How to Wake Up Early: The Definitive Guide

Most successful people are early risers. Think of Tiger Woods and Donald Trump. One reason why waking up early is correlated with success is that you get more work done in the morning. That’s one benefit of waking up early.

But how do you build the habit of waking up early without feeling like a mess in the morning? Especially if you’re a night owl? This post will give you 12 powerful tips to become an early riser within 30 days and wake up early consistently.

1. Wake Up At The Same Time Daily.
You’ll become an early riser by waking up at the exact same time for 30 days on. You’ll be less likely to sleep in and might even wake up right before your alarm goes off. Here’s how to get started:

  • Wake Up At The Same Time. If you have problems catching sleep, lying awake at night while feeling tired, start by waking up at the same time daily. Even if it’s late. This will stabilize your circadian rhythm.
  • Wake Up Earlier. I recommend at least 2 hours before leaving for work. I wake up at 6am to start working at 8am. Many early risers wake up at 5am or even 4am. Nap for 30mins around noon if you’re tired.
  • Don’t Gradually Wake Up Earlier. You’re body gets used to waking up early fast. Don’t wake up 15mins earlier every couple of days until you wake up when you want to. Go directly for your goal wake up time.

2. Set Your Alarm.
Use something loud, but not annoying. I use the alarm on my cellular phone (off at night) because I don’t like music, a radio or a buzzer. Use whatever works for you.

Put your alarm out of arm reach so you can’t hit the snooze to sleep in. You must have to get out of bed to stop your alarm.

3. Jump Out of Bed When Your Alarm Goes Off.
The longer it takes you to get up, the more likely you’ll try to sleep in. And hitting the snooze to lay in your bed longer only makes it harder. Get up the first time your alarm goes off.

  • Stop Rationalizing. Don’t lay in bed thinking of reasons to sleep longer. Get out of bed even if you feel tired. You need consistency to build the habit of waking up early. Don’t make exceptions.
  • Stop Snoozing. Sleeping in for 10mins leads to another 10mins. Before you know it you’ve slept 2h more. And because you broke your sleep any extras are low quality and can make you even more tired.
  • Leave The Room. Have a warm sweater or a bathrobe ready if it’s cold season. Then leave the room and don’t come back. Ignore the voice in your head that tells you to go back to sleep in.

4. Get Light Exposure.
Light stimulates dopamine production which increases energy, motivation & productivity. Lack of light causes winter blues & tiredness. Unfortunately home/office lights aren’t bright enough. You need sunlight.

  • Open Window Blinds. This gets you sunlight exposure when you wake up and during the day. If you work in an office: open the window blinds and place your desk so your eyes get sunlight exposure.
  • Walk Outside. A 30 min walk in the morning sunlight will stimulate the production of dopamine. Do not wear sunglasses: UV is low at sunset. Your eyes will be safe unless you look directly into the sun.
  • Use a Sun Box. If your place doesn’t have big windows to let sunlight in or if it’s winter/cloudy or if you can’t get outside in the morning, then use a light box like this one for 30mins after you wake up.

5. Have a Reason To Wake Up Early.
Use your extra time in the morning to do things that matter. Not for surfing the Internet or doing other tasks that won’t make a difference in the long-term. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Eat Breakfast. Key to building healthy eating habits: you’ll be less likely to eat junk food the rest of the day if you eat a healthy breakfast. Read the benefits of breakfast and build the habit of eating on waking up.
  • Cook Food. Preparing your own meals gives you total control over their ingredients and thus over your results. Prepare breakfast and your food for the day on waking up. This takes about 1 hour.
  • Exercise. You won’t miss workouts if you train in the morning: whatever comes up, you’ve already trained. Wait 1hour before lifting weights. This gives your spine time to dehydrate and lowers risks of lower back injury.

6. Write Your Goals Daily.
Most people don’t have goals. And those who set some forget about them within weeks. By writing down your goals daily, you’ll never forget them and they’ll be your reason for waking up early.

  • Set Goals. If you don’t know what you want: start with what you don’t want. Your goal is the opposite. Aim high, choose 1 goal and be specific. Example: “I don’t want to be fat” “I choose to have 10% body fat”.
  • Know Why You Want It. Avoiding pain/frustration is the best motivator. Compare the pain of waking up early to staying fat/skinny, experiencing humiliation as a result and dying young because of your unhealthy diet.
  • Write Your Goals 2x/Day. On waking up and before going to bed. Use them as affirmations (read Beyond Positive Thinking): “I choose to easily wake up at 6am”, “I choose to eat breakfast and exercise each morning”.

