If there was one thing that consistently made me feel absolutely awful from my days in high school until today, it’s waking up early. The thought of it is great. After all, that’s what all successful people do, right?
And the few times I was up early and didn’t feel like absolute crap, it was nice to get work done “before the rest of the world wakes up”. This was super rare, though…
But, I wanted to give it one more serious shot. Serious is a key word here, because it does take disciplined commitment.
Experts Say Go Slow
Slow and steady wins, right?
I’ve read many times, and told people myself, that small changes will help you get to where you want to be. But I have to say, it didn’t seem to work so well…
I hate to admit it, but I was waking up alarm-clock-free between 8:30-9am consistently. By the time I take care of the puppy, make my coffee, and get ready for the day, including cutting through the Facebook notifications and emails I need to speed through for a clear mind, it’s at least 10am. Maybe 11am.
11am… it feels like my day’s almost over at this time nowadays!
So, I started waking a little earlier. First, an 8:30 alarm. Not so bad but not as enjoyable as waking up naturally.
Then 8:15. Uggh. Who knew 15 minutes could feel so off? But, it’s a step in the process and will get better, right?
8:00am. An extra half hour in my day and complete exhaustion. This trade-off wasn’t working.
“Expert Advice” Isn’t Always Right
I do believe that either 7.5 hours or 9 hours is ideal. I feel great at 9 hours, but that’s too much of my day, so I opt for 7.5 each night. My goal changed from “waking up earlier” to “getting exactly 7.5 hours in every night and waking up at 5am”.
What the sleep experts suggested wasn’t working. I decided to go cold-turkey and make a complete shift. Now, I’ll tell you exactly how I did that successfully now…
The Key: A Night Ritual
If there’s one thing you get from me out of this post, it’s this point. You need to create a ritual each night to get you ready for the next day. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or special, but every piece of it should have a purpose.
My nightly ritual – starting between 6:30-7pm:
- Learning (30-minutes of some course; always learning)
- Shower (& Floss, Brush, and all that hygienic stuff)
- Glasses (my anti-blue light glasses)
- Prepare Tomorrow’s Clothes (every bit counts)
- Calendar Updates (What did I accomplish today? What do I have scheduled tomorrow?)
- Check PR Leads (A little publicity is nice, but I can’t get distracted during the day with this)
- Roll Out (I got an amazing M80 massage roller I use all throughout the day)
- Clean Up (I can’t be productive if my environment is messy – from dishes to my workspace)
- Acupuncture Mat & Meditation (Typically just 5-minutes here makes me feel great)
- Reading (~30-minutes a night typically)
This isn’t really very exciting is it?
Keeping things simple is fine. The routine should help your mind and body wind down for the day. The shower helps my body relax, while meditation and reading helps my mind. But really, the entire routine’s existence, consistency, and repetitive nature each night is what does it. I believe it moves my mind and body into a state of relaxation, and in the case of cleaning up, preparing for the next day, and checking on PR leads, it eases potential stresses.
As a quick note, my favorite part of the ritual is checking my calendar. Seeing what I accomplished each day makes me feel better, especially when I get lost in all the things going into running my own business and keeping up with friends, family and colleagues.
Even better is being able to optimize my next day to mentally prepare and set my calendar for a successful day. I map out the key activities so my day is packed with important tasks, instead of having to weed through the to-do list each day and get distracted by less important and less vital tasks.
Grandpa’s Bed Time
I know what you’re thinking now – if he starts this at 6:30, how early does he go to bed?!
This is something we need to address! It may affect social life, but think about how much ass you will kick starting your day at 5am. Awesome, right?
I’m in bed at 9pm, turn on one of Dan Carlin’s podcasts, and knockout within thirty minutes. 9:30pm + 7.5 hours = 5:00am. Perfect.
It’s worth mentioning, before going cold-turkey, I went to bed sporadically and unpredictably around 11pm — 1am. The new consistency allows me to know I always fall asleep in 15-20 minutes; no more laying in bed praying for sleep after 30, 60, or 90 minutes.
Rules to Successfully Wake Up Early
#1 – It’s mostly a mental game.
Stop talking yourself out of it. As long as you don’t work or have classes late in the day, it isn’t that hard.
#2 – Commit.
It takes discipline, but you can most certainly get it done. I never thought I did, but then I focused on Rule #1.
#3 – Schedule your day out.
Everything. Meaningful breaks in your day. Projects that matter. When you start your nightly ritual. All of it. If you don’t like structure, at least focus on blocking out time for “work” and”breaks”. And do set some time for you to stop working, no matter what.
#4 – Schedule for your new time.
Part of this rule is to make sure you stick to the schedule and don’t wait to see if the schedule sticks with you. Preempt it by moving your schedule to the new wake up time. The first hour of your day should just be focused on you, but the second and third hours can each have some significant project to work on.
#5 – Get out of bed ASAP!
Don’t check emails. Don’t check Facebook or Instagram. Don’t tell yourself “5 more minutes, that’s it”. The longer you lay in bed after waking, the worse you’ll feel. Also, it’s easier to get out of bed with an early day planned out, so revisit Rules 3 and 4.
#6 – Your night dictates your morning.
It doesn’t work to stay up late or be inconsistent with how your day ends. Discipline!
#7 – Get used to being called grandpa or grandma.
If you want to sleep the recommended 7.5 or 9 hours and wake up at 5am, or whatever early time you choose, bed time is EARLY! But, that’s what it takes. Let your friends and family say what they want – you’ll be the one feeling amazing and getting more done in your life.
I can go on forever with different ways to structure your day for success, but I’ll stop here. This is basically the 80/20 to becoming an early riser. In other words, it’s the 20% of what you need to focus on to get 80% of the way there.
Have you tried waking up early before? How did it work for you – or didn’t it? Let me know in the comments below!