How To Become an Early Riser

I have always been a night owl. I was no stranger to reading about the benefits of waking up early or having a solid morning routine, but I had and still have a busy schedule and it would be tough to adapt into that lifestyle.

I have since changed that. After years of late nights and groggy starts, I habitually go to sleep at 9 PM and wake up at 5:15.

It took lots of trial an error, but I finally came up with a method that worked for me. I’ll explain this process below.

First and foremost, It’s hard to wake up early if there is no reason to do so. Granted, you might need to wake up early to do something or go somewhere, but if you don’t have a purpose that goes beyond this, you won’t do it.

So why do you want to wake up early? Decide what is is you really want to achieve, and if waking up early helps you get there, then it will be helpful for you.

“I want to wake up early because ___.”

If you can’t find a motivating way to fill in the blank space above there’s not really much use reading further. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • I want to take care of the tougher obstacles in my day while there are no distractions.
  • I want to add a couple more hours to my morning lead generation/prospecting.
  • I want to start my day off by reading about leadership development.
  • I want to improve my well-being by kicking off a solid morning routine.
  • I want to make sure I have enough time each day to concentrate on implementing a new habit.

It’s this last one in particular that makes getting up early so invaluable to the Blueprint.

In addition, becoming an early bird means that you have some time in the morning when nobody is awake. You can do anything you want because there are no other people around. Your brain is also more creative in the morning, so it could be a good time to do something creative like painting or writing. It’s simply good for your brain to be on its own without any distractions.

So before you embark on this hefty life change, ask yourself what you will gain with the extra time in the morning, then what you will lose with the lost time at night. If the benefits don’t outweigh the costs, then there is probably no point in waking up early. If they do, there are a few things that helped me that might help you.

Don’t cheat the system. Don’t stay up late at night or go out late at night after staying home all day. You need to sleep a lot and have a good night’s sleep. If you want to wake up early, think about how much sleep you’ll be getting. For the best chance to wake up early, get 8 hours of sleep. If you want to wake up at 5 AM., then your sleeping time should be 9 PM.

Don’t try to do too many things at once. You’ll want to do all the amazing things you couldn’t do before, but it’s better if you don’t rush and take your time. Don’t change more than one thing at a time. Focus on getting to sleep early for now. Then, slowly increase the amount of work that you do in the morning.

When you’re just starting out, try to have fun in the mornings. If you want to work, do it, but if not, just have fun. I watched TV on mornings when I did not feel like working. Eventually I felt awake, refreshed, and ready to work again.

Follow a routine. A morning routine helps you wake up and get ready for the day. After waking up, it can be hard to think of what to do first. But a morning routine will make your brain want to keep going and do things as part of the process of waking up.

I write in a journal every morning. I do this for my morning routine. Specifically, I do 3 pages without stopping to think about what I am writing. I call them ‘morning pages’ and do it to learn not to worry about being perfect when they create something new. I keep the journal next to my bed.

Morning routines are important because it helps your body know what to do. If you have a routine that suits you, then keep doing it. You can also try meditation, yoga or just making tea.

Having a nighttime routine is important too. In fact, it’s even more important than getting to bed on time—once you get into the habit of waking up early, your body will automatically decide what time in the evening you ought to be getting sleep. Turning the lights down, shutting off distracting electronics, and reading a chapter or two of a good book does just as much for your psyche as it does for your circadian rhythm. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water. If you want to ensure your feet hit the floor when your alarm goes off the next morning, that’s how to do it.

Get a good alarm. We’re not going to use the alarm to wake you up. Instead, use it as a backup if you need it. When I first started using alarms, I was trying to cheat sleep and got tired from not getting enough sleep. Now, I set the time for 8½ hours after my bedtime and never have to use the alarm because I wake up on my own.

There are many types of alarms out there and they might work for different people. You can search the internet or ask someone else who has had experience with them before.

Here’s a hint: Try a light alarm. It starts shining light 30 minutes before your time and gets brighter and brighter. I set mine for 5:15 AM., so it starts shining at 4:15 AM. This way, the sound is not as jarring as when I used to have an alarm clock that made noise right away!

Prepare the night before. Our brains are terrible at making decisions in the morning. Presented with more extra sleep, we’re obligated to take it, no matter the consequences. So I make it as easy as possible to follow my morning routine each morning as I can. Here’s a great example of that: After trying many different alarm clock products I settled on an app that requires you to scan a QR code to turn off. In this way, I essentially guide myself out of bed to the bathroom and thus into my morning routine. I have my breakfast in the fridge, workout equipment at the door, and so on. Think of it as your wide-awake past self guiding your drowsy future self by the hand through your routine. The easier it is for your schedule to move through, the easier it is to stick to it.

Don’t use your phone before bed. If you do, it will be hard to wake up in the morning. Try not to do anything that involves a screen before you go to bed, since this can make it harder for you to sleep. Also try not to look at your phone when you first wake up; if other things make this hard, move them away from your bed.

I find it hard stop myself from using my phone even when I’m in bed. I know it’s not good for me but I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s just normal to me now. You might think that it’s okay to stay in bed and use your phone until you fall asleep, but this is bad because it ends up serving as a distraction. To fix this problem, put the phone far away enough so that you won’t be tempted to use it.

Take a supplement if you need to. Some people don’t want to take any substances, but you can buy a natural hormone called Melatonin. It helps you sleep at night and is sold in the United States without a prescription. It’s also allowed to be sold as a supplement.

The best way to take melatonin is 0.3 mg. I take 1mg and cut it in half (0.5 mg) and this is the amount that works for me.

You can’t use melatonin to cheat the system. I tried it and doesn’t work—you still need to get a sufficient amount of sleep for the routine to catch on for you. Also, melatonin is not addictive, but if taken too often, a person can build up a tolerance for it and need more of the medication to fall asleep again.

Utilize some discipline. It takes a minimum of two weeks to create a basic habit, but changing your morning routine is a life-altering maneuver. Realize you’ll need to exercise a bit of discipline to get there. Be serious about it. Turn down opportunities to stay up later than usual, and stick to your guns in the morning for the sake of routine. A little bit of discipline is the separation between pulling yourself out of bed and simply unplugging your alarm. How much discipline exactly? It depends on how much you prepared the night before—more preparation equals less discipline. Think of it as the glue that holds all that preparing together.

I love waking up early. It makes me feel productive and accomplished before other people. For me, working late wasn’t working out. The idea of sleep infected my every productive thought, and putting those thoughts of sleep aside meant putting aside healthy habits I so badly needed. I’m so glad those nights are behind me and that I’ve gained control of my mornings. Give it a try, and perhaps an early morning start will help you too.