Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Waking at 5AM and other advice I ignore 

There’s a lot floating around the interwebz on how you can be more productive and use your time better. I find all that stuff fascinating and it’s why I read books about it, along with those articles and blog posts (and OMG, Pinterest. Holy shit is there a lot on Pinterest). I figure I can always do better, be better…self-improvement is never a bad thing. But what I’ve learned more than anything is that knowing yourself is better than following all the advice in the world. 

Knowing how you function, when you function best, what motivates you, what keeps you going…that’s the stuff that, at the end of the day, gets your shit done. However, without experimenting, there’s no way to know what works for you and what doesn’t. 

How do I know? Because I’ve tried. And what I’ve learned is that many of the go-to tips don’t work for me. For instance:

  1. Getting up at 5AM. Or some other ungodly hour. I tried to do that. To get up insanely early and be productive in those hours. It lasted about 4 days before I said fuck this and stayed in bed till a reasonable hour. I wound up not getting anything done because I was exhausted and my thoughts kept drifting back to my bed. So now I get up around 6:45 and work in the evenings instead.
  2. Weekly meal prep. I know many of you swear by it but it doesn’t work for me. By Wednesday I hate everything I’ve made or no one is in the mood for what’s prepared and have you ever tried to force feed a picky 10 year old with an attitude as big as she is? Peanut butter sandwiches only go so far and I can only fight so many battles. So I meal plan for the week and cook daily.
  3. Freezer meals. Not sure why so much revolves around food but here we are. I guess this falls under my dislike of weekly meal prep but I have done a few freezer meal sessions and OMG it is not worth the effort. Having a few is great in a pinch but I am not a freezer stocker. Not a big stockpiler, either, for what that’s worth. It’s a shit ton of effort and I always mess up something and the dishes. SO MANY DISHES. So, rather than freezer meals, I make sure there are leftovers or, if it’s a complicated recipe like stuffed shells that I’m making anyway, I double and freeze some of that.
  4. Gratitude journaling. At the risk of sounding like a bitchy asshat, I just can’t get into doing this. I’ve tried with pen and paper and with an app. I simply struggle with writing it down. I frequently reflect on what I’m grateful for but I am not, nor will I ever be, in the daily habit of writing it down. I get the benefits, especially the mental health benefits, but meh. Not for me.
  5. Eliminating TV. I actually wrote a post once listing a ton of things you can do while watching TV. Because I don’t think we need to demonize TV the way it is in many circles. It’s about striking a balance between how much and when and what else you’re doing but a show a night or a binge watch weekend? Nothing wrong with it at all. And honestly, I’m quite productive most days. That’s right. I watch TV AND I get shit done. Oh, and I read like 80 books a year, too, so you can do both.
  6. Eat the frog first. I wrote a whole post about this, too, but I don’t eat the frog first. I eat it last because for me, it’s more motivating to get the small, easy, simple, annoying tasks out of the way so I can clear my plate for the big one. Is it satisfying to get the major task done before everything else? Yes. Does it leave me with almost no energy for everything  else? Also yes.

I’m sure there’s more but I’m writing this on my phone because I’m too lazy open my laptop and also, you guys get the point. Not all the tips work for all the people so if you’re looking to improve, read all the things and then pick and choose what works for you. Experiment. Manipulate. Track how you feel when doing thing. Check progress and determine if what you’re doing really is worth it. Then make a plan or list and follow that. 

And know that if you don’t feel like getting up at 5AM, your day isn’t a waste, you’re not lazy, and sleep is a wonderful thing. 

What are some popular or conventional tips you forgo?

P.S. Next week I’ll talk about some advice I do follow. #balance

28 Comments

  1. Linda Sheridan

    Anything before 6 am is not right for me , unless I had a mission to accomplish like getting my people up and out or all of us leaving for a soccer game. I love the tv on at times. I won’t give it up. I do what I have to do as far as cleaning. I don’t have to meal prep and it wasn’t a thing when I worked. My goals are to be happy and content and safe and sound and the same for my people and for all. I enjoyed this post❣️ I also can’t stop using the heart exclamation point emoji. It’s ridiculous ❣️
    Love, Steph’s Momma

    Reply
  2. Lauren

    I’m still trying to figure out when I want to get up and how to best get things done since I started working from home. I do like getting up earlier so I can do blog things, but like 6:30 early, not 5 am. I love sleep and my bed. I wish I could multitask while watching TV, but so far, I’m awful at it! I don’t fully understand freezer meals and I think my husband would reject them, anyway. I can’t think of any advice I follow OR ignore. I guess I just try to do what works for me.

    Reply
  3. Linda Sheridan

    I forgot something. I do daily gratitudes on my page a day calendar page. I do not commit to a journal.
    Have a happy Tuesday ❣️

    Reply
  4. Rebecca Jo

    I wish I didnt have to get up at 5am… but I’m out the door by 6:30.. .sigh. life sucks Monday – Friday.

