Do you have dreams of waking up before the sun rises, making a piping hot cup of tea, and sitting down in the pristine AM silence and [insert favorite activity here]?
Maybe you want to write.
Maybe you want to plan your day.
Maybe you just want to sit and meditate before the harsh realities of your world come crashing down on you.
I have dreamed for a very long time of becoming a morning person. Instead, I have mostly achieved being a mess of a morning person. Meaning, I set my alarm and hit snooze no less than 10 times. Then I get out of bed, groggy and annoyed with only 25 minutes to get out the door. Then I proceed to pull all the clothes out of my drawers and closet searching for something to wear and landing on something I only feel mildly pleased with. Then I take a shower and think about how I need to buy more clothes because I have nothing to wear. Now that I also have no time to do my makeup, I rush through my beauty routines. If I’m lucky I scarf down a breakfast which I try not to choke and die on. Then I run out of the house make it halfway to the subway, where I remember I forgot my planner, my laptop charger, and my gym clothes.
Does this sound familiar? Because if so, Hi friend! So nice to meet you. Don’t mornings suck?
But they don’t have to. I’m slowly learning to become a morning person, and if I of all people can do it, so can you. For the last 2 weeks, I’ve been trying something different – something of my own creation and finally, things are starting to click. And while I’m not waking up at 5AM yet, I am getting up around 6AM and my first thought isn’t “Oh god no, why me.” So that’s progress, isn’t it?
Over the years, I have read many different articles and blog posts about waking up in the morning. Some of those tips you’ll see below, but some will be new, some will be weird, some may sound like hippy lady non-sense, but just hear me out, okay?
Before we dive into these tips, I have to express one thing super clearly:
We’re all really different and this is a good thing. What works for one person, may not work for another. Trying to follow someone else’s routine may work for a little bit, but until it becomes truly yours, it probably won’t stick for long. And I imagine you’re looking for a permanent switch not a fling with the AM lifestyle.
So here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna give you a bunch of tips. No matter how many tips you read and think, oh I can do that, I want you to LIMIT yourself to at least 3 and no more than 5. You heard me. I don’t care if you read these tips and think: oh, I can do all of it, no problemo. That’s nice, but please don’t!
This isn’t a competition. This is about you adopting lifelong habits. And habit change takes time. Like 3-4 weeks of consistent implementation level time. Trying to change too many things at once is a quick path to failure. Also, there’s no like prize for the person who can implement all these habits at once, except maybe me being like “Cool bruh…”
So how do you pick which tips to follow? Well, I strongly recommend that you do at least the following:
- Pick one tip that deals with the evening
- Pick one tip that deals with the morning
- Pick one tip that deals with your mentality
If you start there, I promise you’ll see some change without overwhelming yourself. If you feel like you’ve gotten a routine into your system (typically takes 21- 30 days), then you can go ahead and layer on an additional tip.
So relax, let’s take this step by step, and select 3-5 tips to try and then report back. I genuinely want to hear how this went for you!
- Come up with an AM ritual that you actually WANT to do. If you hate running and you also hate waking up early – guess what: waking up early to go for a run is gonna be pretty damn hard. But if you really enjoy making smoothies, listening to a podcast, or meditating, consider putting that in your AM routine instead. Take a minute, right now, and dream about your perfect morning. If your perfect morning doesn’t include waking up early – then you need to reconsider how serious you are about this goal. Here’s my perfect morning: wake up, do yoga, meditate, make a cup of tea, write, read the news or listen to a podcast, check my finances, and make a hearty breakfast. If I did this everyday before 8AM without fail, I know I would be a much happier person (and pretty damn proud of myself).
- Perfect your evening routine. This is the most important trick for me getting up in the AM without hating myself and my life. I can’t believe I’ve fought my mother’s advice this long. For years she said: “Pack your bag, pack your lunch, and pick out your outfit” and I was all like, “Nahhhhh, why would I do that?” Now I get it: waking up is really fucking hard if you have a whole mountain of shit to wake up to like hunting for a cute outfit or running around your house looking for your keys and your laptop charger. Save yourself the hassle! Avoid waking up stressed by handling your biz the night before. For me that includes: packing my gym clothes, picking out an outfit for the next day, prepping breakfast and lunch, filling a water bottle, and packing my backpack (with my keys and wallet!).
