Zen Habits’ Tips for Waking Up Early

zen habit's waking up

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.


Anyway, that’s all the time I’ve got for now.

Tomorrow, we’ll keep digging through the rest of Leo’s tips.

In the meantime, try to put one of these strategies to work and see what happens.

Who knows, you might find one of them is perfect for you.


And when you’re ready 👇👇

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