    Freezer meals & meal planning. My brain just dont work like that. I’m figuring out what I’m making at 6pm when I need to start making dinner. Its how I roll.

    I do the gratitude thing only because its become a habit. Now, I feel off when I dont do it. I guess that’s what happens when a habit actually kicks in.

    Reply
  5. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    I wake up early but I’ve always been a morning person. I could never stay up late, even in college. I can’t follow “don’t take things personally.” I’ve tried…I really have, but I take things personally. What I DON’T do is react negatively in spite of taking things personally. I process it. But that takes time, so I eventually might realize it wasn’t personal, but if someone says something negative about me, I’m only human.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Same. Same. Same. I want to not take things as personally as I do but that’s definitely a work in progress for me.

      Reply
  6. mccgoods

    I Can’t thank you enough for this post. I’m beating myself up a lot lately and basically because I’m comparing myself to everyone else. Thanks for being too lazy to open up your laptop because I’m replying on my phone and my laptop is all the way downstairs. Thank you for not doing meal prep no picky 10 yr old here but a grumpy 42 year old some nights.
    I could wake up at 4:30 and go exercising but as I have mentioned there is often a grumpy 42 year old some nights and I can’t imagine waking up at 4:30 would make me errr I mean that 42 year old any happier.
    So thank you and I apologize for the grammar it was difficult to write on my phone and may have missed some punctuation.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      You’re welcome!

      Please stop beating yourself up. I am sure whatever you are doing is just fine and works for you. And remember that what you’re comparing yourself to is a highlight reel. No one is perfect all the time.

      Reply
  7. Stephanie

    I get nothing done in the evenings because I’m too mentally tired from work. So if I need to do something, I have to get up early to do it. Not on weekends though, I totally sleep in on weekends!
    Completely agree about TV. It’s very rare that I can sit still and just watch something, I usually use that time to get a ton of other things done. Organizing, cleaning, blogging, playing with the dog, DIY projects, it’s actually a very productive time for me! And I agree about freezer meals too. Freezer breakfasts have been helpful but only because they’re so simple. Otherwise, freezer meals don’t make much sense in our house. The meals I make are so easy they’re cooked fresh and on the table within 30 minutes of me walking in the door after work.
    Stephanie recently posted…Common Sense is Not So CommonMy Profile

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  8. kathy @ more coffee, less talky

    …or another title for this post could be “doing everything opposite of Kathy” haha.

    i physically cannot sleep past 5am and lying in bed for hours at a time just makes me antsy because i know i could be up doing stuff.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Once I am awake, I feel the same. I just can’t wake up at 5AM.

      Reply
  9. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    I don’t tackle the big thing first.

    I like to be up early on weekends but not so much weekdays. I often wonder if that would change if I went to bed earlier but I think probably not. Like, get up at 5 at the shore and see the sunrise and bike around a quiet town and have coffee on the porch? Yes. Get up at 5 and exercise in my living room or do chores before I go to work? No.

    I am not into crockpot or freezer meals. I do like to make extra and freeze them as you gave as an example.

    If I didn’t have a commute eating two hours of the day, I’d cook dinner daily or every other day. I typically only cook once a week during the week now. It’s a time thing for me, but I definitely prefer to cook that day or every other.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I like your differentiation on getting up at 5 at the beach vs. home. Priorities are important.

      Reply
  10. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    YES!!! I get so irritated by people thinking you “have to” do things a certain way. Some things just don’t work for me and that doesn’t make me or you wrong. We just need to figure out what works for ourselves. And to be clear, I have no problem with people sharing what works or doesn’t for them, as you are doing, because those posts often give me a-has, but those who condescend others for doing things differently or having different priorities annoy me. I love TV and say screw you to those who try to guilt and shame me over it. I need my downtime people! I am a night owl so 5 AM is a big NOPE to me. But I am fine doing some work and working out at night to balance my later morning start. I am giving meal planning another try. Like you, I tend to not want to eat what I’ve made but I want to see if it helps me eat healthier.
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…A Tongue-in-Cheek (sort of) Survival Guide to a Trump PresidencyMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I’m cool with people sharing, too. You never know what tips you might pick up. But no one should think they need to do (or not do) something simply because an “expert” says they should.

      Reply
  11. Allison

    This is so me. I know all the things I *should* do to make my life better and more organized and would make the most of my time but….these things are NOT for everyone. Going to the gym in the morning? Great concept! But no. Not for me. Weekly meal prep? Could not agree with you more – I like it in theory but then I come home and am like…”I do NOT want this.” I’ll also never do any kind of journaling or blog post scheduling. Nope, nope, nope.

