How to Wake Up Early

Morning in SeattleDeveloping the discipline to wake up early comes with tons of benefits. Instead of hitting snooze time and again before rolling out of bed, scrambling to get dressed, and rushing to work, I’ve found I am more awake, productive, and happy when I wake up an hour or two before work and go through my morning routine.

One of the most crucial things to understand about waking up early is that most of us prefer to sleep until the last minute of our lives because we’re unhappy with where we are and are unimpressed with where we’re heading. I get it, I’ve been there.

Waking up day after day to put in eight hours of work doing something you don’t like in order to live is no fun. It’s especially difficult when the guy who’s running the show is a moron. Looking around, you can’t understand how the place stays in business, and if you were in charge…Any of this sound familiar? If so, you probably don’t have a compelling future to work towards.

People with powerful goals don’t tend to sit around and complain about where they are and what they are doing because they know they won’t be here for ever. Unfortunately, most people in the first world have fallen into society’s trap of being overly comfortable, which is exactly why taking the time to set goals and find your purpose is so damn important.

Whether or not you know it, you’ve been setting goals all along the way – graduate high school, go to college, get a diploma, find a good company to work for.. Or in my case, just barely get out of high school, join a union, go back to college, start a business.. It’s generally one or the other. All of these little benchmarks are examples of goals, albeit not very original, they are goals just the same.

But now that you’ve gotten a diploma, now that you’ve finished college, now that you’re working a job that pays well and has great benefits, it’s time to start setting new goals. Bigger goals. Better goals. Goals that are tailored to your wants and needs, not goals that have been set for you by your parents or society. Goals that you’re excited about pursuing.

But I digress..

This article is not about goal setting (although goals do play a big role in whether or not you get out of bed in the morning), this article is about how to wake up earlier and get to work on your life. We’ll save goal setting for another time, for now, let’s focus on getting up in the morning.

Below I’ve compiled a list of 8 tricks I use to make getting out of bed easy. Some of these must be done the night before, some the morning of. All of them will make rising and shining much easier to do.

Pleasure vs. Pain

Some argue that all of our actions are based on seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Pleasure can mean different things to different people (as can pain), but unless you change your thought processes to find pleasure while experiencing situations you’re perceiving as painful, you’re going to have a hard time challenging yourself. We’ll play around with that idea more below, but for now I just want you to understand that all of these tips focus on making waking up more pleasurable than sleeping.

1 – Put your alarm in another room (Pain) – If you get up and have to get out of bed to shut your alarm off, you’re halfway through the battle. It doesn’t have to be in another room per say, but put it at least a couple steps from where you slumber. The further away the better.

If your alarm is on your phone, that’s fine. Silence that thing and stick it on the other side of the room.

2 – Choose an upbeat alarm (Pleasure) – Instead of having a screeching siren or some corny dinging alarm that came with your phone, download an upbeat and inspirational song to wake you up. Nothing risks ruining your day more than an obnoxious wailing to start your day.

3 – Lay out your clothes (Pleasure) – Getting back in bed because its warm and comfortable was a big reason I failed to get up early in the past. It wasn’t until I learned that setting my clothes out the night before prevented me from freezing each morning (pain).  Now I just hop up, shut off the alarm, and get dressed. I warm up in no time and the desire to get back in bed is dwarfed by the pain of undressing and redressing again later.

Taking a shower to warm up is another way to get past the uncomfortable out-of-the-covers experience. Still, have your clothes ready the night before so you aren’t wasting your time and energy making decisions about something as trivial as getting dressed.

On that note, I also recommend preparing your lunch, charging your computer, and doing whatever else you need to do in order to get your day going. Preparation is the key to success.

4 – Set a bedtime (Pleasure) – Since most people don’t go to bed at a set time, they often associate waking up early with not getting enough sleep – two completely different issues. In order to stay away from this hurdle, choose a consistent bed time and stick to it. For a couple days, pay attention to how many hours of sleep you can operate on and do the math. I can run on 6. In fact, I can’t sleep more than 6 or I feel like I’m wasting time.

So figure out what works for you and stick with it. 10-12 hours is way too much in my opinion. If that’s where you’re at, I highly recommend checking out the goal setting workshop I linked to earlier. For real.

5 – Plan your day (Pleasure) – Part of my evening routine is having my day planned before I get in bed. This helps me rest easy knowing I have everything ready to go for the coming day (back to that decision fatigue thing). Another cool thing to point out is when you plan out your day you unconsciously start making a mental action plan for what you’ve gotta do to complete each task. You’ll find yourself calm, confident, and more successful at working extra things you want to accomplish into your day.

6 – Smile and be grateful (Pleasure) – I used to wake up and bitch about how I wish I had gotten more sleep, how I didn’t want to go to work, how crappy my life was. I didn’t do it out loud, but in my head I was thinking ‘Man I’m tired.. I don’t wanna to go to work! Today is going to suck!’ and so on. If this internal dialogue sounds at all familiar, it may be in your interest to teach yourself to enjoy waking up instead of dreading it. Here’s how:

  1. Smile When you smile, you feel good. Before getting out of bed – I mean right when you wake up – smile the biggest, dumbest, fakest smile you’ve ever smiled. This will trigger your body produce happiness neurotransmitters like dopamine, allow you to start the day with some feel good.
  2. Practice Gratitude – We’ve all got way more going for us than we tend to remember, let’s make a conscious effort to change that. After your big smile, ask yourself: ‘What am I grateful for?’ Your mind will automatically start answering. With practice, you can look around and say ‘I’m grateful for my refrigerator that keeps my food cold. I’m grateful for the roof over my head. I’m grateful for my teeth that allow me to eat.” And so on and so forth. Use these thoughts of gratitude to keep the negative self-talk away and to remind you that life is pretty damn good.


7 – Eat breakfast
 (Pleasure) – People often skip breakfast because the first thing they ingest in the morning is caffeine. Did you know that caffeine is an appetite suppressant? That’s right, so all those mornings you think you aren’t hungry, what’s really happened is you’ve muted your appetite, all the while your body is dying for some fuel.

Your body deals with not having food by storing more fat. On the other hand, eating breakfast will raise your metabolism, making your body burn more calories.

Prepare your breakfast just like you’d lay out your clothes – making the process painless and simple. Cereal, a protein shake, or some fruit are great examples of quick and easy breakfast foods.

8 – Get out of the house (Pleasure) – If you’re getting up early to work on yourself before work, it can be challenging to stay out of bed when it’s sitting right there. Now if you’ve done everything discussed above – gotten dressed, practiced gratitude, eaten breakfast – this shouldn’t be too big of a deal, but you’re still having trouble with it, plan to leave the house right away.

Find a coffee shop or grocery store where you can do your first hour of ‘me work’ or just go to the gym. Getting your heart rate up and your body moving is a great way to get the habit of early morning rising going.

Conclude

So that’s that, those are my tips for making early mornings easy to do. If waking up early is important to you, I suggest choosing 3 of the 8 tips that stand out most to you and applying them as early as tomorrow. In my opinion, the most crucial are #1 having your alarm away from your bed, #3 – laying out your clothes, and #4 – setting a bedtime. But again, do what’s right for you.

To get ingrain new habits I’m starting, I make little check lists and leave them in a particular place, checking off each of the tasks as I go. Doing this reinforces the new behavior right away, making it stick a whole lot easier.

Bonus

Notice the ‘pain’ and ‘pleasure’ marks on each of the behaviors? See if you can notice your behaviors in other areas of your life and determine if they are leading you towards pleasure or away from pain. How can you act differently to get the results you want?

Do you have any tips for getting out of bed early? Share them along with any questions or comments below!

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