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Waking up early is something I’ve gotten good at over the last few years, like really good. I’ve consistently been waking up between 3:30am and 4:30am for the last 2 years.
Now, while you might not be looking to learn how to wake up THAT early, these tips will help you get up earlier and avoid the snooze button more than you do now.
Waking Up Early Can Be Life-Changing
It’s funny because a lot of people think you’re either a morning person or a night person. But I think you can change your habits if you really want to.
I used to stay up well past midnight and wake up around 8 or 9 (when I was able to). Then I heard about this “Miracle Morning” book and decided to give the morning thing a shot.
I had no idea how big of an impact it would have on my life.
Since waking up earlier, I’ve been able to get enough done on my “off-the-clock” hours that I quit my day job to pursue my side hustle in June of 2017.
While I don’t really follow the full layout in the Miracle Morning anymore, it’s a great way to get started if you’ve never been a morning person before.
Why I Started Waking Up Early
When people learn that I used to wake up early at 3:30 am, the first thing they say is something like “you’re insane”, “how in the world do you do that”, or “why put yourself through the torture?!”
Initially, I did it out of necessity. I worked a full-time job (8 am to 4 pm) with a long commute on either end of that.
I knew if I wanted to make my side hustle a full-time job (which I did), I would have to make more time for it – so I started getting up earlier every morning.
At first it was just a change from getting up at 6:30 am to 6.
Then I changed it to 5:30 am.
At the time, I thought THAT was an impressive time to wake up.
But then I kept going until 3:30 am seemed like the last “sane” time to wake up. And even then it’s questionable.
But the truth is, I’ve come to love my morning time. Being up before the rest of the world not only makes me feel productive, but I can get half my work day done before many people are leaving to go to work. As an entrepreneur, the more you can get done before all the fires start, the better.
How To Wake Up Early, Every Morning
If you don’t think 3:30 am is a sane time to get up, replace that with “earlier” and see where you end up. Trust me I don’t go quite to that extreme now that I don’t have a full-time job working for someone else.
But I do still wake up at 4:30 am. I told you, I love it!
Here are some tips you can use to help you wake up earlier to work on what you love doing.
1. Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Done it For at Least 7 Days.
This is the first tip because it is so easy to give up on this habit. But keep at it!
The first day you’ll be excited when you wake up and it will be easy. As the day goes on, your eyes might start burning a little bit because your body was used to getting more sleep. If they don’t burn, you’ll at least probably feel exhausted around 5 or 6 pm, but stay with it!
2. Put Your Alarm Clock Across the Room
This was the magic trick for me. If I relied on my phone alarm (which is usually within arms reach), I’d never have stuck with this. Yes, I’m telling you to go buy an old-school alarm clock and plug it in far enough away that you’re at least 5 steps away from your bed. Go buy a $12 clock on Amazon if you don’t have one already.
Having your alarm clock across the room, forcing you to get up and take a few steps is going to make this whole waking up early thing a LOT easier.
3. Put Your Cell Phone Across the Room as Well
If you’re one of those people who loves browsing Instagram or other sites before bed, it might be time to give it up.
I didn’t believe this at all, but when I started consistently leaving my phone across the room (or even in another room), I have found that I fall asleep SO much faster.
All of the scrolling stimulates your brain and keeps you awake longer.
4. Cover Up All the Lights in the Room
Blue light can really keep you up at night, but even the green or red dots on your electronics can affect your sleep.
I put a piece of clothing over my alarm clock. This keeps me from checking the time in the middle of the night AND gets rid of the green glow across the room.
Here are some other lights you might not be thinking about:
- The pinhole light on your TV
- Lights on monitors for your computer
- Some charging cables have a green light appear when they are plugged in
- The on/off switch on your extension cords
Turn off the lights when its dark out and really look around the room to find them all. I bet you’ll find some lights you didn’t even realize were on.
