How to wake up early…


It has almost been one year since I posted about how to Wake up Early and Consistently. I thought now might be a good time to post a follow up, including what I have personally found to work.

Let me first start by saying that waking up early has made a huge difference in my life. I used to be the complete opposite – late sleeper and late riser. These days, I wake up at 5:30am everyday.

What I like most about being an early riser is getting that extra quiet time in the mornings to work at a few next actions even before the day officially begins. Lately though, I’ve opted to go to work earlier, so that I can clock in my 8 hours, leave at a reasonable time and still have a few precious moments with my baby daughter before she heads off to bed. Being able to maximise my free time doing things I rather be doing has made all the difference to my quality of life.

Here is a list of things that worked for me:

1. Have a good reason to get up.

I’ve found this to be the single most important element in being an early riser. Days in which I did not crystallise the reasons for getting up were more likely to result in sleep ins. Now, I make it clear the night before what it is I want to wake up early for. Initially, I found writing things down to be helpful, but this isn’t always necessary, as long as it is clear what the reasons are.

2. Be productive in the mornings.

It wasn’t enough to just be an early riser. If I had committed to waking up early for a reason, I’ve found it was crucial that I followed through. Not following through is like slow working poison. Over time, this has a cumulative effect and makes it harder and harder to rise early. This was a huge drain on motivation for me, especially when I was losing sleep and yet not getting the things I wanted to done. So stick to the plan and be productive.

3. Get enough sleep.

Your body is trying to tell you something if you constantly feel overly tired during the day. I’ve found it wasn’t really worthwhile trying to get up early if I didn’t get enough good sleep the night before. In the short term, I might get more discretionary time because I was sleeping less, which is good for coping with the spikes in workload. However, in the long term, things generally evened out – either because I was tired and couldn’t work as fast or I was sick as a result of a weakened immune system. My advice is to ensure you get enough sleep.

4. Go to bed earlier

One simple thing which helped me get enough sleep was to … well … go to bed earlier. Instead of constantly staying up past midnight and feeling tired the next morning, I now start preparing for bed around 11pm. I’ve found, around this time of night, I’m generally winding down anyway and not engaged in productive work. So shifting the hours around slightly has meant that overall my free time gets used more effectively – which is the primary reason for being an early riser! The amount of sleep needed is different from person to person and day to day. So, I listen to my body when it tells me that it is tired and it is time for bed.

5. Sleep more effectively.

The other thing I noticed about sleep is sleeping longer doesn’t necessarily translate to sleeping better. Somedays I can have 8 hours of sleep, yet feel like I haven’t slept at all. Other days I can be fully alert, productive and cheerful after only a few short hours.

If you find that you are still tired after a good stretch of 6-8 hours, chances are you’re not sleeping well. Most people just don’t need much more sleep than that. Sleeping well can be attained in various ways. I find having a good mattress and pillow with some quiet reading time before bed to be helpful.

6. No more another 10 mins.

I think everyone including me has two conflicting aspects to their personality. There’s the one which is good and generally seeks to self improve and be productive. Then there’s the other one – the little voice in the head urging us to sleep in for another 10 mins. I’ve learned the hard way that this little voice rarely has anything good to say. My advice is don’t ever have a discussion with him or indulge in anything he says! Sleeping in for another 10 mins is guaranteed to lead to another 10 mins and then another. The next time you hear that little voice, just say “No” out loud and …

7. Jump out of bed.

One trick I’ve found to be very effective in being an early riser and to stop myself from rationalising is to simply jump out of bed instantly. Once I am outside the comforts of the warm and cozy bed, I’m more likely to actually wake up and stay up. Someone once suggested to me by leaving the bedroom immediately, you also leave no doubt about your intentions to actually wake up and start doing things. Jumping out of bed and leaving the room actually works. They have prevented me from sleeping in on many a cold winter morning.

