By Leo Babauta
I’ve found that waking early has been one of the best things I’ve done as I’ve changed my life recently, and I thought I’d share my tips. I just posted about my morning routine, and thought you might like to know how I get up at 4:30 a.m.
For many years, I was a late riser. I loved to sleep in. Then things changed, because I had to wake up between 6-6:30 a.m. to fix my kids’ lunches and get them ready for school. But last year, when I decided to train for my first marathon, I decided that I needed to start running in the mornings if I was to have any time left for my family.
So, I set out to make waking up early a habit. I started by getting up at 5:30 a.m., then at 5 a.m. When that became a habit, and I had to wake up at 4 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. for an early long run, it wasn’t a problem. And last November, when I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, I decided to get up at 4 a.m. to write for at least an hour a day. Now that I completed that novel-writing goal, I don’t need to wake that early anymore, but have settled on a happy compromise of waking at 4:30 a.m. Some days, when I’m really tired (if I go to sleep late), I’ll wake at 5:00 or 5:30, but that’s still earlier than I used to wake up.
Here are my tips for becoming an early riser:
- Don’t make drastic changes. Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.
- Allow yourself to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, perhaps watching TV or surfing the Internet. But if you continue this habit, while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start over. I suggest going to bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, and read while in bed. If you’re really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
- Put your alarm clock far from you bed. If it’s right next to your bed, you’ll shut it off or hit snooze. Never hit snooze. If it’s far from your bed, you have to get up out of bed to shut it off. By then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
- Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize going back to bed. Just force yourself to go out of the room. My habit is to stumble into the bathroom and go pee. By the time I’ve done that, and flushed the toilet and washed my hands and looked at my ugly mug in the mirror, I’m awake enough to face the day.
- Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.
- Allow yourself to sleep in once in awhile. Despite what I just said in the previous point, once in awhile it’s nice to sleep in. As long as it’s not a regular thing. I do it maybe once a week or so.
- Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that you’re forcing yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look forward to waking up early. My reward used to be to make a hot cup of coffee and read a book. I’ve recently cut out coffee, but I still enjoy reading my book. Other rewards might be a tasty treat for breakfast (smoothies! yum!) or watching the sunrise, or meditating. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.
- Take advantage of all that extra time. Don’t wake up an hour or two early just to read your blogs, unless that’s a major goal of yours. Don’t wake up early and waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day! I like to use that time to get a head start on preparing my kids’ lunches, on planning for the rest of the day (when I set my MITs), on exercising or meditating, and on reading. By the time 6:30 rolls around, I’ve done more than many people do the entire day.
- Enjoy the break of dawn! As much as you can, look outside (or better yet, get outside!) and watch the sky turn light. It’s beautiful. And it’s quiet and peaceful. It’s now my favorite time of day. Getting up early is a reward in itself for me.