5. Use Your FitBit or Smartwatch Alarm
This is a great alternative if you have a spouse who is asleep when you’re planning to wake up. Wearables often come with a vibrate alarm setting that is jarring enough for you to feel but doesn’t wake up the other person in bed.
Here are a few SmartWatch options that I know have these settings:
6. Get Excited About the Work You’ll be Doing in the Morning
Think about how awesome it’s going to feel when you have x, y, or z done before “normal work hours” even start.
If you’re working towards becoming self-employed, waking up early is a piece of cake compared to some other mental and emotional hurdles you’ll be going through. Take the challenge seriously, and reach your goals faster.
7. Go to Bed at a Reasonable Time
It should go without saying that if you’re going to try your hand at waking up at 5 am, it’s not going to be very productive if you’re going to bed at 1 am. I usually strive for 7 hours of sleep, although during my “super hustle” phase I was only getting 5.5 to 6 hours.
Figure out what works best for you, but know that even if you’re getting up early, if you don’t have enough sleep you might be too groggy to get anything done – and then you’ve just wasted your time.
8. Remember: Coffee is Your Prize for Waking Up Early
Yes, this one is going to be controversial. It’s the old, “will drinking coffee everyday kill you or make you live longer” debate. If you don’t like coffee, try tea, or even just warm water. Having some kind of warm drink helps me wake up and stay awake, but maybe for you, it’s ice cold water.
Personally, butter coffee is my go-to every morning. And I try to wait an hour after I’ve woken up to consume my “joe.” My girlfriend sent me this video once and I couldn’t get the “wait an hour” mantra out of my head, so that part of the routine kind of just stuck.
9. Make Yourself go to the Bathroom
This is my second line of defense after the alarm across the room. Generally, when I wake up I have to pee. So, instead of getting back into bed, I force myself to go to the bathroom. I guess it’s the act of being vertical for at least a minute gets your mind going and then usually from there I am ready to stay awake.
10. Quit Using the Snooze Button
Seriously, I used to do this. If you let yourself snooze one day, you’ll end up having to set more alarms “just in case.” But then those just in case alarms become alarms you need in order to get up. But once I started waking up early I didn’t let myself keep the habit up. Now I only use my one alarm across the room. It gets easier as you go, trust me.
I know some people who have 5-10 alarms to wake them up in the morning (not naming any names….you know who you are) and it completely ruins their last hour of sleep. What’s the point of snoozing if you can’t even sleep in? 🙂
11. Figure Out What Kind of Work You Do Best in the Morning
I do my best creative work, like writing or brainstorming new projects early in the morning, so I try to schedule those things first for the day.
For you it might be more tedious work that doesn’t take as much brain power as some other projects you’re working on. Do some testing and figure out what works best for you and your business.
12. Cross Step 1 Off the Night Before
Have you ever heard you should put your gym shoes in the middle of the hallway so you can’t “forget” to go to the gym?
The same thing goes for waking up early. Decide on the task you’ll be doing in the morning, and get step 1 out of the way first.
If you’re writing in the morning, this could mean creating a quick prompt for yourself to get your mind going in the morning.
If you’re doing other work or studying, have that tab open on your computer, or that page bookmarked where you’re going to start reading.
If you are waking up early to get yourself to the gym and workout, put your shoes in the hallway or right by your bed so you put them on first thing.
For ANYTHING you’re going to be doing, put a post-it note of your “why” on top of your laptop or behind your computer on the wall. Remind yourself why you’re waking up so friggin early and you’ll more easily be able to get through.
13. Wake Up Early….Gradually
Do you go to the gym and just lift 150 pounds when you haven’t worked out in 3 years? No, of course not. So take this waking up thing gradually too.
You are not superwoman/man– take small steps to get to that ultimate goal. Start waking up 15 minutes earlier than you do now and see how it feels. Once you’re used to it, wake up 15 minutes earlier again and so on.
