Get into the habit of waking up early and you’ll be more productive, more energized and more grounded for the rest of your day.
You’ll end up getting more things done earlier. And that means you can spend more time doing the things you love rather than the things you have to do.
Sounds pretty good, right?
Today, we’re going to dig deeply into an area of productivity that proves challenging for a lot of folks: waking up early. You can probably relate if you’re a night owl. It’s not easy to change your sleep patterns and become an early riser.
But believe me, if you’re interested in getting more things done, it’s worth it.
Let’s talk about some of the benefits of being an early riser.
6 Reasons To Get Out Of Bed An Hour Earlier
If you’ve read any accounts from people who get up early, you probably don’t need to be convinced of the habit’s virtues. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to list a few just as a reminder. Chew on the following:
#1 – Fewer Distractions
Think back to the last time you woke up early – whether you had a nasty case of insomnia or because you had to be somewhere. Do you remember how quiet your house was?
Your spouse was probably still in bed, snoring away peacefully with mouth agape.
Your kids were probably dreaming of superheroes, birthday parties and ponies.
Even the dog was probably snoring.
The phone was quiet, the television was off and the gardeners were hours away from coming over to blow your leaves into your neighbor’s yard.
There were fewer distractions. That’s a perfect work environment.
With fewer interruptions, you can focus on your work. Tasks that might take you an hour to complete when your kids are screaming bloody murder may take half that amount of time.
You’re not just gaining time by waking up early. You’re gaining quiet time. That makes all the difference in the world.
Have you ever arrived at the office before anyone else. Do you remember how productive you were? It’s the same idea, just at home.
#3 – Time To Exercise
Getting to the gym is tough after leaving the office. You’re tired and hungry and the last thing on your mind is running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
I understand. I was the same way when I worked in Corporate America.
And that’s one of the huge advantages to being an early riser. You have time to exercise before your workday starts. You can hit the gym, go for a run around your neighborhood or take your dog for a walk.
As a bonus, you’ll feel pumped for the rest of your day.
#4 – More Energy
Remember the last time you slept in and had to drag yourself out of bed? It was like your brain was in zombie-mode despite having just slept for 10 hours.
When you develop the early-riser habit, that grogginess evaporates.
Oh sure, you’ll feel groggy during the first few days as your brain tries to adjust to your new sleep patterns. That’s natural.
But as time goes by, you’ll experience it less and less. Once the habit really takes form, you’ll wake up ready to tackle the day.
Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try and see for yourself.
#5 – Better Outlook
For me, this was one of the most surprising things about waking up earlier. I became more optimistic about things.
That may have had something to do with my getting so much work done in the quiet hours of the morning. I love being productive. I feel great when I’m crushing my to-do list. So of course, I felt optimistic!
But it might also have been due to less stress. Deadlines didn’t seem like black clouds anymore. I was getting things done early (most of the time), which allowed me to relax.
You’ll never hear an early riser say, “Man, getting up early is just depressing.” They tend to have a great outlook on life.
#6 – Time To Review Your Goals
Hopefully, you have goals.
Most people don’t. They have dreams such as winning the lottery. They have aspirations like writing a novel. But goals that spur action and come with deadlines are usually in short supply.
But you’re different. If you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in personal development and lifestyle management. Goals are a natural part of that package.
The early morning hours are the perfect time to review your goals. You can evaluate your progress without worrying about interruptions. You can also brainstorm new goals and the steps you need to take to reach them.
Let’s switch gears. I’ll assume you’re convinced that getting up early is a great way to boost your productivity. I’ll now give you several tips for developing the habit.
7 Simple Hacks To Become An Early Riser
In a recent email, I recommended setting your alarm clock 10 feet away from your bed. Doing so forces you to get up to turn it off. It eliminates the chance that you’ll slap the snooze button (or throw your clock out the window).
Here are 7 more tips.
