Not Another “How to Wake Up Early and Takeover the World” Post

Coffee

 

OK, so maybe you don’t want to take over the world. But how about taking over your life? That sounds pretty good, right?

 

But there’s one problem: you just don’t have enough time.

 

You wake up, take care of bathroom business, eat some breakfast, get showered and dressed, and head to work. Then you come home spent, crack open a cold one, eat some dinner, and spend the rest of the night watching lame reality shows. You don’t have energy for much else.

 

That’s just how it goes.

 

Here’s a Different Scenario

 

But what if it went more like this: the alarm goes off at 5am, you jump out of bed, take care of bathroom business (always the first priority), and then . . . what?

 

Read a book?

 

Workout?

 

Study for your exam?

 

Do some writing?

 

Go for a walk?

 

Draft up that business plan you’ve been putting off for years?

 

Wake up early enough, and you can do all of the above . . . before you even sit down to eat breakfast.

 

The Power of A.M. Productivity

 

Let’s face it. Most of us are pretty damn useless after work. After a long stressful day we just want to come home and chill out a bit with the fam, or maybe enjoy some time alone with a good book.

 

We want to wind down, not get busy.

 

But mornings are a different beast altogether. If we can learn to take advantage of them, that is.

 

In those first few early morning hours we can accomplish so much. We’re starting the day fresh. We haven’t been worn down by the hours spent at our dreary or hectic jobs.

 

We have potential.

 

Potential to get shit done. So why not make the most of it?

 

The Tale of a Reformed Late Riser

 

I didn’t always get up so early as I do now. Back in the day, if I was out of bed before 10am it was a goddamn miracle. Oh sure, I’d try every now and then to change my wake up time. I remember getting up at 7am for a spell in order to go on morning walks before work.

 

It felt strange stepping out into the cool morning air. I wasn’t accustomed to it. And it didn’t last long. I just couldn’t cope with the early rise.

 

It wasn’t until I started weightlifting that I successfully made the switch to early mornings. I had to. There was just no way I had the physical energy to train after a day spent busting ass in front of a hot brick oven at the bakery.

 

No chance.

 

So I became a 6am riser. And truth be told, it was tough. For the first few months it was a serious struggle.

 

I would get out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, then lay down on the floor (cause I’m weird like that) with my eyes closed and the  T.V. set to the boring white noise of The Weather Channel, drinking my coffee while half-asleep.

 

An hour and two more cups of coffee later, I would finally be awake enough to get busy. It wasn’t ideal, but it still left me enough time in the morning to get a good workout before heading off to work.

 

The Leap from 6 A.M. to 4 A.M.

 

How does one shave 2 hours off their already early alarm setting?

 

I attribute this to my move from the “city” to a more rural area here in Vermont. I actually moved into a little red barn. I’m just that cool.

 

In the city, I had to keep the blinds closed since the street lights made it too bright to sleep. And I needed to keep a fan going to drown out the sounds of traffic. Earplugs helped with this as well.

 

But out here there are no street lights. There is no traffic. Just beautiful quiet darkness. Perfect for sleeping. I didn’t need the fan or earplugs, and I left my windows unshaded to let in the starlight.

 

And a strange thing happened my very first morning here. I had set the alarm for my usual 6am wake up time, but around 4ish I woke instead to the sounds of birds chirping and just a hint of sunlight.

 

What the fuck?

 

That was my first thought. Profound, huh?

 

Every morning thereafter I would wake with the birds and the sun. I was even up before Larry the rooster began his morning rabble.

 

When the cold months started creeping in, and the sun began rising later, I had to resume setting my alarm in order to wake, but now set to 4:30am – I had become so productive in those early morning hours I couldn’t give them up.

 

Finally, the creation of this blog spurred the last step to 4am. I just needed a little bit more time in the morning to dedicate to blogging.

 

What You Will Have to Sacrifice

 

I ain’t gonna lie. You cannot just keep setting the clock back earlier and earlier without giving something up. You still need 7-8 hours of sleep after all.

 

So you give up your nights. At least a good chunk of them.

 

What this means is different from person to person. When I was a late riser my nights were spent watching SouthPark and Adult Swim while munching on chips or cookies.

 

Not too productive.

 

So the loss of those hours are a small price to pay for the productivity I’ve gained. Not to mention the much improved health I’ve attained from my morning workouts.

 

For partiers and leisure driven folks, nights may not be worth giving up. But for those who are actively trying to achieve something worthwhile, perhaps giving up late night T.V. isn’t such a sacrifice after all.

