Waking up early, getting out of bed and starting the day has, for some reason, become the ultimate challenge for so many people yet becoming a morning person 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 even harder if you don’t go to bed until 1 or 2 am.
Table of Contents
- Why Become a Morning Person?
- How to Become a Morning Person
- The Bottom Line
Why Become a Morning Person?
Waking up early allows you to start the day slowly, and that means you have more time for yourself before the day begins. Many people wake up at the very last minute, which means thy are rushing to get out the door to get to work. This leaves you feeling rushed and flustered.
If you were to begin your day an hour or two earlier, you would have time for:
- Light exercise
- Writing a journal
- Planning the day ahead
- To eat a healthy breakfast
- Enjoy the quietness of the early morning
- Watch the sunrise
- Some quality time for yourself
So, how can you become a morning person consistently?
How to Become a Morning Person
Here are a few steps that have worked for me.
1. Understand Your Chronotype
According to the Sleep Foundation, there are two sleep chronotypes: eveningness and morningness, or put in more simple terms early birds and night owls. This is different to your circadian rhythm, which controls your day to day sleep cycle.
Your sleep chronotype is very difficult to change. It was set while you were in adolescence, while your circadian rhythm is relatively easy to change; as you may have noticed if you have ever traveled across different time zones—it doesn’t take many days for your body to adjust to the new time zone.
If you sleep chronotype is morningness, you will likely find you naturally wake up early and are relatively alert once you are out of bed. Conversely, if your chronotype is eveningness, waking up early will be difficult and once you are out of bed it takes you a few hours before you are performing at your best.
For eveningness chronotypes, setting yourself a very early wake-up time (before 6 AM), is likely to be detrimental to your overall productivity.
Instead of trying to force yourself to wake up early and feel dreadful, look for a balance. Gradually wake up earlier over a few weeks and find your sweet spot. With consistency—waking up at the same time each day—you will soon find yourself waking up with energy and focus.
2. Decide to Start
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 would like 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.
3. Do Not Hit the Snooze Button
We sleep in ninety-minute cycles and there are four stages. Three forms of non-REM sleep (non-rapid eye movement) and one stage of REM (rapid eye movement) If you interrupt the cycle you will wake up feeling tired.
When you hit the snooze button, your body starts a new sleep cycle, which is why when you do hit the snooze button, you invariably find yourself feeling worse than before.
One trick you can use to avoid the snooze button is to put your alarm clock in place where you have to get out of bed to turn it off. That action of getting out of bed and turning off the alarm will prevent you from snoozing. Alternatively, you could use Mel Robbins’ five-second rule which is where when you wake up, you could do five and jump out of bed. Watch this video to learn more about the five-second rule:
4. Find Out How Much Sleep You Need
This was a mistake I made when I started waking up early. I did not work out how much sleep I required. We are all different here. Some people require nine to ten hours of sleep, others four to six. I require between six and seven hours.
Once I discovered how much sleep I required, I could modify the time I went to bed each night. So, I require between six and seven hours of sleep per night, which meant I needed to go to bed between 10 pm and 10:30 pm 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 require 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 allows you thirty minutes to drift off and ensure you get your seven hours.
5. Have a Solid Plan
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 preaching 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 exercising, I studied Korean for thirty minutes, then did 15 minutes of planning and finished 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.
6. Pick a Date and 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 decided 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. It took me around four days to get used to waking up at 5 am. 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.
Don’t overthink it. Just do it!
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 then 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 will be hard. But you only need a few days to transition, and soon it will be easy, and then it will be 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.
7. Make Your Morning Routine “Me Time”
A difficulty we all face these days is finding any time in the day just for ourselves. 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 can find that time.
Because those pre-dawn hours are so quiet, 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 sun rises 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.
8. Don’t Break the Chain
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 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 “D XX – 5AM Club”. Over time, it was fantastic to see the number increasing. I got to D173 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 D82 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 5 am no longer feels like a challenge. It is something I just do. It feels natural to wake up at 5 am, 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 when I am completely focused on my objectives. Then I have my fifteen minutes of quiet meditation before making my breakfast and starting my day.
9. 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, 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 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
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.
How to Become a Morning Person
Featured photo credit: Keenan Constance via unsplash.com