By the way, if you’re not on my email list, you’re missing out on a ton of great content! I share strategies, hacks and stories with my subscribers that I don’t post on the blog. If you want the good stuff, fill in your name and email address below. I’ll even send a link to download my 40-page action guide “Catapult Your Productivity! The Top 10 Habits You Must Develop To Get More Things Done.“
Now, let’s get to those tips. Here’s how to become an early riser…
#1 – Go To Bed Earlier
Don’t just shorten your sleep time. If you’re going to get up an hour earlier, go to bed an hour earlier. If there’s one thing scientists agree on, it’s that we need to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Some studies show 7 hours is the ideal amount of sleep.
Can you function on less? Probably. I got by with 4 hours of sleep each night for more than a year.
But I paid for it. I fell asleep during meetings, I was constantly agitated and the quality of my output suffered. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t.
Learn from my mistake.
Now, it’s one thing to say, “I’ll go to bed early.” It’s another thing entirely to actually do it. There are a lot obstacles between you and your bed.
For example, you might have kids. The younger they are, the more work you have to do to get them ready for bed.
You may get pulled into past episodes of The Walking Dead. Trust me, I relate.
You might find yourself working late to finish a high-priority project. Again, I understand.
That’s why you need to create a nighttime routine for yourself. Choose a time to go to bed and work backwards. For example, let’s say you decide to hit the sack at 10:00 p.m. Here’s what your routine might look like:
turn off the computer by 7:00 p.m.
start the process of putting the kids to bed at 8:00 p.m.
take a shower at 9:00 p.m.
relax with your Kindle at 9:15 p.m.
stare at the backs of your eyelids at 10:00 p.m. (mission accomplished!)
Creating and sticking to a routine helped me to get to bed earlier. It’ll help you too.
Side note: I’ve been reading a lot lately about the science of sleep. Here’s a terrific article that addresses how much sleep you need.
#2 – Focus On 15 Minutes
You’ve heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” That old saw can also be applied to changing your sleep habits.
If you can get up an hour earlier every day without experiencing any consequences – for example, extreme grogginess and grouchiness – great! But if you’re like most people, that’s a recipe for failure.
It’s like quitting sugar cold turkey. You’re going to suffer withdrawals. (I’ll cover how to quit sugar and the reasons to do so down the road. Join my email list to get a heads up when I publish that blog post.)
A much better way to become an early riser is to work in small, 15-minute increments. Let’s say you normally get up at 7:00 a.m. Try this:
spend this week getting up at 6:45 a.m.
spend the following week getting up at 6:30 a.m.
spend the week after that getting up at 6:15 a.m.
get up at 6:00 a.m. during the 4th week.
Yahtzee! See how easy that is?
It’s like losing weight. The guy or gal who goes on a juice diet and sheds 40 pounds in 2 months is probably going to pack that weight back on at some point. Meanwhile, the smart guy or gal who slowly adopts a healthier diet and loses a pound a week in the process is more likely to keep the weight off.
That’s how becoming an early riser works. Be the tortoise. Not the hare.
#3 – Create A Morning Routine
You should have a number of tasks lined up to perform when you get out of bed. I’m not talking about brushing your teeth (though you’ll definitely want to take care of that dragon breath). I’m talking about things that will get your day started on the right foot.
Things that will set the stage for massive productivity.
Having a routine precludes thinking about what you should do when you wake up. Back when I first started to get up earlier, I didn’t have a routine. So, I’d get up, check email, visit a few online forums and mosey on over to CNN.com to see what was going on in the world.
I wasted a ton of time.
Here’s my current routine:
get up at 5:30 a.m.
chug a glass of water
make myself look presentable (or nearly so)
grab my backpack (I pack it at night) and head to Starbucks
pay for a large coffee
insert my earbuds and queue some Chopin or Spanish guitar music
review my to-do list and identify my highest-priority task for that day
I’m hard at work by 6:00 a.m. (My shower happens in the late morning.)
With that routine in place, I never have to think about what I should be doing when I get out of bed. I already have my marching orders. It’s just a matter of taking action.
If you don’t already have a morning routine, I strongly recommend coming up with one. It’s the best way I know to hit the ground running when you get out of bed.
#4 – Eliminate Your “Plan B”
The brain is a funny thing. Sometimes, it’s your best friend. It keeps your body running properly, triggers rewarding emotions and when your life is at stake, spurs you to take action (the ‘ole fight-or-flight response).