 

Finally, Here’s How to Do It

 

There are really only two things required in order to successfully make the transition to an early riser.

 

1. Purpose

If you don’t have a good reason for getting up early, it’s not going to stick. And if you don’t have a reason, why should you even bother?

 

If you think you’ll get more done just because you’ve woken up earlier, you will be sorely disappointed. You may complete a few more chores than usual, or maybe even prepare a home cooked breakfast for a change.

 

But it won’t last.

 

You need a compelling reason to keep getting up at the crack of dawn. Folding laundry and scrambling some eggs ain’t gonna cut it.

 

2. Get. The Fuck. UP!

This doesn’t require any explanation, but I’m going to elaborate anyway. I’ve seen many suggested tricks and strategies designed to teach people how to get up earlier. Some seem reasonable, like setting your alarm back one minute earlier each day until you’ve reached your desired wake time.

 

I don’t have the patience for that shit.

 

If I want to change, then I’m going to fucking change. I understand that it will be uncomfortable. Change always is. I’m not going to try to make the transition as smooth as possible. I want the difficulty. The challenge makes it worthwhile.

 

Then there are those suggestions that seem downright laughable – like practicing jumping out of bed when the alarm goes off . . . during the day while you’re wide awake. Hey, maybe it works . . . you never know, but I’d feel like such a tool jumping in and out of bed trying to “learn” how to wake up earlier.

 

No.

 

Better to just get up. You have about 20 seconds, if that, to get out of bed after that alarm goes off, otherwise you’ll fail. Once you hit snooze, or start thinking if you should even get out of bed, it’s all over.

 

Get up. Pour some coffee. Get busy.

 

Simple as that.

 

Now It’s In Your Hands

 

So you’ve decided you’re going to make the switch. No more late nights. No more noon sleep-ins. You’ve got shit to do and now’s the time to start.

 

My question to you is this: what is your purpose? What is that compelling reason you need to get up so early in the first place? Do you really think you can make the change?

 

And if you’re already an early riser, has it always been so? Or did you make a similar transition yourself? If so please share how you did it. A little insight is always welcome.

 

Cheers!

(Photo by dspruitt at stock.xchng)

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Comments

  1. Cool barn! I’ve been an early riser for years. I get a lot done in the mornings, but I also am productive in the evenings. I don’t watch TV. Instead, I read, write, and play music. Great post. I’m about due to write another early morning pep talk.

    • Thanks Dan. Sounds like you’re an old pro at this productivity thing. I don’t watch TV either (I don’t even have one), but I’m pretty much used up by the time I get home. I’ll read some posts, write and respond to comments, and even get a bit of writing done, but it’s nothing compared to the mornings.

      I hope you do write another early morning pep talk. I missed the previous one(s) but I’d love to read your thoughts on the matter.

      Cheers!

  2. I suffer from bouts of insomnia every so often (currently suffering right now) and sometimes I wonder if instead of tossing and turning and getting angry I can;t sleep…maybe I should just get up and do something productive! Read, write, go to the gym, etc….

    • I suffer from the occasional restless night as well. I used to just lie there getting angrier with each passing hour, but these days I just find something productive to do. It’s a far better way to spend those hours that you can’t sleep anyway. I figure if I can’t fall back to sleep within a half hour or so, it’s time to get up.

      Give it a shot. At the very least, you’ll get something accomplished and feel better about your lost sleep.

      Cheers!

  3. “I would get out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, then lay down on the floor (cause I’m weird like that) with my eyes closed and the T.V. set to the boring white noise of The Weather Channel, drinking my coffee while half-asleep.”

    This is hilarious and awesome.

    Confession: I am one of the crazies who “practiced” getting up to my alarm at 3 PM one day. It’s ridiculous, I know. It did help though because I was so conditioned to ignoring my alarm that it introduced a new response option (actually getting up). I only did it one afternoon though, and as you suggested, early rising is still about forcing yourself to get up until it’s a habit.

    I want a rooster to wake me up. I loved that in Kauai.

    World conquerers do get up early. That’s the truth.

    • That’s awesome Stephen! How did it feel jumping in and out of bed to an alarm clock in the middle of the day? I just don’t think I could bring myself to do it. Props for trying such an outrageous sounding experiment in the first place.

      And I agree, I’ll take waking up to the crow of a rooster over the mind jarring buzz of an alarm clock any day. But Larry the rooster could hardly do the job — he has the most pathetic cockadoodledoo of any rooster I’ve ever heard. They call him Larry Laryngitis.

