8 Extremely Effective Ways I’ve Used to Start Waking up Early
“Bro I started waking up early and it’s completely changed my days.” This was the text I got from a friend recently who otherwise used to wake up at noon every day.
I was both happy and surprised. You see, waking up early is now the most cliche advice in the self-help space. It’s so obvious that we scoff at the person who writes about it. But, it seems that even though we have sexier things like biohacking and bulletproof coffee, the age-old adage still works — “The early bird gets the worm.”
I get up at 5 am. But I’m not one of those people who believe in the “Get up at 5 and join the elites” mantra. I do it because it works for me. I do it because it gives me control of my day. Because it helps me do my best work before the requests of others hijack my attention.
The funny thing about waking up early is this — even though everyone has the same 24 hours in the day, you seem to get so much more done when you wake up early. I mean theoretically, one would believe that what the early risers do in the morning, the late sleepers do at night.
However, most late sleepers I meet seem to admire my habit of rising early. This makes me inclined to think that there’s something special about mornings that is just not there at nighttime.
We don’t want to crawl out of bed 10 minutes before logging into the first meeting. We want to pursue hobbies and interests. And all these things are often difficult to do at night when you’re tired from work already.
I’ve tried both options — and I’ve found that waking up early works for me. And apparently, every other person I meet wants the same for themselves — “Oh that’s so good. I could never wake up that early!”
Stop Saying You’re Not a Morning Person
Your mind can be an excellent servant or a terrible master. It depends on what you affirm to it, and what kind of thoughts predominate your mind.
A simple statement like “I’m not a morning person” repeated over and over again turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It kills your chances of success before you even begin.
“I am” are two potent words. Carefully choose what you put in front of them. When you say “I am…” you’re affirming your identity. When you’re tired, for instance, half of your fatigue comes from the thought “I am tired.” If you could convince your mind that you’re not tired then you’ll have at least twice the energy.
Similarly, by false affirmation, most people deprive themselves of the joy of waking up early. Change your beliefs and thoughts at once.
Instead of saying “I am not a morning person” say “I have a habit of waking up late.” Humans are creatures of habits. By changing our habits we can chisel our life according to our ideal design. This small change helps you dissociate your identity from the habit so you can work on it.
Once you’ve done that, you get out of your own way. Your mind is set on the goal. And here are a few tips (that I’ve used every time) to start waking up early.
Relax Deeply Before Sleeping
Don’t go from working at breakneck speed and then straight to the bed. Have a ritual to release the stresses and worries of the day. Even mild stress can directly affect your sleep quality.
Avoid eating heavy meals. Get away from electronics. Do something fun. Read, meditate, walk, write, etc.
When you head to bed practice a body scan to find areas of tension and release them. I know it feels easier to just go to sleep but trust me, every time I do this I end up getting better sleep in less time.
Choose The Right Alarm
The first sound you hear in the morning can make or break your day. No one likes to wake up to a jarring sound. Some sounds on smartphones are beautiful while others indicate that a burglar is coming to steal your cash and kill you.
If you’re a heavy sleeper, you may use a relatively aggressive alarm. Still, be mindful of whether you like to wake up to that sound. Another great option is to use your favorite song.
“Human beings are conditioned to hear voices; they’re not conditioned to hear beeps,” says Niamh Nic Daéid, a forensic scientist at the University of Dundee.
Studies have found that children were three times more likely to wake up if they heard their mother’s voice compared with a high-pitched smoke alarm, and they also woke up faster. So if you have someone to wake you up, use that opportunity, you lucky fellow!
The bottom line is this — you shouldn’t use a sound you don’t like because you’ll badly want to shut it down and go to bed as fast as you can.
Or Let the Alarm Go
Our bodies have natural circadian rhythms which determine our energy levels and therefore, our bedtimes. The only problem — this natural rhythm works on exposure to light.
In the modern world, when we’re not exposed to sunlight by default, it’s difficult for the body to know it’s morning time. Thus, we need alarms to do the job for us.
