How to Wake Up Early in the Morning (7 Simple Steps)

7 simple steps to wake up early and win the morning

Waking up early could be dreadful for many people. However, many of the most successful high performers in business, sports, and art have attributed waking up early in the morning as one of the key contributors to their success.

People like Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama have been known to rise at the crack of dawn.

Successful people who wake up early

I’ve been an early riser for years. Waking up early allows me to get extra work done before the day even starts in a quiet space with a clear mind. Even during weekends, waking up early means I have more time for my morning routines, like meditation, working out, and reading.

I get it. Not all early risers are successful, and waking up late isn’t a failure. You don’t need to wake up early to accomplish great success. And there are natural night owls who perform at their best late at night. However, it’s undeniable that waking up early has many benefits.

If you have no plan to wake up early, ignore and skip this article. But if you’re someone who has been thinking about rising early, this article is for you. Here, I’m going to lay out the step-by-step action you can take to start waking up early.

1. Set a goal. What time do you want to wake up?

Ask yourself: “What time do I want to wake up?”

Telling yourself to wake up early without a specific time is too vague. If waking up is already challenging for you, a vague statement like that is destined to fail.

Setting a goal also acts as a reality check. If you’re waking at 10 AM most days, trying to wake up at 5 AM will be challenging, if not impossible. Instead, start small and set a realistic number.

2. Give yourself a reason to get off your bed early

After you set your goal, the next step is not to set the alarm but to understand why you want to wake up early in the first place.

I’ve shared a few benefits I’ve gotten from waking up early. And it would be best for you to find out why you want to do that for yourself. It could be to

  • Get some work done before your kids get up
  • Hit the gym before you head to work
  • Plan for the day before other people’s agenda creeps in

Being clear with the reason makes it easier to get up early, or at least not to hit the snooze button and get back to sleep.

3. Start by sleeping earlier

Now, it’s time to get into action. One of the main reasons why most people can’t wake up early is that they go to bed too late at night.

Let’s be realistic here. If you want to get up early, you have to sleep early. Getting up early by losing your precious sleep is not a sustainable strategy. It also defies your objectives to wake up early because you’re unlikely to get off bed feeling refreshed.

So, make sure you clock in enough hours of sleep every day. For most people, that will be around 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night—on average.

4. Optimize your sleep to get better quality rest

Besides sleeping earlier, optimizing your sleep environment will also help improve your sleep quality.

Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, which encourages the production of the sleep hormone called melatonin to knock you off.

At the same time, keep your room cold with a temperature of 16 to 20 degrees Celsius (approximately 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

5. Create a before-bed routine

In episode 8 of Work Less, I talked about bookending your day with a morning and evening routine. A before-bed ritual will help you get to bed early and improve your sleep quality in many folds.

Schedule 60 to 90 minutes before bed to wind down. I usually start my before-bed routine with a quick, 10 minutes daily review. Then I spend somewhere from 20 to 40 minutes reading before bed.

A few other things to improve your sleep quality include:

  • Avoid caffeine 8 to 10 hours before bed and food 2 hours before bed.
  • Shut down completely from your work and life obligations.
  • Avoid high-intensity workout that drives your body temperature up.
  • Reduce, or best, avoid blue light exposure before bed. In other words, no screen before sleep.

6. Waking up early

Now you’ve done prepping for your sleep, it’s time to go to bed and wake up early the next day.

Use an alarm, especially in the first one to two weeks. It would be helpful to have a sleep tracking alarm to wake you up during your light sleep phase. If you don’t use a sleep tracking alarm, the 90-minute rule from the book Night School by Richard Wiseman may come in handy.

A complete sleep cycle (consisting of light sleep, deep rest, and REM) usually takes around 90 minutes. Set your alarm by calculating blocks of 90 minutes from your sleep time.

7. Build the routine into weekends and special days

Now we’ve covered pretty much everything about how to wake up early; let’s talk about weekends and special occasions.

You may have different plans for the weekends. But keeping your sleep schedule consistent could make it much easier in the long run. If you need to sleep later than usual on weekends, try to limit the sleep time differences in only one to two hours.

For special events like vacations and conferences, get ready and plan your schedule in advance. This may sound extreme but if you’re serious with waking up early, plan your work and personal life around your sleep.

In other words, protect your sleep first.

Wake up early by mastering your sleep

Again, you don’t need to wake up early to be productive and successful. Waking up at 5 AM doesn’t turn someone into a high performer magically.

As you’ve noticed, all the steps above are closely related to sleep. Ultimately, it’s about how you protect your sleep and manage your energy to get the best out of your waking hours.

To wrap it up, remember that changing your behavior is a long process. Instead of trying to hit your goal (to wake up early) as soon as possible, track and measure the progress and focus on taking small steps at a sustainable pace.


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