      Good luck with your attempts at the early rise. Do it long enough and the habit will stick.

      Cheers!

  4. I thought I was reading a mirror for a second! A close to home story, although I’m not at the 4am mark (still 5.30). I only started this about 1.5 – 2 months ago, but it truly is an epic transition.

    The moment that alarm goes off I hit the floor with 30 – 40 pressups, my eyes are still closed but it wakes me up! If I don’t go straight away, I’ll fall into the trap you describe – it’s all over. Read for 30 and then hit the field for some farmers walkin’!

    As summer approaches I’ll be going for the earlier times like you, I plan to never miss a 4 am sunrise this time round! Thanks for the inspiring story, Trevor :)

    • Push-ups straight out of bed is hardcore. I don’t even think I could bring myself to do that first thing after that damn alarm goes off. But I imagine it works like a charm. Glad to hear that you’re still doing your morning farmer’s walks. Are you progressing with the weight or distance? By the time you’re using heavier weights for even greater distance than you were using when you first started with the lighter weights you will begin to see some serious changes in your musculature. Let me know how it’s going.

      Cheers?

      • Definitely! It’s a brilliant feeling, and I’ll make sure to continue. Haven’t done much on the distance, but I’ve added 2kg to the weight, and that’s all it took to reinvent the burn, but wow it felt good! I can see some changes in my forearms and my shoulders as well. How about you? Still heading down to the bottom of the drive? :D

        • Not this time of year here in Vermont. My hands would probably stick to the dumbbells. It’s back and forth down the hallway for me. Not quite so fun as outside, but it’ll do for now. Once Spring finally rolls on in, however, I’m out there!

          Cheers!

  5. I used to think I was productive in the late evening, oh how wrong I was. I think that the majority of people are more productive in the morning, it makes perfect sense in terms of decision-making and willpower (our willpower naturally decreases throughout the day).

    Damn right we accomplish so much in those early hours! I think the majority of my work gets done during that time. 4a.m? Wow man, that’s next level stuff. I’d actually love to try that out, but I think other members of my household would get slightly annoyed!

    I personally get up at 7am at the moment; I’m only 17 and just finished school, I’m working on my blog and don’t have a job. So if I wanted to, I could sleep in till 11am like most people my age would do. I’d like to move up to 6a.m ideally, the more time the better!

    Thanks for the awesome post, Trevor!

    • That’s pretty damn impressive Sam. At your age I was one of those kids sleeping till 11am. Later actually. Much later. Sounds to me like you’ve got a massive head start on most kids your age. Keep it up and that 6am wake up time will be just around the corner.

      Thanks for stopping by Sam. I’m glad you liked the post.

      Cheers!

  6. I’m already an early riser but it takes me at least an hour to start moving around. I remember my dad used to sit on the side of the bed trying to wake up, for some of us it is just that difficult. But I know on the hard days I’m going to remember these words, Get. The. Fuck. UP. lmao and I’m sure it will get easier. Last summer we would get up very early and walk around this small pond near where I live and there is something truly lovely about being in that early morning fresh air, hearing the gravel being kicked up by the joggers and the friendly hellos from all the old timers that made us feel alive. It was like we all had this special secret, ushering in a beautiful new day just those few of us. I can’t wait for the warm weather so we can get out there again. I have definitely experienced that getting up early has actually left me more leisure time later on in the day. My sleep as of late has seemed a little bit more regulated. Less late and restless nights. Must be doing something right.

    -Carmen

    • That sounds like great a early morning routine Carmen. Nothing like getting out in the fresh air first thing when you wake up.

      I hear what you’re saying about having a bit more leisure time later in the day. When you’ve done your work in the morning, you don’t feel so pressured to do it in the evening. You can just relax. Something we all need from time to time.

      Cheers!

  7. Hello Trever,

    I have never been able to get up early. I currently leave for work at 6am and get up between 5:30-5:40 to get ready before rushing out of the door. I spend the car ride to work thinking, meditating, or listening to a audio book or lesson.

    I then work until 5 and spend time after work with my family until around 8:30 when I dedicate the next couple hours to moving toward my dreams. At the start of the year I tried to get up earlier to do some am work but it did not work out. Maybe I should try forming the habit again.

    Great post and thoughts.

