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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Become a Morning Person: 8 Steps to Kickstart

How to Become a Morning Person: 8 Steps to Kickstart

Waking up, getting out of bed earlier, 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. If you learn how to become a morning person, you can make significant changes to your mood and health.

Why? 

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 and have a cup of coffee 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, right? 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’re a natural night owl and didn’t go to bed until 1 or 2 in the morning.

So can you learn how to become a morning person? Yes! Here are a few steps that have worked for me.

1. Educate Yourself on the Health Benefits

Being a morning person has scientifically-proven health benefits, and knowing these can push you to get into the swing of waking up earlier.

One 2014 study went so far as to suggest that taking in more sunlight in the early morning hours could result in a lower BMI (Body Mass Index). The study pointed out: “Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance”[1]. This shift in energy seems to have the effect of lowering overall BMI—impressive, right?

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Furthermore, research shows that being more evening-oriented “was also associated with traits related to lower health such as reduced sport participation, increased risk of depression and psychoticism personality, late eating, and increased smoking and alcohol usage”[2].

There is still more research to be done on this topic, but it seems clear that morning people get to experience a lot of benefits!

2. Know How Much Sleep You Need

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.

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.

If you’re not sure how to calculate how much sleep you need, simply start to pay attention. You may even keep a journal.

Note how many hours of sleep you get each night, as well as how you feel the next day. If you find that you feel good on 6 hours, that’s what you should aim for. If you still feel groggy with 6, shoot for 8. It may take time to find your number, but it’ll be worth it.

3. Have a Plan

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.

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Robin Sharma has been peaching about getting up at 5 am 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 I 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. Whatever you do with that time, make sure it’s 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.

Here are some other ideas for how you can fill that hour:

  • Read.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Do yoga.
  • Paint.
  • Go for an early morning walk.
  • Squeeze in a morning workout of your choice.

4. Pick a Date and Just Start

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 7:30 am for years and you start waking up at 5 am, it will be difficult. You will feel rotten in the afternoon for a few days.

This step can be really difficult for some who are used to waking up later. In the first days, your body hasn’t yet adjusted to the new sleep schedule, so it will resist waking up earlier than normal. Consider putting an alarm clock out of arm’s reach to ensure that you’ll have to get up to turn it off (and don’t hit the snooze button!). This can be the momentum that gets you moving.

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Another thing that may help is exposing yourself to natural light as quickly as possible. Once you see the sun is coming up, get to a window or go outside if it’s nice. This bright light will signal to your body that it’s time to be awake.

5. Don’t Make Excuses

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 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.

If you want to learn to eliminate your excuses, check out this article.

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.

6. Make Your Morning Routine “Me Time”

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 and watch the sun 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.

7. Don’t Break the Chain

The concept of “don’t break the chain”[3] 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.

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Use "Don't Break the Chain" to learn how to become a morning person.

    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 5 am, I used my journal to write down the days I woke up at 5 am. 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.

    8. Just Enjoy the Time

    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, so don’t waste it thinking about the problems you have to deal with. Use the time positively and appreciate it.

    Listen to your favorite music, the birds, or a beautiful meditative album. Whatever you decide to do, this is your time, so just enjoy it.

    The Bottom Line

    If you really want to learn how to be a morning person, it can definitely be done! Waking up early gives you 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.

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    More About Becoming a Morning Person

    Featured photo credit: Keenan Constance via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Carl Pullein

    Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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