Wouldn’t it be an amazing feeling if you could stroll into work comfortably in the morning after a three-mile jog, twenty-minute workout, fifteen-minute ashtanga yoga session, or whatever your ideal morning routine would be?
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, explains that, “When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. They tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities.”
But we all knew this, or at least suspected it, right? There’s even a saying about it: “The early birds catches the worm.”
Early in the morning is when your mind and body are most rested. Your motivation is at its highest then, and there are less things to distract you from writing or thinking deeply and creatively about projects. You are most productive at first light, which explains why so many successful people wake up before the sun rises, including Richard Branson (Virgin Group founder), Tim Cook (Apple CEO), and Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo).
If you love the idea of creating a success-boosting morning routine that gives you a headstart on others, and also affords you time for exercise and family, but struggle to get up when the alarm clock sounds, don’t worry. There are simple steps you can take to make climbing out from under the covers and starting your morning earlier much easier, and maybe even fun. Here’re ten of them:
1. Define your motive beforehand.
As with any change, it’s important to have a solid reason for waking up early. Define a meaningful reason for why you want to get up early and write it down if necessary. For example, you might want to wake up early to fit in a morning cardio workout, squeeze in a morning run, or have some extra time to cook a healthy breakfast for your family. Whatever the reason, being clear on it from the start will motivate you and set you up for success.
2. Get enough sleep — 7 to 9 hours.
Waking up early and well-rested starts with getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, due to our busy lifestyles, many of us don’t get enough sleep. But, just like you need to make time for exercise, you need to make time for quality sleep. Admittedly, balancing our own wellbeing against other personal and professional responsibilities is tough, but do not compromise on your health for success.
Schedule 7 to 9 hours of sleep (the average amount adults needs in a night, although some naturally need more) into your day. What you get from a good night’s rest cannot be supplemented elsewhere. Your body and mind are more apt to change other habits (like wake time) if they’re well-rested.
3. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
Don’t just get enough sleep once in a while. Get enough sleep every day.
“Many people think they’re getting more or less than they actually are,” says Colette Haward, MD, a psychiatrist in New York City. Watch out for that. An inconsistent sleep schedule means that, “Your sleep cycle is pushed back a few hours. It’s delayed at night, which causes excessive sleepiness in the morning and during the day,” Dr. Haward says.
Sleeping two hours later on Saturday and Sunday also throws off your internal clock during the week. “We all have a 24-hour clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle,” Dr. Haward explains. That is why it’s so important to keep a consistent sleep schedule and get the recommended hours of shuteye.
Nathaniel Watson, MD and president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, agrees.
“Keeping a consistent sleep schedule,” he says “is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting quality, restful sleep.” It will reflect on your wake time, as well.
4. Adjust your sleep schedule gradually.
Just because you should get enough sleep and keep a consistent sleep schedule doesn’t mean you should shift your schedule suddenly. Drastic adjustment will keep you rebounding between early and late times, rather than helping you create lasting change.
Start adjusting your bedtime gradually by just 15 minutes at a time, advices Dr. Haward. And, if you have a sleep debt to repay, it’s better to nap during the day than to mess up your nightly sleep schedule. That said, don’t take extended daytime naps, because they can keep you up at night.
5. Establish a relaxing evening routine.
A relaxing evening routine can help to clue your body into what is to come. It will chill you out and let your mind know that it is nearly time to fall asleep. For example, Dr. Haward recommends taking 30 minutes to prepare yourself for sleep with a three-step plan:
Firstly, take a hot bath or shower (when you step out, your body temperature drops, which encourages sleep); secondly, jot down a list of things you’re worried about to clear your mind; and thirdly, dim the lights and meditate, do some deep breathing or practice progressive relaxation, in which you slowly tense and then relax all your muscles from scalp to toes.
Drinking a cup of (decaffeinated) tea and reading for 20 minutes or so each night before bed is also a good and relaxing routine you can establish. A relaxing routine will help you sleep better and wake up fresh.
6. Create a sleep sanctuary.
Once you know when to sleep and what to do right before bedtime, it’s important to make your bedroom conducive for sound sleeping. A snooze-friendly bedroom is clean, quiet, comfortable, and dark (light suppresses secretions of sleep-inducing melatonin).
Your bedroom also needs to be cool to allow you to sleep comfortably and wake up rejuvenated.
“The magic number for a sleep-friendly room is around 69 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Dr. Haward. A wool blanket can also go a long way in keeping you cool throughout the night.
“Wool is a fantastic insulator but also good for wicking away moisture and keeping you cool,” Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep, says. And if your mattress leaves you achy, now is a good time to upgrade.
7. Power down and unplug from technology.
Any kind of bright light emitted by electronic devices in the bedroom can shift your circadian rhythms, making it harder to get a good night’s sleep. So, no late-night TV shows and no checking e-mail in bed. Dr. Haward notes that televisions, cell phones, and computer screens all emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin production. Turn off those electronic screens at least an hour before bed to make dozing easier.
8. Hop into bed and get some sleep.
If you can’t fall asleep: “After 30 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet activity. Don’t flip on bright overhead lights; use a soft table lamp instead,” says Dr. Haward. Twenty minutes into a favorite book or crossword puzzle in a dimly lit room and you should notice your eyelids dropping. Time to hit the sack.
9. Break up with the snooze button.
When the alarm goes off and your immediate temptation is to hit snooze, go ahead and do it. Hit the snooze button, but get out of bed. Wait for those next few minutes before the alarm goes off again to pass while you are out of bed. The idea is known as “inverted snooze.” It helps ease the pain of waking up by telling yourself you only have those few minutes to stick it out.
Stretch, move around, start brewing coffee, make an entry in your diary – do something, anything to keep yourself awake. By the time the alarm goes off again you should be fully awake and alert, rather than dull and still grumpy in bed, likely to hit snooze again.
10. Seize the day and make things happen.
Starting the day in grouch mode, thinking about all the things you don’t want to do today is a terrible way to start your day. It might even de-motivate you from the wonderful habit of waking up early you’ve started. Instead, remind yourself of your motive for waking up early and think ahead to the best things you’ll do all day. It will stir your energy and fuel your desires to seize the day and make things happen.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Exercise. Be your best self. Your willpower is at its peak in the morning. Make the most of it!
Featured photo credit: lzf via shutterstock.com