    • It sounds like you get up pretty early to me, but considering how early you have to get to work, yeah, it’s going to be tough for you to get up early enough to get stuff done before leaving. I don’t have to be to work until 9am so I have hours before I need to start getting ready.

      Seems like you manage to put those couple hours each night to good use though. It’s no fun having work get in the way of doing the things you really want to be doing. It makes you feel trapped. Keep at it and I’m sure you’re going to reach your goal.

      Cheers!

  8. Hey Trevor,

    I’ve never been much of an early riser. When I was younger I used to have a job that required me to be there at 4AM. I could do it, but it exhausted me. For the most part I’m a night owl and try to get as much done at night as I can. Admittedly, It isn’t always easy. I used to get distracted by Adult Swim too. Although I don’t watch as much TV as I used to.

    I can’t see how waking up early can be good for you though. Imagine getting a ton of things done before breakfast. The rest of the day would be easier then. I just wish there was a way to not have to sleep or only get 5-6 hours a night and be good with that.

    • Yeah, it can be a bitch. I definitely lose sleep because I get up so early.

      Work fucks everything up.

      I believe our natural rhythm is to rise with the sun and the birds. All this alarm clock shit is what throws us out of whack. And the only reason we set that damn alarm is so we can make it to work on time.

      So what can you do?

      Suck it up until you have the means to quit that job. Then you can get back to your natural rhythm. That’s what I like to believe anyway.

      Cheers!

  9. Hi, Trevor! Awesome post-)
    Since i started my blog I realized that I absolutely HAVE to learn to get up early or I will fail, which is not really an option.
    I tried writing in the evenings, and while it’s good for jotting down the ideas, but to create something good I need my focus and quiet.
    I am in the process of starting to shift my wake up time to 5am, so i stumbled on this article at the perfect time!
    My next step is setting up a timer on my coffee machine, so I can wake up to a freshly brewed coffee-))

    • Waking up with coffee is key!

      I hear you about writing during the evenings. I try, and sometimes I can get some stuff down, but it’s always hit or miss. Better to get most of my writing in during the morning. Setting your alarm clock back in order to work on your blog says you mean serious business. Much respect.

      Cheers!

  10. Here’s a few thing that helped me to goto bed early and become an early riser

    1. I used to watch a lot of TV. Once I cut that out, I had so much free time. Right now the average American watches 36 hours of TV. It actually dropped from 36.2. I was one of them. It was the usual cycle. Get home from work, dinner, tv, go to bed, rinse and repeat. Once I started working out after work I stopped watching TV and hit the sack around 11-12.

    2. No artificial light. Once the sun goes down, I do my best not to turn on the lights and shut down the compter about an hour after sundown. I usually write or read during that time by candlelight. I started going to bed a few hours earlier.
    2a. Get hotel grade blackout curtains… or in your case, move to the countryside.

    3. No stimulants, physical and mental. The obvious being coffee. But I also stopped reading any motivational stuff in the evening. This also includes material that would spur ideas for work. If I reading a new marketing article, I would lay in bed for hours about all the tweaks and tests I can make. I was like a kid in a candy store, thinking ‘I can do this’ or ‘I can try that’.

    4. Work hard. This is probably obvious. When I put in an honest day of focused hard work, i’m exhausted at the end of the day. When it was bedtime, I was out within a few minutes. My girlfriend would be talking and walk into the bathroom, when she came back, I was out like a light. I had the deepest sleep. It was pretty amazing, because I would close my eyes, it felt like time zoomed by and my eyes were shut for just a moment. I woke up refreshed & alert. None of that morning grogginess.

    On the days where my work was evenly spread out throughout the day my sleep was not as deep.

    Like you said, it feel good to wake when the sun rises. The natural rhythm feels so good.

    - Ray

    • Great thoughts Ray! I didn’t realize the average American watched so much damn TV. That’s almost a full time job right there. Fuckin’ scary, actually.

      When I lived in the city, I always had to do my best to block out all light from outside. And no artificial light is extremely important. I always thought it was all light that caused the problem at night, but when I moved out here I realized that starlight and moonlight is not a problem. The only time moonlight ever wakes me is when it’s a full moon on a clear night and shining right in my face. But for some strange reason I kinda like it. I enjoy the moonlight and it usually inspires some deep thinking for awhile, then I roll over and I’m back to sleep. Can’t do that in the city.

      And you are so right about hard work. Nothing gets you set for a good night’s sleep like a hard day’s work. And vice versa. The two just go hand in hand.

      Thanks for your insight Ray.

      Cheers!

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