However, I’d suggest letting the alarm go after a few days. If you go to bed at the same time every day, you’ll have no problem waking up early. Recently when I shifted my morning time by another half hour, I only had to use the alarm for 3 days. On the fourth day, I was waking up at my desired time without any trouble.
Our bodies know better than us. It’s a complex system of biology that evolved over thousands of years. Most of your ancestors didn’t have alarms — you can also do without them. It’s much better and easier.
The Perfect Morning Starts The Night Before
Your mornings are entirely dependent on your nights. Here are a few things you should do to make that happen.
Plan. The brain is surprisingly good at worrying about unfinished tasks and to-do lists. This is the Zeigarnik effect. It produces needless stress which gets in the way. Fortunately fixing this is easy.
Write down all the tasks for the next day, arrange your clothes in order, pack your bags for school or work, and anything else you need the next morning. Free your mind from the burden of remembering everything and you’ll sleep like a baby.
Visualize Tomorrow. As cheesy as it sounds, visualization helps you to know deeply how exciting your morning is going to be. Visualize yourself waking up early, making progress on your goals or hobbies, showing up to work with a big, fresh smile, and having more energy throughout the day.
Go to bed on time. No one wants to hear this, but it’s the truth. You need to go to bed earlier. You can’t just cut back on your sleep the next day. That means winding up work faster, not wasting time on Netflix, eating dinner a little earlier, and so on. Whatever it takes.
Waking up earlier is much easier if you sleep earlier. You won’t have to drag yourself out of bed and slack away through the day. It will just take a couple of days to turn it into a habit. Once it’s done, you’ll be set for life.
“Dive In” vs “Gradual”
When it comes to waking up early, there are 2 approaches you can take.
The first is the “Dive in” approach. As it says, you dive in directly to the desired hour and you try to wake up at that time from day one. The strategy is simple and straightforward. The downside is that you’ll be left with substantially lower energy levels the next day.
The “Gradual” method takes things easy. You start by waking up early in 15–30 minute increments. Stay on one time for 1–3 days and then chip off a little bit more. So if you wake up at 7 and want to wake up at 5, start with 6:45 or 6:30.
The downside is that it will take time. The upside is that you’ll hardly find any difference in your energy levels. This will ensure you stick with the routine without burning yourself out.
That said, any one of the above can work for you. So decide which one you want. If you want quicker results and can sit through low energy levels for a couple of days then go for the first one. If not, choose the “gradual” approach.
Have Something Exciting to Do in The Morning
This comes back to the “why” of your whole getting-up-early extravaganza. Why are you waking up early? To spend time with family? To work on personal projects? To be more relaxed? To exercise or meditate?
Whatever it is, decide on your “why” and then outline your mornings in detail. Know what you’re going to do the moment you wake up, else your mind will convince you to hit the snooze button repeatedly.
This is your golden hour. Use it wisely. I use the extra time to meditate, exercise, and write. Find your thing and run with it.
Your Best Friends
The first few days of making changes in your sleep schedule can be tough. To ensure you get through the day without trouble, make space for naps. They really are your best friends on the journey.
A nap as small as 20 minutes can leave you feeling recharged and give the much-needed “second wind” we crave in the afternoon.
Waking up early is easier than you might think. While it will not make you a member of the “elite rich club” it will give you more time to focus on things that matter.
Even if you’ve been a night owl, it’s worth trying out! Here’s all you need to know:
- Stop saying you’re not a morning person
- Relax deeply before you sleep
- Choose the right alarm
- Let the alarm go after your body gets used to the new routine. After that, all you need to make sure is you go to bed at the same time every day.
- The perfect morning starts the night before
- Choose between the “dive in” or the “gradual” method
- Have something exciting to do in the morning
- Take naps whenever you need during the day.
With all that knowledge, “come join the 5 AM club and become super-humans” (Sorry couldn’t resist).