I know I'm supposed to have a solid daily routine. No matter what I do, it doesn't work, and I'm stuck in a rut. Maybe I'm not meant to be a morning person. It seems like every single morning is an unbelievable exercise in willpower to try and wake up.
If I could wake up on time for fajr every day, read Qur'an, make dua, exercise, have a relaxed wholesome breakfast, and leave for work/school on time - it would transform my life.
It’s been said that the first hour is the rudder of the day. If I’m lazy or haphazard in my actions during the first hour after I wake up, I tend to have a fairly lazy and unfocused day. But if I strive to make that first hour optimally productive, the rest of the day tends to follow suit. -Steve Pavlina
9:00pm Time for a late snack, a cup of tea, and catching up on the DVR.
11:00pm Get ready for bed. Change, brush your teeth, turn off the lights.
11:30pm Snuggled into bed, reach over and plug your phone into the charger.
11:31pm Check email, Instagram, text messages, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter. Leave some comments, like some photos, reply to a few snaps. Read a few articles shared by friends on Facebook. Make bedtime official by sending out your Goodnight Snapchat.
11:45pm Still can't sleep. Watch random YouTube videos. Check email, Instagram, all over again. Check to see if anyone replied to your goodnight snapchat, and remind yourself not to post anything since you're "officially sleeping".
12:15am Still can't sleep. Put something dumb on Netflix and wait to pass out.
530am Alarm goes off. And it kicks off a morning that looks kind of like this.
7:00am Finally cognizant. You've managed to actually turn off the alarm instead of hitting snooze. Now you lie awake in your bed upset that you overslept and now have to rush to get to work. So what do you do? Check your email. See who liked and commented on your late night status on Facebook. Check the rest of your social channels and roll out of bed.
Why is it so hard to wake up? We've tried everything. Turn up the adhan app really loud? Check. Multiple alarm clocks? Check. Put your alarm away from your bed? Yeah.
To fix the problem of waking up, we have to get at the core of the problem - or at least nail down a couple of the biggest root causes.
“Hitting the snooze button in the morning doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying, ‘I hate getting up in the morning so I do it over and over and over again.’” — Dimitri Martin
The greatest impediment to waking up, and hence establishing any kind of productive daily routine, is the phone. Check out this great breakdown of a late night routine by Buzzfeed.
The bottom line is we feel unrelaxed. There is no longer a preparation process for a good night's sleep - we just pass out.
When we wake up it's no different.
There is no morning routine. There is no attainment of blessings (barakah).
The Prophet (s) supplicated, "O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings (i.e., what they do early in the morning)." Hasan said, "When he sent out a raiding party or an army, he would send them at the beginning of the day." He said, "Sakhr was a man engaged in trade, and he used to send his goods out at the beginning of the day, and his wealth grew and increased." [Ibn Maajah]
While we would all love to attain this, it seems as if we are at a roadblock. Particularly if you have been using your phone in this manner for years, the bad habit can be difficult to break.
Our default state is one of mindlessness. There is a constant stream of overstimulation - we work our brains to check email even when we try to relax. There is no such thing as unwinding. Not when what we consider unwinding actually includes processing more information. This is multiplied by the rising complexity of technology. Requests are coming at us faster and more relentlessly than ever. We are not meant to operate like a computer or a robot that is at optimized performance for such long periods of time.
In short, we've made a trade-off. The benefit of connection and information has made us overlook how it affects our mental cognition. A consequence of which is our ability to sleep and wake up. It is a trade-off we haven't properly assessed.
We previously covered how dua is the greatest casualty of a socially networked life. Here's how to recapture it.
Consider the example of khushoo' (concentration) during prayer. To properly accomplish it requires preparation. It means making wudu properly, clearing your head, relaxing, making dua, and then entering prayer.
Waking up for fajr on time is a lot of the same. The process starts way before the alarm clock goes off. The solution is to nail the going-to-bed-routine.
Here's the action plan. Figure out what time you need to go to sleep, and how long you need to wind down. Let's assume you want to be asleep by 10:30pm and need 90 minutes to wind down.
Set your alarm for 9pm. This is the secret. Most of us don't need an alarm to wake us up, we need an alarm to remind us to go to bed. Once your alarm goes off, start winding down.
You've no doubt heard about not using screens an hour before bedtime - it is tough. But it works. Once your alarm goes off, let yourself do a final check of email and social outlets. Get changed, brush your teeth, and turn off any ceiling lights.
Put your phone across the room and have your alarm set for the morning. Place it as close to the bathroom as possible. This helps you wake up, and it also keeps you from checking your phone mindlessly again before bedtime.
Lie down in bed and read a physical book. Make sure that it is a fiction book. This is essential because non-fiction will make your brain go into motion and start thinking of things. Let the fiction be a way of relaxing and unwinding.
You should start feeling tired fairly quickly, turn off the lamp, and start making the dua and dhikr for going to sleep. Make sure to include this dhikr mentioned by Fatimah (ra),
The Prophet (s) said, "Shall I tell you a thing which is better than what you asked me for? When you go to your beds, say: 'Allahu Akbar (i.e. Allah is Greater)' for 34 times, and 'Alhamdu Lillah (i.e. all the praises are for Allah)' for 33 times, and Subhan Allah (i.e. Glorified be Allah) for 33 times. This is better for you than what you have requested [a servant to assist with chores]" [Bukhari].
When the alarm goes off in the morning, go straight to the bathroom and get yourself ready to pray. Plan out the night before what you are going to do in the morning. If, for example, you plan on going to the gym, then make sure you have your gym clothes already laid out. Your planning at night is much better than the morning, so have a gameplan ready.
Once you wake up and pray, have a set routine that you must do no matter what. It might be making some dua after you pray. It might be reading Qur'an. It might simply be going for a walk. Whatever it is, make it non-negotiable in the sense that you will not check your phone until that routine is done.
This creates the space and margin in your mind to start and each day on the right foot.
How does technology affect your ability to sleep and wake up on time? Leave a comment below!