26 September 2009

Building A Schedule - From the Ground Up

i must make a disclaimer, that this post is not like most of my posts. it has nothing to do with wedding photography, and everything to do with living a productive life. if you are interested in the latter, i encourage you to read on...

whether you love 'em or hate 'em... whether you claim to be one, or couldn't even imagine the thought... most of us would agree that there is a directly-proportional pairing of productivity with early rising. the early bird catches the worm, doesn't it?

as a business owner, as a husband, as a soon-to-be father, and as a spiritual being longing for deeper relationship with my God & my community, over the past few months i kept feeling drawn to create a sense of order about my life. enough order, ironically, to allow room for the spontaneous. i once heard david allen, the master behind GTD, make a comment related to cooking, that struck deeply with my common sense. he rhetorically asked, how much more free are you to be spontaneous in the kitchen, if everything is in its right place, instead of feeling overwhelmed by pots & pans strewn across the counter tops? so, why would our daily routine be any different; keep the frame work in place, allowing one's creativity to flow un-hindered.

then, about a month ago, jasmine shared her daily routine with her inquiring fans [you can check out the post here]. and i felt that was the final push.

i wanted to have a daily routine; a schedule for myself to serve as the framework for my creativity & my sanity. my first inclination was to copy jasmine's schedule, and plan out the very next day with my calendar:
6:30am - wake up & pray
7:00am - answer email
8:15am - get my butt outside & enjoy the fresh air
...and on and on...

only, two things struck me [and thankfully, they did so immediately, before i started re-arranging my iCal for imminent failure]:

[1] i am not jasmine.
[2] i have a difficult time changing multiple variables at the same time.

and the second, led me to my plan of action. i knew that if i tried to map out a daily routine from the moment i rose until dinner was in the skillet, i would most certainly end up frustrated before i even finished my second cup of coffee. so, i thought a moment, about how i like to make changes...

one at a time.

once i acknowledged this bit of self-knowledge, i took the only possible next step. i focused on the first action i have taken, of every single day over the past 27 years: waking up.

my first goal: to wake at the same time every day [and preferably earlier than i typically was waking].

so, as i will typically do, i began to research, scouring some of my favorite blogs & books, until i had a plan of action to make the single & simple change, before moving on to my next goal. and i have to say, i am rather excited about the results.

over the past week and a half, i first started waking daily at 8:00am, and have sinced [successfully] moved my alarm to 7:45am. i simply go to bed when i am tired [no set time] and i plan on waking at the same time every day, letting my body do the work of telling me whether i need more sleep or less. if i need more sleep, my body tells me to go to bed earlier. and if i am more-than-rested, my body gives me permission to stay up a bit later. it's rather simple.

so, what is the call to action? well, do you want to be an early riser? do you want a daily routine? or is there some other habit you would like to create, but have had a difficult time making it systematic for yourself? i have included a few links that might help, and i look forward to sharing my progress in the near future, as i create my own schedule - from the ground up.


jasmine star's FAQ post: http://www.jasminestarblog.com/Index.cfm?postID=645

steve pavlina's "how to become an early riser" post [part 1]: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/05/how-to-become-an-early-riser/

steve pavlina [part 2]: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/05/how-to-become-an-early-riser-part-ii/

leo babauta's "the power of less": http://thepowerofless.com/

and, just for fun, here is a photograph i took on my favorite stretch of road: the 101 between santa barbara and san luis obispo.


  1. Thanks for this... I too have been trying to be an early riser... like today... set my alarm and fell back asleep. But I. will. do it. Haha! Thanks Gabriel!

  2. I definitely agree that structure allows for freedom... in schedules, relationships, and work. I've been pondering this a lot lately.

  3. Oh so totally relate... and the sooner you get into good habits the better of you will be once Lincoln arrives to shake it all up! :) Derek and I spend lots of on energy and focus on geting more scheduled so that we can have more flexibility... sounds so weird, but it's so true! Good luck!

  4. Gabriel, this was just what I needed to read. Now that I've graduated from college, I need to set up some sort of schedule to make sure I am getting the most out of my time. I don't want to look back later in my life and see so much potential that was wasted. I want time to connect with people and work in ministry. I hope you keep us updated on your journey!

  5. Thanks for this post. I spent a lot of time last week processing and praying through these very things. In the midst of all of this, God convicted me of the pride and arrogance in my life, and showed me just how undisciplined I am, in nearly all areas... and then showed me that, in my life, discipline and humility are tied together, hand-in-hand. In order to learn humility, I must learn discipline. And because of the craziness that I call life, I can't just change everything all at once. Soooo... I'm setting my alarm for 7am. Every day. That's my thing, for now. Once that is my "normal," I can begin to add other things, one at a time.

