For years I’ve woken up early in the morning.
There’s something so raw and untouched about the early morning hours of the day when the world around is so still and silent. Undistracted by most of what goes on in the afternoon hours, I can power through my morning routine and make significant strides towards my goals.
But there was a period in my life when waking up early was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t always like to get up before the crack of dawn, feeling deprived from a lack of sleep, or enveloped in the fear of missing out on something from the night before.
Yet, I always knew there was no other way to really achieve my goals. Sometimes, the morning is all that we have when it comes to free time where we can focus our minds. We feel fresh, relaxed (for the most part), and often able to see the forest through the trees.
Still, waking up early can be “complicated.” If you have kids or work the night shift, it can be even harder. With so many obligations, how are we supposed to find time to wake up early and use those precious moments as a stepping-stone to getting ahead in life?
Usually, it’s not that we can’t wake up early in the morning, it’s that we’re not willing to make the big sacrifices required of us to achieve great things. There’s a huge difference between not being able to do something and not really wanting to do it because our excuses outweigh our reasons.
But the benefits of waking up early in the morning far outweigh the sacrifices. Still, if you’ve had trouble waking up early in the past, there are a few methods that you could employ to help “trick” your body into waking up early.
Since a large majority of human behavior is habit-driven, all we need to do is hack our routines. Here are a few ways to do just that:
#1 – Drink lots of water before bed
Before I trained myself to become an early riser, I knew there had to be ways that I could hack my mind and my body into getting up early. I also knew, at the time, that I wasn’t drinking enough water. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone.
When you drink lots of water before bed (I’m talking 4 glasses or more), your body doesn’t slip into a deep sleep that might be difficult to awake from. Why? Because you’ll constantly be waking up to pee in the middle of the night.
Now, this might not sound like the greatest approach for most folks, but it works if you’re really having trouble waking up early and you’ve tried other things that just didn’t work. Drink a lot of water 30 minutes before bedtime and you’ll have a much easier time waking up when that alarm clock goes off.
#2 – Use the 5-minute rule
Before waking up early in the morning becomes habitual, use the 5-minute rule. Set your alarm clock black 5 minutes every single morning until you reach your goal wake-up time. This slowly retrains the mind and builds momentum.
You’ll be surprised at just how well this works. For example, if you have the goal of waking up at 4am in the morning and you currently wake up at 6:30, it would take you a month to achieve this. Over the course of those 30 days, the neurotransmitters in your mind actually shift and slowly adapt to the habit.
This mini-change, if you will, is a novel way of adopting virtually any habit. This is far easier than going from 6:30am to 4am in a single day. When you do that, you feel deprived from a lack of sleep. When you slowly change your waking time, it’s far easier to adapt.
#3 – Eliminate all distractions 1 hour before bedtime
In the evening, we tend to have a lot of distractions. From the television, to the Internet, to the phone, and friends, there’s always something going on in the evening. It’s easy to allow the time to get the best of you. When that happens, it’s much harder to go to bed at a respectable hour.
All you need to do is power everything off one hour before bedtime. That means the television, the Internet, the smartphone, and any other “smart” device that can cause a distraction. Get into bed and read a book. Non-fiction or fiction, it’s your choice.
Whatever it is, ensure that you aren’t reading from a screen. A study conducted by Anne-Marie Chang of Harvard’s Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine found that people who read from a tablet such as an iPad have a harder time getting to sleep, sleep less deeply, and have trouble being alert the next day.
Reading has a way of cleansing the mind, inspiring, and entertaining. But it also has a way of making you feel sleepy as long as it’s not done with a screen. Find a good physical book that you can read before bedtime. This also allows you to develop another good habit while working on your wake-up-early habit.
#4 – Set two alarms, place one far away from the bed
Having an alarm clock is a vital part of waking up early. In fact, most of us can’t seem to wake up without an alarm clock, especially those of us who simply aren’t morning persons. But, an alarm clock is only so useful when it can be quickly turned off.
It’s easy to reach for that snooze button and drift right back off to sleep. But how do we avoid doing that? Use your normal bedside alarm clock in combination with a “super-annoying” alarm clock. That super-annoying clock can be an app from your smart phone that proves you’re awake.
There are numerous apps that can help you wake up in the morning. Or, you can simply opt for purchasing a very loud and annoying secondary alarm clock and place it a good distance away from the bed. This might annoy your bedtime partner, but until you can make the habit stick, you might have to go to extremes.
#5 – Place a cue by your bedside
Often, we can’t think too much about developing habits that are hard to create. But, if you use a cue, you could help move things along easier. For example, if you know you have a hard time waking up, why not doing something to help jolt the system?