But other times, the brain is like that mischievous friend who’s always trying to pull you into something dubious. You know the type. The kind that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
When you’re trying to become an early riser, your brain will become that latter type of friend. It’ll try to convince you to hit snooze and enjoy a few more winks. It’ll whisper that sleeping in will only help you perform better during the day.
If it thinks it’s losing you, it’ll start calling you crazy for climbing out of a warm bed just to start work earlier.
Your brain will try relentlessly to convince you to execute Plan B: going back to sleep.
What’s the best defense? Be like the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés. Back in the mid-1500’s, Cortés started taking control of what would become Central Mexico. The problem was, a bunch of his guys were thinking about abandoning the expedition.
So Cortés sunk his ships (he didn’t burn them as is often claimed). In effect, he eliminated Plan B, removing his men’s plan of escape. He probably didn’t make any friends that day. But he did quell a mutiny. So he had that going for him.
In a similar fashion, you need to eliminate any Plan B your brain presents as an option. When your brain tries to convince you to stay in bed – or calls you crazy for wanting to get out of it – you can simply ignore it.
Following its suggestions is no longer an option.
#5 – Leave Your Bedroom
Ideally, your bedroom should be designed to support only a few activities:
reading in bed
enjoying “quality time” with your significant other
If you’re not doing any of those things, you don’t have a reason to hang around. That being the case, leave your bedroom as soon as you climb out of bed. Staying there will only tempt you to get back under the warm covers.
Also, keep in mind that your significant other will still be sawing wood when you wake up. That’s another reason to leave. Let him or her sleep in peace.
#6 – Track Your Early-Morning Output
Ever heard the saying “what gets measured gets managed?” Put another way, you can’t improve what you don’t track.
I’m a huge advocate of tracking things. Here are some of the items on my list:
how long it takes me to write a blog post
how long it takes me to write a client’s article
how long it takes me to check email each day
how many words I write each day
how many hours I spend writing
how long it takes me to write a pitch for a trade publication
I track those things because that’s the only way I can know whether I’m improving or slacking off. It’s also a huge motivator. At the end of the week, I can see how many words I’ve written, how many pitches I’ve sent and whether I’m hitting my production targets.
If I did well during the week, I’m more enthused to keep up my momentum.
That’s why you should track your early-morning production. Each morning, jot down a few notes regarding the tasks you accomplished by waking up early. Here are some ideas:
number of emails returned
small tasks completed
plans made for the week
bills paid for the month
Obviously, the items you track will depend on your morning routine. You may do things a lot differently than I do. So your list of items will look different than mine.
The important thing is to monitor your output. Then, review it at the end of week. You’ll be floored by how much more you accomplished just be waking up an hour or two earlier each day.
#7 – Go Easy On Yourself
You’re probably going to stumble. The road to becoming an early riser is an uneven one filled with bumps and crevices.
If you’ve been a night owl your entire life, you can’t expect to change overnight. Nor can you expect to adopt an entirely new sleep pattern without the occasional mistake.
You might rationalize sleeping in when you know you shouldn’t. You might hit the snooze button and climb back into bed when you know doing so is going to hamper your morning productivity.
Don’t beat yourself up over it. It happens. Heck, I’ve done it more times than I can count.
The goal isn’t to become a machine. It’s to develop a new sleeping habit. The occasional failure is part of the experience. If you stumble on Monday, don’t worry about it. Get back on track the following day.
Beating yourself up will only discourage you. And that’s no way to improve yourself.
Here’s What I Want You To Do Right Now
Start developing this habit tomorrow. Commit to setting your alarm ahead by 15 minutes.
Next, sit down and create a morning routine and a nighttime routine. The former will provide your marching orders when you wake up tomorrow. The latter will help you to hit the sack earlier so you’ll get a sufficient amount of sleep.
Remember, personal development is all about taking action. I’ve just given you a complete plan for becoming an early riser and boosting your daily, weekly and monthly productivity.
The rest is up to you.
Photo by bark