Waking up early, getting out of bed and starting the day has, for some reason, become the ultimate challenge for so many people. Yet, waking up early is one of the best things you can do.
Why? I hear you ask.
For a start, early mornings are the most beautiful time of the day. With so few people doing it, it also means it is the quietest time of the day too. It means you get to spend quality time with yourself without the risk of being interrupted or disturbed and, it means you have time to work on the things you want to work on.
Waking up early is simple. Set your alarm, go to bed, wake up when your alarm goes off. Simple eh? Well, simple, yes. Easy? Maybe not.
It can be very hard to open our eyes, get out of bed and stumble to the coffee making facilities. It’s made even harder if you didn’t go to bed until 1 or 2am.
Now if you feel waking up as late as possible, staggering out of bed bleary-eyed, turning on the coffee pot, walking around your home in a daze knowing you have only twenty-minutes before you have to leave home to get to work is a better alternative, good luck.
So how to become a morning person consistently? Here are a few steps that have worked for me.
The first step is easy. Just decide that from now on, you are going to wake up early.
Decide what time you want to wake up and then set the date. On the assigned day, set your alarm for the time you want to wake up and just wake up, get out of bed.
Making the decision is the easy part. Starting is the hardest. So make that decision. Once you make the decision and start it just gets easier.
How much sleep do you need? This was a mistake I made when I started waking up early. I did not work out how much sleep I needed.
We are all different here. Some people need nine to ten hours of sleep, others four to six. I need between six and seven hours. Once I discovered how much sleep I needed, I could modify the time I went to bed each night.
So, I need between six and seven hours sleep per night, which meant I needed to go to bed between 10pm and 10: 30pm and now, for the most part, I manage to do that.
Once you know how much sleep you need, you can modify your bedtime accordingly. If you need seven hours of sleep and want to start waking up at 6 am, you should aim to be in bed by 10: 30 pm. This will allow you thirty minutes to drift off and ensure you get your seven hours.
Okay, so you are going to wake up earlier. Great, now what? What will you do with the extra hour or so? You need a plan.
Robin Sharma has been peaching about getting up at 5am for years and in his recently published book, The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning Elevate Your Life, he goes into a lot of detail about what you can do with that morning hour you create for yourself.
Robin advocates doing 20 minutes exercise, 20 minutes planning and twenty minutes studying. I love this concept myself. I modified that a little and instead of exercise, I study Korean for thirty minutes, then do 15 minutes planning and finish the hour with 15 minutes of meditation. For me, that one hour focused on what is important to me sets me up for a perfect day.
The beauty of waking up early is you get to choose what you do with your extra time. The best advice I can give you is whatever you do with that time, make sure it is time you spend on yourself and not doing anything like checking email or your social media feeds. There will be plenty of time to do that later in the day. This morning hour is for you.
Slowly reducing your waking up time is a very painful way to wake up earlier. You end up prolonging the transition period and that is not pleasant. Just pick a day—Mondays are a good day to start—and wake up at the time you have chosen to wake up.
Now, I am not going to tell you it will be easy. It won’t. If you have been waking up at 7: 30am for years and you start waking up at 5am, it will be difficult. You will feel rotten in the afternoon for a few days. It took me around four days to get used to waking up at 5am.
The transition period was tough. The afternoons were particularly hard. But after a few days, it became easier. I started going to bed a little earlier and after a few days, I was sleeping much better at night. All that is just part of the transition and the transition period only lasts for a few days.
Being mentally prepared for a tough few days though will make it bearable. Accept that for a few days, you will not feel great; but understand that once you pass through this transition period, you will find it much easier to wake up at your new earlier hour.
Once you decide you want to wake up early, just do it. Decide when you will begin, set your alarm and just do it.
Too often, we tend to overthink these things and then find all the excuses we need to prevent us from ever starting. We go to bed early, find ourselves being unable to sleep and so, we then tell ourselves that we won’t start tomorrow—we’ll start the next day instead. We end up in a perpetual cycle of never actually starting. It’s always going to be the next day or the next week.
Look, whenever you start, it is going to be hard. But you only need a few days to transition and soon, it will be easy and it will become a habit. And then, you will wonder why it took you so long to get started.
The sooner you start, the sooner you will begin to enjoy the benefits of waking up early and having an extra hour in your day for yourself to do the things you want to do, without being interrupted or distracted by other people’s crises and issues.
A difficulty we all face these days is finding any time in the day just for ourselves. To read the books we want to read, to exercise and to just be with our thoughts. When you begin waking up an hour or so earlier each day, you get to find that time.
Those pre-dawn hours are so quiet that you can do what you want to do without the risk of someone else disturbing you. This is your time. That is why you do not want to be using this time for doing more work.
Just enjoy the extra time you have and do the things you want to do. During the winter months, go out for a walk before the sunrises and watch it rise. In the summer months, you can open your windows and listen to the birds waking up without their song being drowned out by the noise of cars and trucks.
The concept of ‘don’t break the chain’ is a very valuable concept to use here. Essentially, what you do is make a checkmark on a calendar or in a diary to indicate those days when you woke up and got out of bed at your desired time. After a few days, you will find you don’t want to ‘break’ your consistent run. It creates some self-competition and adds some motivation to keep you going when things get tough.
When I began waking up at 5am, I used my journal to write down the days I woke up at 5am. At the top of the page, I wrote “Day XX – 5AM Club”. Over time, it was fantastic to see the number increasing. I got to Day 173 before I had to break the chain because I flew to Europe and the time zone difference between Asia and Europe messed up my routine. The cool thing about this though, is when I returned to Asia, I restarted the count. I am now on Day 82 and I have 92 days to go to beat my previous best. That’s great motivation.
Counting the days is fun, but the reality is waking up at 5am no longer feels like a challenge. It is something I just do. It feels natural to wake up at 5am to make a coffee and sit down to study Korean. I love learning new words and phrases and the fifteen minutes of planning I have after I finish my Korean studying sets me up for a wonderful day, where I am completely focused on my objectives. Then, I have my fifteen minutes of quiet meditation before making my breakfast and starting my day.
With everything that goes on in our lives throughout the day, it can be hard just to have a moment to ourselves. To reflect, appreciate and be grateful for what we have. The time you create for yourself by waking up early gives you that time and so, don’t waste it thinking about the problems you have to deal with. Use the time positively and appreciate it.
Listen to your favourite music, the birds or a beautiful meditative album. Whatever you decide to do, this is your time so just enjoy it.
Waking up early gives you space. Space for yourself in a world designed to distract you. It gives you the time to reflect, work on the things you want to do and enjoy some quiet ‘me time’.
All you need to do is decide to wake up earlier, then set the date and begin. All a little time for the transition and just enjoy the time you have for yourself.
Remember to set a date when you will start and just start. Accept there will be a short transition period. The sooner you start, the sooner waking up early will be easy. Then, have a plan for what you will do with your extra morning time and make it “me time”. Also, appreciate the quiet and beauty all around you and wallow in the pleasure it brings you.
Featured photo credit: Keenan Constance via unsplash.com