8. Use an alarm clock, just not the snooze.

Every day without fail, I wake up before the alarm goes off. I’m tempted to say setting it might not even be necessary! However, I take comfort in the knowledge that it’s there and waiting to go off, so I don’t have to worry about sleeping in. The trick with the alarm clock is to make it loud, annoying and not easily accessible. Try placing it away from arms reach, so that you can’t turn it off or get to the snooze button unless you get up out of bed. For me, this works wonders, because when it goes off, my wife and daughter are both still asleep and I instinctively try to get to it as quickly as possible.

9. Establish a stable routine.

What I recently learned from being a new dad is babies thrive on routine. My daughter now knows that bath time is followed by reading time and then bed time. Initially, she put up a fight resisting the bed. Now, she expects it!

In many ways, things are no different for us adults. I view the body as an instrument which can be trained. I’ve found establishing a consistent routine to be a key factor in becoming an early riser. This means waking up at same time everyday, not just the days I have to. This includes weekends, which typically aren’t as busy as the weekdays. Now, my body doesn’t even remember what it was like to sleep in and being a late riser.

10. Have something to look forward to.

Waking up early can be hard work, especially when you are used to sleeping in. Having a purpose is a good start, but this isn’t always enough. I mean, come one, are you really going to get up early to work on some TPS report for work? What I do in addition to having a purpose is to have a reward or other attractive incentive to get up for. It can be anything. I personally look forward to having time to check my emails in the morning, eat breakfast and drink a cup of tea.

11. Be aware of the consequences.

As I’ve written about previously, when faced with doing something we don’t want to do, we’re generally motivated not just by Pleasure, but also Pain. I’ve found that it was very effective to be aware of the consequences of sleeping in. For me, losing that extra 2 hours in the morning can have a significant flow on effect to my day and the rest of the week. Everytime I sleep in, I have to stay at work later and sacrifice quality time with my daughter in the evenings. This is something I clearly want to avoid, so being aware of this has been really effective in keeping me motivated when the alarm goes off.

12. Remove the option completely.

One trick I’ve found to work well also is removing the option of sleeping in completely. If we don’t have the option to sleep in, we won’t. The best way of doing this is schedule meetings and deadlines early in the mornings. This leaves one with no option at all but to get up because by the time the morning comes round, it is too late to cancel or reschedule a commitment. I’ve found this to be very effective because my actions now impact not just me but others as well.

13. Have a similarly motivated buddy.

Over the year, I have mentioned to various friends my desire to be a consistent early riser. Being encouraged by my example and results, they too have adopted the drive to be early risers. Not only is it gratifying to be helping others improve their productivity and quality of life, but having friends similarly committed helps keep me motivated and on track. Whenever we meet up, we always ask each other how we are doing with respect to being early risers. If anyone has fallen off the wagon, as a group we try to get them motivated again. Your spouse may be a good buddy even if only to kick you out of bed.

14. Keep track of your times.

Have you ever told yourself that you can sleep in just this once because you’ve already been good the whole week? I have. Unfortunately, my perception on how good I’ve been is subjective and often inaccurate. Sometimes I consider sleeping in because I feel that I’ve been good when in fact I’ve already slept in twice this week or six times this month. I’ve found keeping track of the days I have been good and not good to be immensely useful. I review this list periodically and whenever I find I’m falling behind, I use this list to renew my motivation and commitment.

15. Review all the things you got done.

I’ve written about the 10 R’s to success before. If you haven’t read that post, take a moment to do so. One of the more important R’s is Review which describes the importance of looking back on how successful you have been with your goals and what you’ve managed to accomplish. If things aren’t working out or the results weren’t as expected, then adjust your approach. Looking back at all the things you’ve managed to get done in the early mornings is a great motivator to keep you going.

Conclusions

Being an early riser is tough work, but I’ve managed to do it consistently. To be honest, I didn’t realise how hard it would be when I first started. I might not even have tried if I knew better in the beginning. However, I’m glad I did because the rewards are amazing. I get much more done now and my quality of life has improved.

If you want to be early risers yourselves, try out the tips I’ve highlighted. Some of them may not work for you, but I can bet that if you applied at least a few of these, you will see immediate results. Feel free to experiment and refine the process until you find a healthy balance you can sustain.

Good luck! Let me know how you go.

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