    Reply
  12. Nadine

    I am like you in that I plan out my meals for the week but cook daily. The only thing I prep ahead is things like chili or something if I am taking it for lunch. Or sometimes washing grapes for snacks or whatever. I dont do freezer meals either. They freak me out. I was waking up at 430am every morning to work out and blog before work but since having Zoe, that went out the window. I plan to go back to it but damn is it hard to wake up that early again when I got used to not doing it for two months! And no TV? LOLOLOL yeah right that is what I spend about 80% of my home time doing.
    Nadine recently posted…EmptiesMy Profile

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  13. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I totally agree with you about not demonizing TV. I end up doing a lot while the TV is on because I like to have noise in the background, like working out or blogging. And some people just aren’t morning people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We talk about how everybody is so different all the time, we shouldn’t try to make everybody wake up at the exact same time everyday.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Agreed. It’s why I support alternative work schedules. Forcing people to work during their non-peak times is counterproductive.

      Reply
  14. Audrey

    I’ve never heard the phrase “eat the frog first”, but I’m with you on that point. I do the small stuff first and so I can focus on the big thing. And so I’m not too exhausted to do all the little things.
    I want to get up and be productive. I really, really do… but I struggle so badly. I feel so positive about waking up early and making coffee and reading a few chapters and enjoying the morning… but then I just don’t want to in the am.
    I have been meal planning, but I couldn’t prep. Too much work and time and then I’ll just either a) be hungry for that stuff RIGHT NOW and snack on it, or b) not want to eat it that week.
    Audrey recently posted…Fly Me to the Moon (or don’t… please, don’t)My Profile

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  15. Myra

    Holy shit, you’re my soul mate. I refuse to wake up at 5 am because NOTHING gets done if I do. I’m totally good with a 6:30-7:30 am which allows me to function like a normal human. And meal prep? Nope. Sorry but I prefer my sundays to be lazy AF watching tv or reading my book. 💁🏻

    Reply
  16. Joey

    There is so much to be said for “take what works and leave the rest.” I’m totally fascinated by productivity as well–but can’t ever tell anyone what will actually work for them. I listened to a podcast that was like ‘quit the 5AM club.” So I did. I got up at 5AM religiously and cranked out work like no one’s business. When I listened to that podcast, I gave up my alarm. I’d wake at like 6:30, 7AM and would be PAINFULLY UNPRODUCTIVE all damn day. Turns out, I’m a massive morning person. Funny how something works for some and not for others. Gotta do what works for you!

    Reply
  17. Heather

    This is great because different things work for different people! I love that quiet time in the mornings, but I am pretty useless in the evenings (which is when I do most of my reading/relaxing). I think as long as what you’re doing works FOR YOU, then you should keep at that! I do a bit of batch cooking on the weekend with flexibility to make whatever I want with it during the week – helps to keep things a bit more exciting 😉

    Reply
  18. texerinsydney

    I am such a big believer in “not everything works for everyone”. You nailed that sentiment in this post.
    I appreciate tips and advice for others what works for them, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me. And, that’s okay.
    texerinsydney recently posted…That time I sat in a studio audience for the taping of a tv show for 2daysMy Profile

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  19. Megan

    weekly meal prep, freezer meals, and gratitude journaling are all things that I just can’t do. I tried the gratitude thing and I forgot about it 3 weeks in. Also, I regularly reflect on things I’m grateful for, so I don’t really feel like writing it down makes me more grateful.

    The idea of freezer meals is just a no for me. I don’t prefer my foods to touch, so I struggle with some soups/stews, and I imagine that they will all taste funny. Some things just taste better fresh.

    Meal prep I don’t really do either. I make a menu for the week that is flexible and go from there. If it’s a crockpot dinner, I put it on before dinner. I also try to make sure whatever meat we are having is pulled out of the freezer at the beginning of the week so it is thawed by the time we eat it. I don’t really preplan what I put in the freezer, I just find shit on sale and buy some extra and throw it in the freezer. I consider it saving money and making my life easier.

    Reply
  20. Kristin

    I’m a 5am person. I get more done each day between 5-6am than I do any other hour. I don’t work much in the evenings though so there’s that. I don’t recommend it to others though!

    I don’t food prep dinner for the week because if I make it and my husband can see it, he’ll eat it if I’m not around. Then the plan is thrown off. I do make doubles and triples of soups/casseroles to have in the freezer.

    I watch a lot of tv, I read, and I get things done. It’s alllll possible. (I do not socialize very much lol).

    Reply
  21. Amanda @ My Life, I Guess

    I frequently have to get up at 4 or 5 am because my husband works shift-work and we only have one car. I always tell myself I’ll stay up and do something productive in those wee early morning hours before I have to go to work, but I rarely do.
    It was easier to stay up when I wasn’t working, cuz I could just lay around the house if I was too exhausted to be productive. But now if I say up, I’m pretty useless by lunch time, and still have hours left in my day.

    Reply
  22. Christina

    I agree with every single point on here. I can’t get up early, meal plan, or give up books/tv. It just doesn’t work for me and I also feel like meal planning and freezer meals are so much work! Plus, it doesn’t taste as good than freshly cooked/baked.

    Reply

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