I didn’t go from waking up at 6:30 am, 10 minutes before I had to leave for work, to getting up at 3:30 am overnight. It took me a few weeks to get there.
Your body and mind will thank you for going slow.
14. Once You’re Awake, Drink Water
I’m sure you’ve heard that a glass of water first thing in the morning is good for you. But I really urge you to try it for yourself.
Put water by your bed or at your desk the night before and drink it first thing. For me, I feel more awake and my body just feels better when I do this.
15. Exercise First Thing (or Do Jumping Jacks)
Remember how I said I drink butter coffee every morning? Well while my coffee is brewing I do jumping jacks to wake myself up even more. Call me crazy but it helps.
I started doing this when I slept through going to the gym one morning and felt bad about not working out. So I did jumping jacks while my coffee brewed. But it actually helped me wake up so I stuck with it.
This doesn’t have to be jumping jacks, it could be any form of exercise. But getting your blood moving is a great way to combat the feeling of wanting to go back to bed.
16. Take a Cold Shower
I first found out about cold showers from Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation. There is a ton of research showing the benefits of cold showers such as:
- Increasing alertness
- Improving circulation
- Easing stress
- Relieving depression
- Improving your immune system
- Speeding up muscle recovery
- And so many more!
The first one is the most important in this case though – increasing alertness. Cold showers might sound like an insane thing to do, but it can be very beneficial in keeping you awake once you’re out of bed!
17. Wake up Early on the Weekends Too
If you wake up at 5 am on the weekdays and 10 am on the weekends, you’re always going to look forward to the weekend, and will in some way resent the weekdays.
Don’t do that.
Of course, you don’t need to be waking up at your “normal” time, but getting a head start every day is going to help you stay consistent with your new schedule.
18. DON’T Go Back to Sleep
This is the worst thing you can do (aside from setting multiple alarms). If you go back to sleep, that’s going to start becoming part of your routine.
So sure, you’ll be waking up earlier, but you won’t be STAYING up. It’s going to be tough at first to stick to this new schedule, but do your best to stay awake no matter how tired you get.
Here are some additional tips for waking up early from Wikihow – I always love their sketches.
Some Tools to Try
- The Sleep Cycle app – this app helps determine your sleep cycles and when you’re going to be in your lightest phase of sleep around the time you want to get up.
- An old-school alarm clock – just about any kind will do – as long as it’s across the room and loud enough to wake you up.
- A CRAZY alarm clock – the Sonic Bomb alarm clock even comes with an under the bed part that will violently shake your bed so you really can’t stay asleep.
- A Smart Watch – Apple Watch, Fitbit, Pavlok, or others all have alarm settings that can gently wake you up without disturbing your partner.
Questions About Waking Up Early
How can I wake up early without being tired?
This is a great question. Honestly, the first few days, maybe week or so, you are going to be tired. Your body has to adjust to this new schedule so be patient and give this time.
After that, it really boils down to getting enough sleep, and a good quality of sleep. If you get 10 hours of sleep, but you’re laying on a hardwood floor, that’s not going to give you the same energy as 8 hours of sleep on a comfortable bed.
Get enough sleep, and make sure the quality of sleep is great.
How can I wake up early without an alarm?
If you find the answer to this one, let me know.
In all seriousness, it again comes down to getting enough sleep but also making it a habit to wake up early.
You can’t expect your body to be ready to wake up without an alarm after only getting up early the last 3 days. It takes time.
If you’re looking for something that will help wake you up but isn’t necessarily an alarm clock, try out the tools mentioned above, which range from vibrating watch to the SleepCycle app that will gradually wake you up.
Try a Lot of Things & Figure Out What Works for You
I know – this is the hard part. Where you actually have to put work into it.
But you have to find out what works for you by trial and error. Start setting your alarm clock 15 minutes early and see what happens.
Try some of these tips and see which ones work for you and which ones don’t (AND let me know in the comments!)
Waking up early might just change your life like it’s changed mine.