your phone and being on Facebook can actually make you feel bad about yourself, and trigger feelings of envy. The problem is that you compare yourself with how others present themselves online.

Spend some time away from your phone and put things into perspective. Recognize that there are some pretty great things about your life. It’s hard to do that when you’re obsessed with everyone else’s life.

3. Stillness is good for you.

5 Reasons to Stop Letting Your Phone Ruin Your Life

Even if you aren’t using your phone for Facebook all the time, it can still cause problems. Are you constantly playing games? Do you check your phone, even if you don’t have messages?

In a world where distraction and stimulation are all around, stillness is falling by the wayside. However, stillness can be beneficial. Do you ever just sit, without the need to accomplish anything? We consider boredom as the worst thing ever, but the truth is that our bodies need to recharge.

Put the phone away and sit in stillness. Meditation can help with this. You can even benefit from better sleep if you stop playing games or checking your email or reading on your phone or doing whatever it is you do before bed.

Stop letting your phone control your life, take in a little extra stillness, and unplug a couple hours before bed, and you might be surprised at how much you better you feel about everything in your life.

Take back control of your time.

Who’s in charge? You, or your phone? Be honest. Do you have to answer every text immediately. Do you feel frazzled because there’s always a notification for a new email calling off your attention?

You don’t have to let your phone manage your life. You don’t have to answer every call or text immediately. Turn off the push notifications on your phone. That way, you won’t be distracted by feeling that you have all these things to do because Instagram or Facebook or your email are always intruding on your time.

Just turning off my push notifications changed how I feel about things. My son has his own text and phone alert tones and if I’m in the middle of something, I ignore the phone unless it’s my son. It was hard at first, but I find it empowering now.

Today, we expect instant responses from everyone, and we think we have to respond instantly as well. That’s just not true. You can control your time. You don’t have to let your phone run everything.

Experience life.

When I attended my son’s first fencing tournament, I was so engrossed that I didn’t take a single picture. At first, I felt bad, but then I realized that I had paid better attention to him because I wasn’t fumbling around with my phone.

I don’t record recital performances, either.

The truth is that life doesn’t look the same when viewed through the phone. The phone gets in the way. I like taking pictures. I like having them. But I try to get it out of the way at the beginning of any event so that I can fully experience it going forward.

There’s a lot going on around you, and amazing people to connect with. But when you let your phone run your life, whether you are constantly checking for messages or trying to accomplish something in Bejeweled, you really are missing out.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!