I am fairly successful at exercising in the early morning before going to work. Plenty of people balk at this notion or are just plain mystified as to how I can be this super human.

It helps that I have a guiding mantra. As I’ve thought about it, I realize it could apply to so many other aspects of my life where I drag ass. It’s always amusing to me that I can wake up, exercise hard, then maybe even walk my dog after work, but when it comes to washing the dishes, I lose all motivation. I’m trying to retrain myself on how to look at time, and how best to maximize it.

The rule of hours. This is my little trick that helps me calculate how “worth it” any given activity is compared to how much time I’ll spend reflecting on my efforts. When we look at getting up early to exercise, clearly the hardest part is moving your legs from a horizontal, soft, and warm position down to the floor and sitting upright.  Would you say that’s true? Setting the alarm isn’t hard. Throwing a shirt on is pretty basic. It’s that quick moment of time when I convince myself, “Ok, soldier up. I am going to exercise,” and then I sit up.  Let’s assume I hate that moment and that moment lasts about five minutes. Let’s also assume I hate changing clothes, lacing my shoes, and actually exercising. So roughly, we’re thinking I might “hate” what I’m doing for about 45 minutes. That is one half of the rule of hours  calculation.

The other half is how much time will I spend feeling like a bad ass for what I just did? I can brag about my efforts to people on email. I can mention what I did to a less ambitious co-worker. I can run a bunch of errands on the way home guilt-free because I don’t have to feel that I should be at the gym instead.  I can walk around feeling strong in my legs, confident in my self, and happy with my efforts for the rest of the day, roughly 18 hours.

The rule of hours then states 45 minutes of being bothered is a good trade-off for many, many hours of feeling wonderful. This works in reverse too. If I had stayed in bed, I might have slept another hour and that would be one hour of feeling content, but then that’s squared off against many, many more hours of feeling like I let myself down.

For whatever quirky reason, looking at the costs/benefits this way is incredibly motivating. Now I just have to carry this over to other aspects of my life, such as when I go to bed. It usually only takes 10 minutes to put dishes away and wipe down the cupboards. Then the next morning while I’m running around, I’m enjoying the clean space, the uncluttered counter, and the feeling of pride for following through the night before. Otherwise, I might curl up my body into a tight lump in the corner of the couch, feel justified enough to not tidy up, but then the next day, I’m annoyed that there’s no room on the counter, that I put my bowl on something sticky, and I’m off to work while my place is in disarray. Not a very calm or productive approach to the day. Calculating this scenario with the rule of hours shows me that the reward of taking initiative far outweighs the drudgery of doing most given tasks.

What about you guys? Do you have any tricks for convincing yourself to do things that you know are the right thing to do even if you don’t always feel up for it?