The early-morning hours are the only time during the day when I feel ahead of things rather than feeling like I’m playing catch-up. Later in the day, everything turns into a constant rush, between the emails piling up in my inbox, the empty coffee pot that needs cleaning, the looming phone calls, and the beckoning errands.
While many execs report to their desks before most people are even awake, I try not to do anything work-related until the 8 o’clock hour. That’s when my son heads off to school, my wife and daughter start their daily routines, and the emails start coming in heavy.
In those early hours before work, I balance taking care of family needs with working on those projects that usually take a back seat to other responsibilities. I’ll straighten my desk, read an article or two, tend to a plant in the garden, or anything else that I want to do but that’s not a necessity. And contrary to what many highly successful people do, I never exercise in the early morning — I save that for shortly after lunch, breaking up the day and giving my mind a reset.
How you choose to spend your time after an early morning wake-up is your call — you can go for a run, read a book, or get right to work. But the benefits of regularly waking up early include better eating habits, improved concentration, reduced stress, and more energy.
Here’s how you can train yourself to start waking up early:
1. Move to an early wake-up time slowly and steadily
Once you have identified a time as your daily wake-up goal, consider it relative to when you currently rise and move toward the new time slowly. Say you want to get out of bed at 6:30 a.m., but you normally haul yourself off the mattress at 8:15 a.m. Tomorrow, set the alarm for 8 a.m.. The next day, set it for 7:45 a.m.. And so on.
2. Once you’re awake, get up
Snoozing can be a great pleasure, but it’s a bad habit. Once you are awake, force yourself to get up and out of your bed as quickly as you can, even if you’re still groggy. You do yourself a great disservice lingering under the covers, no matter how warm and cozy it feels: You will likely end up feeling sluggish all morning, and you can undo the progress you have made in establishing an earlier rising time by throwing off your body clock.
3. Be consistent, even on weekends
Unless you went out hard on Friday, wake-up time should be the same on Saturday as it is during the week. So too on Sunday. Once your body learns to get up early, you won’t even want to stay in bed longer. And think of all that free time.
4. Create a healthy sleep environment
You can’t wake early and refreshed if you didn’t sleep well. Make sure your room is dark, cool, and either quiet or with noise moderated by a sound machine.
5. Create a healthy wake-up routine
If you can let the sunshine into your room in the morning, do it. If not, consider getting a light that simulates the sun’s glow. And have the coffee ready to go, your toothbrush and toothpaste, face wash, and other hygiene products easy to access, and, if possible, your clothes already picked and laid out. The less effort you have to put into such necessary steps, the more benefit you gain from your time.
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