I miss many things about Scotland: fish suppers, Irn Bru and chocolate that’s edible. However, one thing I do not miss is living so close to the North Pole.
More specifically, in the dead of winter, I don’t miss leaving and arriving home in the dark.
In fact, I think I’m allergic to mornings. As a teenager, my mum would bring me a cup of tea in the morning in an effort to wake me up and get me out of bed. There was a lot of cold and spilled tea involved.
But now that I’m getting better at adulting and I’ve exchanged the dark Scottish mornings for Chicago’s equally delightful brutal winter temperatures (at least the mornings are light), I’ve found some ways to survive the morning routine that may help others who don’t find joy in early mornings.
1. Put in the work the night before
It seems common sense but, for the night owl, the temptation to watch just one more episode of whatever we’re binge-watching is always there.
But I’ve learned to be intentional about setting aside time in the evening so I can be ready to go in the morning.
Any bags I need for the next day are packed and sitting on top of my shoes. Unless I leave the house without my shoes on, I’m not likely to forget all the bags I need.
I also have the coffee machine primed and ready so that a pot of dark, rich elixir is waiting for me as I stumble into the kitchen. My lunches – soup for the winter months – are already prepped and ready to pull from the fridge.
Having everything in place also eliminates the unwanted game of “where’s my wallet?” that my roommate plays every morning.
2. Alarms shouldn’t be alarming
Personally, there is nothing worse to wake up to than the shrill of an alarm. That is not how I want to start my day. Plus, there’s then always the temptation of the snooze button – and that’s a slippery slope.
Instead, I’ve invested in some smart bulbs and plugs that turn on my bedroom lights in the morning.
Additionally, there are two vibration alarms on my fitness watch: one to wake me up and the second to tell me it’s time to get out of bed.
The third alarm is a slightly more extreme investment: buy a cat. I have managed to train my kitty companion, Argyll, to wake me up in the morning.
In truth, she has just worked out that, when the lights go on, it’s time for me to get up and feed her. Let me tell you, nothing gets you out of bed faster than a squeaking, persistent feline gently clawing at your head.
3. Be like Barack Obama
I once read that, in order to minimise the number of decisions he had to make, Barack Obama only had two styles of suit and would alternate between them.
True or not, I have taken this inspiration to eliminate the need to decide what to wear first thing in the morning.
I cycle through four pairs of trousers and alternate between blue and white shirts, meaning I only need pick a tie. Gone are the days of having to find a shirt, trousers and tie that coordinate.
Likewise, I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning; it sounds dull but, to the morning-afflicted, having to choose what to have for the most important meal of the day is yet another decision. I keep it fresh by switching between cereal and porridge every six months.
In short, the key to surviving the dark, cold winter mornings is in creating routine. The addition of a squeaky furry friend is entirely optional.
Tim Tuckley is a primary languages specialist at British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park