It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You want to become an early riser.
You know that waking up early is one of the best ways to be more productive. You know that many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are early risers.
Yet no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to stop hitting snooze.
You don’t have to let productivity slip through your hands forever. Here’s how to finally wake up earlier:
Setting your alarm earlier doesn’t always mean you’ll rise earlier. If you find yourself constantly hitting “snooze” until your regular wake-up time, your body probably needs time to adjust.
Instead of a 5 a.m. wake-up right away, set your alarm one minute earlier every second day until you’ve reached your goal.
Current wake-up time: 6:30 AM
Goal: 5:45 AM
Two days later: 6:28
Another two days later: 6:27
In a month, you’ll wake up 15 minutes earlier and hardly notice. You’ll have made it “so easy you can’t say no.”
You’ll take longer to reach your goal, but taking a few months to build the habit is better than never building it at all.
Waking up at 5 a.m. certainly gives you a lot of extra quiet hours to get things done, but if your normal wake-up time is 8:30 a.m., you won’t succeed at waking up at 5 a.m. right away.
Consider financial expert Dave Ramsey’s debt-snowball method of repaying the smallest debt first. Some argue that the indebted should focus on debts with the highest interest rate.
This is logical because you’ll save more money, but we’re not motivated by logic.
Dave Ramsey’s method generates small wins, which are motivating. This explains why we can lose weight easier after we’ve lost one pound. Progress encourages us to continue.
Instead of relying on logic and setting a goal of waking up two hours earlier, try half an hour earlier. When you reach that goal, you’ll have generated a small win.
You can re-visit your wake-up time after you’ve met your first goal, but you must walk before you can run.
Set a meeting with other early risers first thing in the morning.
This is effective because:
- It creates accountability; you won’t want to let them down.
- It uses biological signals; studies have shown that when we have something important to do at a certain time, our bodies will wake us up naturally. That’s why you wake up right before your alarm if the task is important enough.
- You’re putting something at stake—your reputation as somebody who follows through.
When your alarm clock is the only thing counting on you to wake up early, a warm bed is more compelling.
You’re far more likely to stick with a habit if you engineer your environment. For example, you’re more likely to exercise if your gym clothes are set out.
Here is how you can engineer your environment to wake up early:
- Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
- Set your coffee on a timer so it’s ready when you wake up.
- Put out a warm robe before bed so you can easily access it when you get out of bed.
What actions are you taking that cause you to fail? Analyze exactly what you’ve already tried to wake up earlier:
- What steps have you taken?
- Why did they fail?
- What could have been done differently?
If I’ve previously tried setting my alarm but didn’t get out of bed because the house was cold, I could have anticipated that issue and set out a robe and slippers the night before.
Be honest with yourself. Why have you failed before?
What’s your vision for your extra time when you master the habit of waking up earlier?
Have you considered the impact of that vision on whether you follow through?
If your morning vision is to run when you wake up, but you don’t like running, you associate early rising with something unpleasant.
Change sticks when it’s associated with something pleasant. Plan to do something you love during your early mornings. When your early-morning plan includes something you’re excited about, that snooze button stops seeing so much action.
Think about it: if your goal doesn’t sound exciting, you’ll always see waking up early as a punishment, which won’t motivate you to jump out of bed when your alarm goes off.
Jerry Seinfeld had one simple accountability trick up his sleeve: tracking his progress on a calendar. He wanted to write jokes every day, and when he did, he’d mark an “X” on a calendar with the marker, creating a chain after a few days of consistency. The chain motivated Seinfeld to stick with writing.
Just think of how motivating a calendar hanging within eyeshot of your bed would be, the days begging to be crossed off with a big red marker.
Did you know that your struggle with rising early has a lot to do with self-belief? Convincing yourself that you’re “not a morning person” is a limiting belief.
Changing your self-belief from “I’m not a morning person” to “I’m the type of person who wakes up early” subtly changes your behavior because self-belief is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Waking up early won’t be easy for your first couple of weeks. Your body needs time to adjust to this new routine.
But just think: you’re so close to crazy productivity–to getting projects done while the rest of the world sleeps–with no interruptions or distractions.
And once you get adjusted to your new schedule, you’ll be in the club. You’ll finally know what everyone is talking about.
And you’ll never go back to being “not a morning person.”
—Sarah Peterson is the author of Unsettle.org, where she helps people stop settling for “okay” lives and careers and start acting on their ideas. Get her report, 5 Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Use for Insane Productivity and become instantly more productive.