For the last year, I’ve been working on a goal of waking up at 5am. I’ve had a great amount of success with this strategy…and, not just because…it really has completely rocked my productivity and quality of life. It was a little bit of a shift at first, but overall not that hard of a transition to make.
Why even do this?
Getting up early can be a great way to get more done and be more productive. There is already a ton of research and content on the web discussing these benefits too.
If you’re looking for a good/quick read, including both the benefits and tips, check out 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It. For me, I use the extra time in the morning to journal, plan my day and work on content for a few different blogs I have. By 7am, I usually have accomplished the equivalent work I normally get done by 9am or 10am. The work that I do in the morning is more efficient than work I do during the middle of the day, and significantly so much more efficient than any work I do throughout the rest of the day.
How to wake up early
Over the last year, I’ve talked with a lot of other people that have been trying to build a regular practice of waking up early. Some of these people are experts in the field of “sleep” and others are just passionate about being more productive. Everyone has their own reasons and practices for waking up early; however something interesting is that almost every person seems to have his/her own ‘secret’ trick to starting the day early. I decided to pull together a few of these ‘tricks to waking up early’ and compile a list for you to try.
1. Go to bed earlier. Being a night owl doesn’t mean you’ll get more work done
Duh. Ok, this is probably a no brainer, but we need sleep… Research shows the average person needs somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. There are plenty of methods out there than can help you better understand what YOU specifically need for sleep. The easiest method? On an average night, simply go to bed when you’re tired, don’t set an alarm, and make sure you don’t have anything that will wake you up before you’re ready (e.g. kids). Whenever you wake up, note the time and that should be a rough idea of what your body needs.
If you want (or need) to start waking up earlier, you’ll likely have to go to bed earlier than what you’re used to.
Ok, so where’s the trick?
I used to think I was a night owl. However, once I started getting up earlier, I learned a whole new world of productivity. In my justification, I believed I was getting so much “more” work done while staying up late. In reality, it was horrible quality of work. In the morning, my body and mind is fresh. They is ramping up for the day, instead of being forced to work while simultaneously fighting shut down.
Resist the urge to tell yourself that staying up late to work is a good idea.
2. Move your alarm clock out of reach
This is a neat little trick I use every day to get up at 5am. In fact, without it, I’m rarely successful. Since my 5am project is voluntary, I find it WAY too
easy convenient for me to hit snooze a dozen times and ‘sleep’ in. My wife hates it. I say ‘sleep’ in because I never actually get any quality sleep during this circus. When the alarm ends up going off every 15 minutes for 2 hours, I’m obviously not helping myself…or marriage.
Long ago, I decided to move my phone out of reach from my bed. When the alarm goes off, it requires me to literally “get up” to stop it from waking up the whole house. By the time I am up, the commitment to get moving is much easier. Problem solved.
3. Drink something beneficial before bed, it will up your chances of early rise success
Keeping with the theme of “good” sleep, things like alcohol or caffeine should be minimized. If you refuse to minimize them altogether, then at least indulge as far from “bed time” as possible. For most people, it’s hard to go to bed early if they’ve been sipping a soda or coffee. Even if you do manage to fall asleep, you won’t sleep as well as you would without the drugs.
Do you think a “night cap” will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better? Think again.
Trick: If you’re a coffee drinker, try decaf. If you’re a soda drinker, try caffeine-free or flavored sparkling water. And of course, there’s always just good old plain water. For more ideas on good things to drink before bed, check out: Drinking Before bed – What to Drink?
4. De-stress before you go to bed…no blue light
It doesn’t matter what you do; you need to help ease your mind before bed. Some things that I try to do before bed: reading (and nothing mind bending or work-related), journaling, or just reflecting on the next day ahead. When your mind is relaxed, not only will you sleep better, but you’ll be able to sleep sooner. And with your earlier bed time, that may actually be more challenging now.
Trick: Whatever method you choose to relax, make sure to minimize blue light. The adverse health effects are well documented and can be a significant cause of poor quality sleep.
5. Get a partner in crime
It’s always good to go into any goal with a partner who can help hold you accountable. For me, I had a friend who was also trying to get more sleep/wake up earlier. We would Tweet each other first thing in the morning (and raz the other if he didn’t immediately respond). A few times we met for early coffee/doughnuts and would talk about projects we were working on. It was helpful when getting started with this habit – knowing that I didn’t want to let someone else down. In the long-run, it was also a great use of our time. We had many good ideas come out of those morning collaboration sessions.
6. Have something worthwhile to get up for and keep track of your progress
This is probably the most important of the list. Seriously, if you don’t have anything worthwhile (dare I say: ‘fun’ ??) to get up for, it will be difficult until the habit is formed. For this, I set different monthly “resolutions” and use the time in the morning to work on them. I usually spend no more than 15 minutes in the morning working on these goals, but collectively it adds up over the entire month.
Related: Responsive Resolutions 2016
If you can’t think of anything, look for ways to make the rest of your day less stressful. For example, wake up early and do email. While email isn’t exactly ‘fun’, you’ll be happy with the productivity that comes with working un-interrupted in the morning and the bonus time you created for yourself later in the day.
Here’s an important part of the trick: keep track of your progress in some way. The purpose is to serve as a reminder and additional motivation for getting up early. It’s especially helpful on days when that warm bed it trying to tell you not to leave.
This tip was one shared with me by Lindsay Kunkel, an established health and fitness blogger running the Fit Mix Mom site. Back to benefits of sleep – she has a great post on What Happens When You Actually Get a Full Night of Sleep. It’s another great resource on why this is all important. But as far as a “trick”, she suggests Aromatherapy.
She keeps lemon or peppermint oil on her nightstand and takes a big whiff (inhale) straight from the bottle first thing in the morning. It really helps awaken the senses! In addition to those, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, angelica, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, and sage also have benefits of helping improve your energy levels.
Lindsay shared a second tip which I’m already a big fan of: A big whiff of fresh brewing coffee.
What is your trick?
Are you an early riser too? Or do you strive to be one? What’s your trick to getting up early? What do you use or plan to use your extra time for?
Please share your ideas below.