A few days ago, I read an article by Leo Babauta titled “How I Became an Early Riser.”
So far, it’s my favorite article on the subject of waking up early.
If you don’t already know, Leo’s blog, zen habits, is a treasure trove of personal development gold. It’s been around for ages, and is one of the first personal development sites many people fell in love with.
Hats off to Leo for always keeping it real.
Anyways, I wanted to go through some of the tips he mentions in the article, and add some commentary along the way.
Let’s dive right in:
1) Don’t make drastic changes
This is one of my favorite pieces of waking up early advice.
The idea is simple: Start slow, then gradually move the needle. Wake up 15 minutes earlier than you do now, then, when that feels normal, drop another 15.
This lets you dip your toe rather than dive right in.
One thing I would add to this to make it even more effective is to also go 15–30 minutes BEYOND your target.
For example, if you want to wake up at 5 am, instead of stopping there, keep going until you hit 4:30–4:45 am. Then, when that feels normal, move back up to your target and it will almost feel like you’re sleeping in.
This is the strategy I’m trying right now.
We’ll see how it turns out.
2) Allow yourself to sleep earlier
In the article, this is what Leo says:
“I suggest going to bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, and read while in bed.”
Of course, I agree with this ‘strategy.’
But I also feel it’s a bit too commonsense.
If someone is trying to wake up early, going to bed earlier is not only good advice, it’s a must. In my opinion, it’s non-negotiable. Paramount. Essential. It’s just something you have to do.
I don’t understand how anyone could integrate this habit without getting to bed at a decent hour.
Wanna wake up early? Go to bed earlier, too.
Only problem is, for me, this strategy isn’t enough.
So let’s move on.
3) Put your alarm clock far from your bed
In my opinion, this is one of the wisest tips for making this work.
I like to call it a ‘nuclear strategy’ because it somewhat removes the need for your willpower to kick in.
But a word of warning:
If you don’t put your alarm clock far enough away from you, the chances of you slivering back into bed are quite high.
Sometimes, when my alarm goes off, I’ll roll across the floor, shut it off, and then army-crawl back under the sheets. That right there is a pretty good sign my alarm’s too close to the bed.
Something to think about if you plan on using this strategy.
4) Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm
So here’s the deal…
I’m not a big fan of doing anything that requires fighting the urge to get back in bed.
It’s never worked for me before, and if you’re struggling to wake up early yourself, I doubt it’s worked for you, either.
This is one of those “If I could, I would” techniques that I’m not very fond of.
In other words, it ain’t happenin’.
There’s gotta be a better way.
5) Do not rationalize
As I just said for tip #4, I’m not very fond of this type of strategy.
And the reason why is because…
When someone is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, willpower alone isn’t going to cut it. They need something much more foolproof than that.
If they could fight the urge to get back in bed, they would. And if that were the case, they likely wouldn’t be out looking for advice.
But alas, they are.
So although this strategy may work for some people, it won’t work for all. And I’m looking for strategies that can help anyone.
6) Allow yourself to sleep in once in a while
I do appreciate the sentiment of this.
But here’s the thing…
I want to make waking up early a keystone habit in my life. Which means, once it happens, there’s a good chance I’ll avoid sleeping in altogether.
Now, if it happens every now and then, it happens.
I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
But until waking up early is a habit I’ve integrated in my life, I’m not going to ‘reward’ myself by sleeping in.
Seems like I’d b defeating the purpose…
7) Make waking up early a reward
Leo says when he first started waking up early, he would reward himself with coffee and a book.
Unfortunately, neither of those have me chomping at the bit to get out of bed. In fact, most things don’t.
BUT — I do agree with this tip… to an extent.
Look at it this way…
When you think about Christmas… or going on vacation… or anything exciting that meant waking up early… it was EASY. And it was easy because you were excited about what you were doing. Kinda like having a reward for getting out of bed.
The problem is, to make this work, you have to be really pumped about the thing you’re doing.
And so far, for me, I haven’t found anything like that. But I do know it’s something I need to work on.
It’s a good strategy, but it definitely has its flaws.
8) Take advantage of all the extra time
This right here is the REASON I want to wake up early.
Doing so would give me a couple hours of uninterrupted time to do almost everything I need to do for the day.
Exercise, meditate, give thanks, visualize, affirm, work on my mission. ALL before anyone in my home is even awake.
Leo put this perfectly in his article:
“By the time 6:30 am rolls around, I’ve done more than many people do the entire day.”
My thoughts exactly.
Only problem is, it’s not really a ‘tip’ that forces you out of bed. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
9) Enjoy the break of dawn
This is one of those ‘feel-good’ tips that I find works more in theory.
When I wake up at 5 am where I live, most of the time, it’s pitch black outside. Especially in the winter. It’s not until 6:30–7:00 am rolls around that the sun starts peaking over the mountain.
If I woke up early just to enjoy the break of dawn, I’d be outside freezing my balls off for hours. Plus, the break of dawn happens at different times throughout the year. So this isn’t something that could become habitual or routine for me.
But if you’re living somewhere where you can get outside right away, do it.
There’s nothing more refreshing than the morning sun.
And there you have it.
As you can see, there’s a lot of wisdom to unearth in Leo’s article.
Some of his tips are a little iffy, but others are spot-on.
My only problem, in general, is that, when it comes to waking up early, for many, it’s really not an easy task.
Many of us have been fighting the urge to get back in bed as long as we can remember. So it’s going to take a little more firepower to break the habit.
Some of these tips might work for you, some might not.
And until I find some strategies that work for damn-near everyone, I’ll still be hunting for the answer.
Regardless, thanks for the great tips, Leo.
But the hunt to win the morning is still very much on.
And when you’re ready