Waking up early is a crucial trait that many have tried to master. Its importance has been acknowledged by renowned leaders such as Richard Branson of Virgin Group and First Lady, Michelle Obama. As with any human behavior, the key to making it a sustainable habit is understanding how your body works and aligning it with your goals.
Early in my career, I co-founded a company and with only 24 hours in the day, I started waking up early to get quiet time to think. The timing also worked well since I had to connect with global clients living in different time zones. This habit has remained with me over the years.
I’ve always been a morning person so waking up early gives me the opportunity to split my day and schedule it in the way that’s most productive. It also gives me the flexibility to spend more time with my children later in the day.
I start at 4:30 am with a strong cup of coffee and an agenda that includes 20-30 minutes each of meditation, journaling, reading and working out. In my current role as a manager, I keep an eye on high-level goals while operating at the ground level. Starting this way stimulates my thinking and keeps me grounded throughout the rest of the day.
A few years ago, we were blessed with twin boys and, admittedly, my sleep pattern was off. It took a couple of years and several missed tries for me to get back on track. I experimented with various alarm settings & sleep times but could not keep it up consistently. It was then that I discovered author and coach, Benjamin Hardy on Medium. He has several sound tips to create successful routines based on behavioral psychology.
What I found worked best for me was:
- Make it routine to go to bed at about the same time each day. Mine is at 10 pm.
- Avoid electronics that are designed to keep you up and attached 1 hour before sleep. Read something instead.
- Set your alarm for 90 min blocks to help you wake up.
- Put your alarm across the room so you have to get up to turn it off. This builds momentum and you keep going.
- Use a gentle waking tone to pull you out from a deep sleep. My favorite is the sound of tweeting birds.
- Commit to waking up early every day. Breaking the cycle on weekends makes it harder to get up again on Monday. If you need to, you can always take a power nap later in the day.
Understandably this is not for everyone. A friend of mine tried to wake up early and finally gave in because her creative clock comes up at night. Waking up early for its own sake can be counterproductive. Ariana Huffington spoke to the value of sleep as a way to be more productive so be sure you are getting enough sleep. On average, 6-8 hours is recommended. My advice is to track your activities and energy level during the day and adjust your sleep pattern accordingly.
Also, understand why you want to wake up that early and what you want to do with the time. Personally, I find it both magical and practical to wake up before dawn and have this time for myself to write, ponder and learn something new each day.
This article was initially published on Upworthy