How to Become an Early Riser

I strive to wake up every day at 5:30AM (if not earlier). I use the term strive here because it doesn’t always happen. I seem to go through phases of waking up early and sleeping in a little longer (sometimes as late as 7:00AM, but this usually disrupts my entire day). It’s something I’m continually working on and it’s something I believe is a key element to being a happy, productive person. Read on to learn more…

Why Would You Do Such a Thing?

Despite staying up all hours of the night and sleeping til noon during my teenage years, nowadays I much prefer to rise early — earlier than most people. I would say your average person’s alarm goes off at just the precise time to allow them to get ready for their day — and if they’re lucky, grab some breakfast — before making the mad dash to their jobs (or what have you). It can be a very stressful way to start your day.

Now imagine you had, say, 2 hours before you normally rise to ready for work. What would you do with that time? I use it to exercise and organize my personal finances, and oftentimes to pursue my passions, such as reading and writing. I try to keep a list of things at the ready, outlining what I’d like to do with this time (e.g. writing a letter to an old friend, making sure bills are paid, post-processing photos for printing and framing, building this website etc.). It keeps me on track and it helps to keep me motivated to wake up early. Using these 2 hours, I accomplish a great deal before most people are out of bed. I use this time to chip away at those things I always wanted to do, but never seemed to find the time for before.

It’s a wonderful way to greet the day. You can accomplish anything if you set aside the time to do it. You can enjoy some much needed peace and quiet (or even do some relaxing yoga). You can have a leisurely breakfast with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Read a book. Start a blog… Almost anything is possible with 2 extra hours in your day — when you’re fresh and bright, early in the morning, rather than tired and dragging at the end of the day. Do this every day and it can easily add up to a whole extra month over the course of a year. [(365 days * 2 hours ) / 24 hours in a day = 30.4 days]

How Would You Do Such a Thing?

If you’re convinced this is a worthwhile endeavor — which you must be… you simply have to have the drive to want to do this — then, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to need to use some special tactics to make sure you get up at the time you desire. It is a hard transition and many people have trouble waking up, even after a good 8 hours of sleep. Believe me, I know.

There are a lot of resources on the web for early rising techniques, so be sure to check those out . Here are the tactics that work for me (a couple of which I’ve already mentioned):

  1. Want to get up early. It’s essential that you want to do this. If you think it’s a good idea, but you’re reluctant, it will never work out.
  2. Plan for tomorrow, today. While this is good all around advice, we can apply it more specifically to early rising. Have something planned to do in the morning or keep a “To Do” list. Be excited about the possibility of what you can accomplish when you get up in the morning. These are great motivators for getting you out of bed. If you go to sleep at night thinking “Man, I’m just so tired, I could sleep forever!”, you’re going to try to squeeze every last Snooze you can out of your alarm. If you go to sleep thinking of the events of the next day, you will rise prepared to meet those challenges and accomplish your goals.
  3. Visualize waking up. This might sound silly, but it works for me. As I’m lying in bed at night, I visualize the process that will unfold in the morning: my alarm goes off, I stretch my legs out, I sit up, and I take a big drink of water, and away I go. Some early risers even suggest practicing waking up early during the day when you have some free time. Do this by setting your alarm for a few minutes ahead of now, then lying down until it goes off and instantly sit up and turn the alarm off. This conditions your internal response to the alarm as jumping up out of bed instantly instead of hitting the snooze and rolling over (or whatever your normal routine might be). Visualization is a powerful technique.
  4. Wake up your insides with water. I keep a glass of water at my bedside for this purpose. Take a few big gulps of water as soon as you wake up and this will “wake up” your insides also, and subtly inform your body that it’s time to get moving.
  5. Go to bed at the same time every night. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready for bed. It takes most people 30min to an hour to actually get in bed and fall asleep after they decide to go to bed. Going to bed at the same time every night will help you rise at the same time every morning. You can also ensure you get a necessary amount of sleep (6-8 hours).
  6. Use a calendar to keep yourself in check. The first time I tried waking up at 5AM every day, I used the advice of Jerry Seinfeld. He suggests, for any new habit, you use a calendar and mark a big red ‘X’ on each day that you accomplish your task. The key is to make a chain of X’s and to not break the chain. This worked for me and the calendar on the wall in our kitchen was a constant reminder of my intentions to rise early every day and to track my progress.

These are the tactics that have worked for me. Becoming an early riser was no easy task, but it was something I wanted to accomplish, and so I did it. Before, I could sleep through my alarm indefinitely. I often times would hit my Snooze button in my sleep and just keep on sleeping (impressive, huh?). So, if I can do it, I know you can do it, too!

Keep this one thing in mind, however: Sometimes, you just don’t get up! No matter what elaborate plan you make for waking yourself up in the morning, if your body needs sleep, it will get it one way or another. So, don’t feel bad if things don’t work out every time, but don’t give up, either! Early rising is well worth the effort!

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