I went from chronic oversleeping and missing exams to waking up at 3:45 am for 3 years straight. Here's a guide on how I did it and how you can too.
In my freshman year of college, I realized that the mornings I was actually able to get myself out of bed early, I was more productive, turned to healthier habits, and ultimately had a better day than the days I overslept.
The problem was that I couldn't get myself to do this consistently. I would do great for two or three days, then something would happen where I just decided sleeping was better and it threw me back off track.
After trial and error for months on end, I finally found a combination of three methods that always got me out of bed early when I wanted, regardless of how I felt when I woke up.
What I will teach you
The three methods I'll cover below can be used individually or together. Even though I made it nearly three years of waking up around 4 am, I still have times that I get off track. I'm in a sleep-in slump as I write this (I slept until 6:30 am this morning and past 7 am yesterday).
But that's precisely why I am sharing this. I decided today that I want to start waking up early again, and I know I will be able to simply by applying these three methods. Knowing these tips would have saved me a lot of time and frustration had I known about them earlier.
I hope you succeed by applying these tips, and please share with me in the comments below if you have other tips that have helped you get out of bed early. I'll make it a point to update this article with new ideas and methods regularly.
Method 1 - Plan The Night Before
Setting a simple alarm and telling yourself the night before you'll wake up on time is not enough. You need to give yourself and clear reason to wake up and an easy path to do so.
Set A Realistic Time
The night before I plan to wake up early, I first make sure my time is realistic. If I've been going to bed late and sleeping in until 7 am for weeks, making a new goal to wake up at 3:45 am all of the sudden is not going to work well or be sustainable.
Make a realistic goal according to how much time it will take for you to actually accomplish the goals you want in the morning. If you want to workout, set the alarm for 30-45 minutes before you usually wake up, not three hours before.
Put Out All Clothing and Accessories
If I plan to workout first thing in the morning and take the dog for a walk, I grab all my workout clothes the night before and set them in the bathroom along with my shoes, dog leash, and anything else I will need to get straight out the door.
Take away your morning excuses by making it as easy as possible to get started. You have more motivation and energy to get these items the night before than you will when you are groggy and tired at 4 in the morning.
I use a supplemental drink called Early Bird that I mix the night before and set on the bathroom counter to give me an extra kick in the morning and make waking up that much easier.
Set Top Three Goals
Have a reason you are getting up early. Don't do it to do it, or you will fail. I have a notebook beside my bed where I write three simple goals with checkboxes next to each. For example:
- 1: Workout 45 minutes
- 2: Read for 20 minutes
- 3: Drink 24 ounces of water
This might seem like a simple or even stupid step since you won't need reminders for simple items, but you'd be wrong. It's not about forgetting the items; it's about affirming what you plan to do and making an effort to write it down.
Something happens mentally when we put pen to paper and actually write our goals. Waking up is SIGNIFICANTLY easier when I have actually written down what I plan to accomplish in the morning.
Method 2 - Set Up An Easy Accountability System
Outside accountability will be your best friend. It's easy to let ourselves down. It's harder to fail in front of others. For three years, when I was consistently waking up at 3:45 am, I was meeting a friend at the gym at 4:30 am every morning.
Find a friend you trust
This forced me to wake up on even the hardest mornings since I knew someone would be waiting for me at the gym. I realize not everyone has this, and I no longer have this, so I had to resort to setting up a similar but easier accountability system to keep myself on track.
Find a friend you trust and start a text chain with them. If they have similar goals to you, that's even better, but not required. Your text to them will look something like this:
"I am going to be waking up and working out at 5 am tomorrow. If I don't send you a picture of the gym by 5:15 am, I owe you $20."
Make a bet
This is a one-sided accountability text that can be done with anyone. Texts are timestamped and it will be apparent if you fail. It also stings you twice. Once because to publically set a goal and failed, and second because it cost you monetarily.
You don't need to make a monetary bet, but make it something that will hurt a little. You want the bet to be something that motivates you to get up.