- Cut out late night electronics. This is pretty hard for me because all the best shows come on at night and the TV is definitely an evening fixture in our household. Instead, I try to reduce my electronics usage by limiting how much I use my phone. Besides, very few good things come from late night social media prowling. We also installed these great Wi-Fi enabled lights in the house so we can dim the house lights via our phones. Being able to set the mood and transition into a more calm evening space has done wonders for me.
- Read a book (not a kindle) before going to bed. Don’t read anything too juicy. This is not time for the page turners. I suggest a good non-fiction book on a topic that you’re kinda interested in. Or if you’re trying to learn a language, this could be a good time to practice vocabulary or translate a kids book. Basically, you want to read something that will tire your mind out and get you ready for a good nights rest. I do not suggest reading the news before bed; it gives me anxiety, especially in this current political atmosphere. A good magazine will also do!
- Set an intention. I suggest doing this every night before you go to sleep. Just tell yourself: “I WILL wake up tomorrow at [insert time here] and have a productive and successful morning.” A big part of habit change is changing your mentality. Say some kind things to yourself before you go to sleep and commit to your new AM life. Try your best to avoid thought patterns like: “If you don’t wake up, you’re a lazy dumbfuck.” That type of verbal self-abuse is completely unproductive. And make sure to use strong verbs like, “will” or “intend” instead of “want” or “hope.”
- Get an accountability partner. Do you have a friend who’s really good at waking up in the morning? Ask them if you can text them every morning for a month just to say hi. And ask them to call you out when you fail to text them. This could also be a parent, a sibling, or a romantic partner. Another option is joining a facebook group or find a twitter hashtag to participate in. There’s a very popular #5AMWriterLife hashtag on Twitter and it’s a very supportive community.
- Get a job that requires you to wake up early. So this is what has helped me the most. As a producer, I’m used to having weird “call times” (aka the time we’re expected to be on set). It could be 3AM or 3PM or anything in between. The sporadic nature of my call times is a large reason why I’ve been unable to commit to a consistent AM schedule. But for the last few months, I’ve also been working part-time at Sky Ting Yoga. I originally signed up night shifts (so from like 4PM to 9PM) but I recently swapped to the morning shifts. This means I open the studio (3) times a week between 6:30 – 7:30AM. The pressure of knowing that if I don’t get up, the studio won’t get opened really helps me get out of bed in the AM. And since it’s only a few days a week, I use my non-working days to practice waking up earlier. So right now, I’m waking up around (3) times a week between 5:30AM – 6:00 AM for work and on my non working days, I’m waking up between 6:00AM – 6:30AM. The hope is that by the time September rolls around, I’ll be on track to wake up consistently at 5AM, with or without the pressure of a job!
- Get a pet. Okay this is a weird one but if you can do it – getting a pet can be really helpful for early morning hopefuls. Especially dogs! They’re creatures of routines and if you can establish an early AM routine for your dog that includes feeding them and walking them at a specific time, they may just train you into being a morning person.
- Be realistic and forgive yourself. Let’s say you tell yourself you’re gonna wake up at 5AM and you wake up at 6AM. Do you tell yourself you are a shit human and sleep till 9AM? No! Please, don’t do that. Instead, appreciate that you got up at 6AM and recognize the feat in this. Besides, some experts suggest that you should gradually move your wake up time back instead of making a dramatic change. So if you’re having trouble going from a 7AM wake up to a 6AM wakeup, do it in phrases. Wake up 15 minutes earlier each week until you hit your goal. I mean, how many of us can pop up and do a perfect pull-up or handstand or chaturanga without practice? Likewise, most of us can’t become morning people overnight. Be kind with yourself, take it in phases, and tell yourself it’s okay that you’re doing this transition slowly.
- Plan your weekends. There’s no reason for all your hard work to go to waste just because it’s the weekend. If you want to be an AM person, you need to accept that this may also mean being an AM person on the weekends too. I work on Saturdays from 8AM – 3PM, so that definitely keeps my habits in check. On Sundays, I perform my weekly hair washing ritual and since that takes 2-3 hours, I try to do this early in the morning when my partner is still asleep and I can take over the bathroom with impunity for an extended period of time. This means that I typically can’t have late Friday or Saturday nights, but I honestly don’t mind anymore. I prefer having all this me time.
I know there are dozens of other methods for tricking your body and mind into a morning routine. These are just a handful of my favorite ones and I hope they work for you! Feel free to mix and match them and make them your own.