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Human Behavior

How do you wake up early?


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March 23, 2010 2:29PM

For some mysterious reason, waking up early is one of the hardest habits to cultivate - not just for me, but for almost anyone I know. Here are 21 tips you can use to wake up early and stay up. The ones which work best for me are #1, #9 and #12 :

  1. Create a compelling reason to wake up early. What is it? For personal activities? To get more work done? To get a head start in your day? Almost all attempts to wake up early fail because there isn't a strong enough reason driving this habit change. I can personally attest to this - during the days when I want to wake up early just for the sake of it, I fail miserably. However, when there is a compelling enough reason to do so (such as for an appointment - tip #12), I am able to, no matter how sleepy I am. If you really want to wake up early, you need to first have a strong reason on why you want to do it.
  2. Cut out the stimulants that affect your sleep schedule, namely caffeine and alcohol. These mess around with your sleep and quality of your sleep, which subsequently affects your waking time.
  3. Make a transition. If you always wake up at 10~11am, it isn't too realistic to expect that you will immediately wake up at 5am the next day. Start off by improving your waking time by 15~30min every day until you reach your goal.
  4. Create a reward for accomplishing this goal. A reward creates additional motivation. (Though if you satisfy #1 and have a compelling enough reason to wake up early, a reward wouldn't be necessary.)
  5. Place your goal in a prominent spot: Environmental reinforcement of your goal will embed it consciously and subconsciously into your mind. If you have a notice board, you can put up your goal on the board. Other options are to stick it up on a post-it note in front of your computer or set it as your wallpaper.
  6. Create accountability to others. Share your goal with friends/family/acquaintances. This creates accountability on your end to wake up early.
  7. Plan a non-negotiable agenda for the next day. This agenda should start right from the point you are supposed to wake up right till your day ends. If you don't wake up, you will mess up your schedule for the day and end up with a backlog of work at the end.
  8. Create urgency # 1. Set up extremely important and urgent tasks as the first items of the day so you have to wake up and finish them.
  9. Create urgency # 2. Fix an appointment with someone early in the morning. It should be with someone really important whom you cannot cancel on or there will be dire consequences. This is by far one of the most effective methods for me. However, if you have a chronic disability to wake up early, please try other methods first. You don't want to risk ruining your reputation and your relationship with the person if you end up oversleeping. There were times when I overslept for appointments and it would be tricky to deal with the situation each time. Nowadays, I make absolute sure that this doesn't happen at all.
  10. Get a morning call service. Some services are: iPing and Wake Up Land. Or you can ask someone whom you know will be awake at that time to call you.
  11. Work on the goal with someone else. If you have a friend who wants to wake up early too, this will help generate more motivation to wake up early.
  12. Sleep earlier. Be realistic - if you target to wake up at 5am, don't turn in at only 1am or 2am the night before expecting to be successful in waking up on time. You are more than likely going to crash in your goal. It is the times when I sleep early and have sufficient sleep when waking early becomes a significantly easier task.
  13. Set your alarm clock (with the correct time). Probably goes without saying, but you can't believe the times when people tell me they woke up late because they forgot to set their alarm clock or they set their alarm time wrongly! If you are trying to get into a new sleeping routine, an alarm clock is going to be essential in the first few weeks. Once you get into the hang of it, you will likely start waking up automatically at around the same time every day without it.
  14. Set multiple alarm clocks (3-5) at the same or different times (5 minutes apart from each other). If you are a heavy sleeper, this is a tip for you.
  15. Put your alarm clock(s) really far (but still audible) such that you need to get off your bed to reach it. Of course, don't go back to bed after you turn it off!
  16. Switch your alarm to your favorite music (most mobile phones today have this function). What better way to wake up to a new day than to listen to your favorite song? By the time the music finishes playing, you will be more awake and ready to get up.
  17. Before you sleep, mentally recite the time you want to wake up. This might sound bogus, but it works for me. Initially I thought it was just me, until someone told me recently that he was able to wake up early using this method (of which he learned from his friend, who was able to wake up early using the same method too). Our subconscious works in its own mysterious ways.
  18. Set your alarm clock 5 minutes earlier than your designated time. When it rings, put it on snooze, and spend the next 5 minutes mentally preparing yourself for the day ahead. The next time the alarm rings, get off the bed. This is another method that works for me.
  19. Get out of the bed immediately once you hear the alarm. You all know how it feels in the morning when you wake up - the voice in your head is just coaxing you to go to sleep every morning despite your best intents to want to wake up. Instead of giving it the chance to speak, haul yourself out of your bed the second the alarm rings. While you may feel like lead for the first 5~10 minutes, the sleepiness starts wearing off beyond that. Before you know it, you will be awake and ready to start the day.
  20. Establish it as a daily habit. Make it a daily habit. It's much easier to maintain a daily habit than one that's only 5 days a week. If you keep having to balance around different timing schedules on weekdays and weekends, your body clock has to constantly adjust and it makes your task much harder.
  21. Load up a full combination of the tips above. Don't be modest and only use 1 or 2 of the tips above. As you already know, waking up early can be a monumental task in itself. Combine as many of the tips to drive up your chances of success! Also known as the military tactic of 'overwhelming force' where you overinvest your resources to ensure the certainty of success.