I had a text chain with two other guys that I used for over a year to keep accountable for various goals and it helped all of us stay on track or pay up when we didn't.
Method 3 - Use The Goofy Rehearsal Mind Trick
This is by far the goofiest trick and one of the most effective tricks I've found. Waking up can be much easier than you think if you learn how your mind works as soon as you wake up.
As I'm sure you are aware, we have conscious and subconscious thoughts. It's our conscious mind that keeps us in bed. It's your conscious mind that reminds you how important sleep is, that the bed feels warm, that you don't actually need to wake up right now, and that 5 more minutes won't hurt anyone.
The trick to waking up without snoozing is avoiding the conscious mind altogether. When you wake up from a dead sleep, your conscious mind takes a few seconds to kick in. You want to train your subconscious mind to kick you out of bed first. Here is how to do it.
Warning: I know this sounds bizarre, but give it a try anyway and you will be shocked at how well it works.
The night before you plan to start waking up earlier, set up your room as we talked about in step 1. Place out your clothes, set your goals, etc...
Get ready for bed, and then climb into bed and set your alarm just as you would normally do. Here's the trick. Set your alarm for 5 minutes in the future.
Start getting comfortable and actually try to begin falling asleep. When your alarm goes off, IMMEDIATELY sit up, smile (the act of smiling scientifically alters your brain chemistry to put you in a better mood), stand up, and go put on your clothes right away. No waiting. Get dressed then walk out of your bedroom.
Repeat the process a second and third time. Change back into your PJs, reset the room, place your clothes back on the floor, set your alarm for 5-10 minutes in the future, and get back in bed.
You will feel stupid rehearsing this, but I promise the 15 minutes it takes to do these rehearsals will completely change the way you wake up.
After you've done this full rehearsal 3 times, set your room back up and actually set your real alarm time, and hop in bed for the night.
When you wake up the next morning, without even trying, your subconscious mind will kick in automatically and get you up and out of bed before you even have a chance to think it through.
Don't break the cycle. Once you've started this, waking up will be easy. The only thing that makes it difficult again is if you intentionally sleep in and break your momentum. In all honestly, the easiest way to make waking up early easy is to do it every day (weekends included). I realize this is difficult and how nice it is to sleep in a bit on the weekends.
If you still want to sleep in on the weekends, I recommend you at least do the following. For the weekends, choose before you go to bed if you plan to sleep in or not. If you plan to sleep in, don't set an early alarm, and don't set up your room like you would for waking up early.
The problems really arise when you have "good intentions" of waking up early on the weekend but know you don't "need" to, so you set your early alarm, put out your clothes, and then purposefully snooze the alarm since there is no real need to wake up early. This tells your subconscious mind that the triggers don't really matter and you will sleep in next time as well.
I am able to avoid this by making a commitment to myself. If I put out my clothes and set my alarm early, I need to wake up no matter what. If I plan to sleep in that's fine, but I don't set the early alarm and I don't set up my room like I normally would.
That way my mind knows if the alarm goes off, I get up no matter what. There are never times I set the alarm if I actually don't need to wake up early. I hope that makes sense.
Putting it all together
Waking up early is genuinely easy when you build up momentum. The key is realizing how valuable momentum is and not purposefully breaking it. Using the three methods above, I promise no matter how much of a sleeper you are, you will be up and at it early.
Once you build that initial momentum, all three methods don't need to be used at all times. I only do the "rehearsal" method when I've been off track for a while and want to kick myself into gear. I don't do it daily.
Depending on my goals and what I'm doing well at or slacking on, I might set up an accountability text or I may not.
The only method I do every day regardless is setting up the night before as outlined in method 1. This is non-negotiable for me and makes waking up early worth it and productive.
Nothing is worse than waking up early, getting out of bed, and realizing you have no game plan. I promise your conscious mind will bring you right back to your bed, convincing you that sleep is much more important than your non-existent plans.
If you struggle to wake up early and find these steps helpful, let me know if the comments below what worked best and any new tricks or tips you implemented into your routine that might help others reading this article.
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