You could go for a run or a walk around the block, you could drink a strong cup of espresso, or even listen to some really inspiring music. So, place a cue by your bed. For me, it’s my running shoes. By placing my running shoes by the bed, I can just get up and go for my run.
Running helped me to develop the habit of waking up early. Similarly, you could use anything else that motivates and inspires you. Placing your headphones by your bedside gives you a cue to listen to inspiring music when you awake. Anything else that gets you going will work.
You could place a picture of something that symbolizes your goals. A house. A car. A travel destination. Something that you can see right when you open your eyes that might help you get over the overwhelming desire to stay in bed and sleep in.
#6 – Avoid caffeine, alcohol, soda, and cigarettes before bed
Stimulants are a part of life for most people. But, when you indulge in them before bed, you disrupt your body’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. In turn, you’re far more restless in the morning and simply lack the desire of waking up early and getting out of bed.
I don’t drink alcohol or soda, and I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I do enjoy coffee. In fact, you could call what I have as a coffee addiction. But, when I drink coffee too close to bedtime, I have difficulty both getting to bed on time and waking up early.
In 2012, a study determined that caffeine consumption, even up to 6 hours before sleep, can be disruptive. Even one cup of coffee can influence the body’s circadian rhythms. And alcohol has a somewhat similar effect as it works to dehydrate the system.
Also, in another study conducted, it was determined that cigarettes are also disruptive to sleep. They affect the ability to fall asleep, the deepness of our sleep, and our ability to wake up. In general, stay away from all stimulants for up to 6 hours before bed if you to wake up early in the morning.
#7 – Effectively manage your time
One thing that forces us to stay up until the wee hours of the night, not get enough sleep, and not wake up early, is a careless approach to time management. Without carefully managing your time, especially with a full schedule and a lot on your plate, it’s next to impossible to find sanity, clarity, and room to breathe.
But, when you plan your days and manage your time effectively, not only are you less stressed, but you have more free time to your self in the evening, and you’re able to get to bed at a respectable time, and thus wake up early in the morning.
The best way to achieve this is to engage in some time management that will assist you in achieving your goals by focusing on the right things rather than the time-wasters that tend to send most us off onto irrecoverable tangents.
When we waste time throughout the day, we have less free time in the evening, are far more stressed out, and when we do get to bed, we toss and turn due to the overwhelming burden that we’ve placed on our minds.
To rectify this, you have to effectively manage your time.
I spoke about time management in a recent post here, but I’ll give you a quick presentation of the broad strokes.
All of our time can be categorized into four quadrants, which are based off two components of urgency and/or importance.
The way this works is to first audit your time throughout the day. How much time are you spending in each of these quadrants? How much less time could you be spending in quadrant 4, namely, which is the time-wasting quadrant?
The goal? Spend as much time in quadrant 2 as you can, which is dedicated to our long-term goals.
All you need to do is audit your day with this framework in mind. Front-load all of the quadrant 2 activities into the early morning and eliminate the quadrant 4 activities. Do this by jotting down everything you do for a week straight and then labeling the quadrant next to it with a circle.
How much time are you spending in quadrant4? How about in quadrant 2? And so on…
The more you can effectively manage your time, the more efficient you’ll become. Then, waking up early in the morning for you won’t be such a monumental feat.
#8 – Set goals and find profound reasons for their achievement
Setting goals the right way and creating profound reasons for them is a fundamental necessity for waking up early in the morning. It’s hard to lack the desire to get up in the early morning hours when we don’t have powerful reasons for wanting to achieve something.
However, when we do have powerful reasons for wanting to achieve something, we’ll make the sacrifices that we need to get there. Think about it for a moment. In the past, when you wanted something badly enough, didn’t you move heaven and earth to get it?
I’ll bet you did.
The trick is to want your goals bad enough. Come up with some deep and profound reasons for achieving the things you want to achieve. You can’t just say money or fame. You have to have deep-rooted reasons.
But first, make sure that you’ve set your goals the right way. Make sure you’ve written them down and created a real plan for their achievement. Then, come up with profound reasons. What are some examples of profound reasons?
Well, why do we do the things that we do? We don’t want money for the sake of wanting money. We want money because of what it will bring us: security, freedom, free time, so on.
Similarly, we don’t want to do anything in life for superficial reasons. We’ll never follow through when our reasons are superficial. So, they have to be deep and profound.
Set strong enough reasons and you’ll have no problem waking up early in the morning any day.