    All that said, I'm glad I'm not the only one out there who is learning discipline, and changing life around to be able to get up earlier. Thanks, again, for sharing.

  6. That photo is spectacular. it's great to see nonwedding stuff from you. maybe not a mutli-variable guy, but definitely multi-talented.

    i love your path of self discovery. we all need that at any age.

  7. My husband and I started this recently. It has changed our lives drastically and I encourage all to do the same!

  8. I need to be better about this too! And after my kids & I get over the flu, I'll start! I like the baby steps idea! Thanks Gabriel!

  9. what a coincidence - i guess, without really knowing it, i've been putting myself on a schedule for the past 3 weeks too. it started with wanting to get in shape. twice a week i rise early and with my best friend we work out....my rise time? 5:15am - this is SUPER early considering i'm normally up at 9. but i feel so....energized and get so much done on those 2 days i'm thinking of implementing a 6:30 wake up time on the rest of the days...

    off to check out that steve pavlina post :)

  10. Excellent thoughts. I've been getting up at 7:00am for years (yes due to my kids) but getting up and starting my day with them is such a blessing. I can't believe they're 10 and 7 now. Geez.

  11. Thanks for the post! I have been feeling exactly this way lately and you put it into words fantastically ;) I feel like my life is so disorganized when I sleep in late..and I never get things done like I want to..being a photographer and working out of my home means I have the option to sit around in my pjs if I want..but that's not what I want even though most of the time it ends up that way..

    you have most definitely inspired me ;) Thanks [and congrats on the little one you will meet soon!]

  12. This is awesome! I'm on a similar path. I have found that having a baby is an excellent way to become an early riser! :-)

  13. Wow, did God answer my prayers with you posting this! I have been struggling with this my whole life. And living in a "morning person's world" has been a struggle for me. My step father and I rarely got along because he is such an earlier riser and I wasn't. He thought I was lazy and worthless but really, I stayed up way later than him and I justified it saying I was a night owl and it will never change. I'm so excited to do this. Thank You!

  14. I'm totally moved by this post. God works in such awesome ways! My husband and I have struggled so much in the past months with getting up earlier. Every night we say to each other that we want to get up early and have breakfast 2gether and do devotions, etc. But we just don't! We are both sooo frustrated! We hardly see each other anyway, so it would be the perfect time. Thanks sooo much for your insights, we will keep trying:)

  15. Gabriel, this is so simple and yet so beautiful. As a college student juggling business life with school work, I struggled (and am still struggling) with how to balance it all. I, like you, found a rather simple solution- wake up. I have found that I am a morning person and there is a way to add more hours to the day simply by waking earlier. Thanks for the post!

  16. Gabriel, I too agree with Lydia! This was exactly what I needed to read today and have been needing to focus on for months now. Thank you for your honesty, inspiration, and insight!!

  17. You know...I think this may be one of my favorite posts of yours. I think there is such a message in taking it one step at a time and listening to yourself when you start to feel frustrated and overwhelmed.

    Oh, and that picture? I love.

  18. I am so glad you posted this. This is exactly what I needed today - this has been something I have been struggling with a lot lately, and has coincidentally come to a head today. I too read Jasmine's post last month & it inspired me to instantly jot down a detailed schedule to keep each day... and I too, quickly realized before ever implementing my new schedule that totally changing my life & improving my productivity was not going to just happen overnight. Unfortunately, we can't all be born as self-disciplined & organized as Jasmine! ;) After reading the links you posted, I am very inspired to start making some steps toward improving self-discipline & becoming an early riser. Congrats on taking the first steps & for dedicating yourself to the cause enough to post it here for everyone to see. It is sure encouraging to see that I am not the only one that struggles with this & would love to hear more about your progress!

  19. genius all around. I think I will have to follow yours & Jasmine's lead... right after I finish this little project, but still :) and love that shot!

  20. Also glad you posted this. It's hard to nail down a schedule, especially if you need more hours in the day (i.e. waking up earlier)! I'm in the same boat, so glad to know I'm not the only one. Thanks for your thoughts!

  21. Great post Gabriel! I recently read Leo's book, and have since been waking up at 5:30am every day. With 3 young kids, I'm enjoying this time in the morning to gather my thoughts and prepare for the day (i.e., peace and quiet).

    Diggin' your work, especially your image here of the 101.

  22. This is a wonderful post! We have been attempting the early riser routine in our house and it's amazing how much more time for "us" that we have before our son gets up. It just starts the day in a more productive manner. And starting praying just does something for the day too.

  23. This is a great idea as I am not a natural early riser at all. As photographers we work for ourselves and can make our own schedules, but it's so much easier and healthier if we have a working routine.
    P.S. When the baby arrives, you will have no problem being up early!