7. Build a Morning Ritual.
This daily routine will get you strong for your day by setting the right context (read Power of Full Engagement) and is your reason to wake up early. Mix tips 1 to 6 and do them daily in the same order. Example:

  • Wake up at 6am. Drink water. Open window blinds & windows.
  • Eat breakfast and cook your food for day.
  • Review your goals and write them down.
  • Go the gym, come back, eat, shower, get ready for work.

8. Commit For 30 Days.
It takes about 30 days to build a new habit. Commit yourself to wake up at the exact same time for at least 30 days “” weekends included. Consistency is the only way to build a habit.

  • Use Willpower. You’ll meet lots of internal resistance during the first 10 days. Use willpower to get through these. It gets easier once you begin experiencing the benefits, which is after about 20 days.
  • Focus on 1 Habit. Changing many things at once usually leads nowhere. Start with waking up early, eating breakfast and exercising. Once you do this consistently for +30 days, you can build another habit.
  • Be Consistent. Self-discipline isn’t something you’re born with. You build it. Waking up early will build self-discipline which you’ll be able to use to build other habits. It starts here. Don’t skip a day. No matter what.

9. Go To Bed When You’re Sleepy.
How much sleep you need depends on your activity levels, sleep quality, diet, … But you’ll most likely need 8h sleep/night on average. Which means some days 6h, some days 9h.

That’s why going to bed at the same time each day won’t work. Focus on wake up time, not bedtime. Listen to your body and go to bed when you feel sleepy. Avoid anything that prevents you to feel tiredness. Tips:

  • Get Downtime Pre-bed. Stop working, internet surfing & watching TV 1h before you go to bed. Read a book and go to sleep when you can’t read without losing concentration. Or do meditations and breathing exercises. If you think a lot in bed: write it all down so it gets out of your head.
  • Set Bedtime Deadline. Staying up late makes it hard to wake up early. You’ll usually end up sleeping in and quit. Set a bedtime deadline and go to bed at that time even if you’re not tired yet. No matter what.
  • Stop Trying to Sleep If You Can’t. If it takes you longer than 10mins to fall asleep, you’re not tired enough. Stop trying and keep yourself busy. Read a book or do some meditations. Don’t stress about it.

10. Get Quality Sleep.
Deep sleep & REM are quality sleep. You’ll wake up more easily, need less sleep and have more energy if you have uninterrupted, quality sleep. Tips to improve your sleep quality:

  • Stop Stimulants. Coffee, alcohol & nicotine mess with your sleep. Drink green tea instead of coffee, water instead of alcohol. Stop smoking.
  • Avoid Big Meals Pre-bed. They’ll stress your digestive system and lower your sleep quality. Have a small pre-bed snack. Don’t wake up at night to eat: you won’t lose muscle, starvation mode is a myth.
  • Avoid Drinking Pre-bed. Waking up to go to the toilet interrupts your sleep and lowers its quality. Stop drinking water 2h prior bedtime.
  • Avoid Exercise Pre-bed. Exercising less than 3 hours prior bedtime can keep you awake. Schedule your workout earlier.
  • Set Right Conditions. Good mattrass & pillow. Cool, dark & silent room (wear ear plugs & a sleeping mask if you have to). No electronics.

Check the Power Sleep Program for a definitive guide on how to improve your sleep quality so you feel more energized & productive while sleeping less.

11. Make Yourself Accountable.
“If people commit orally or in writing, they’ll be more likely to honor that commitment. Even if motivation is removed after they’ve agreed, they’ll continue to honor the agreement.” – Robert Cialdini, Influence.

This is because you tend to care about other people’s opinion and don’t want to be embarassed for failing. Although I advise to stop caring about what people think, here’s where it can be useful.

  • Tell family or close friends you’re going to wake up early for 30 days.
  • Make a deal that if you don’t wake up early each day for 30 days you’ll do something you don’t want to do (like writing them a 1000$ check).
  • Report to them daily for 30 days: call, text or email them. And if you skip once, stick to the deal you’ve agreed on.

If you’re thinking: “I’d never do that”, that’s because you know that making this kind of commitment will force you to follow through. Proof this works.

12. Stop Believing The Myths.
I always thought I was an evening person. As a student I woke up past noon unless it was school. Then I started to wake up earlier to go the gym, but anything before 8AM was still killing me.

About a year ago I built the habit of waking up at 6AM because I realized that you get more done if you wake up early. I’ve been waking up consistently at 6AM since. And now I see that the whole “morning person” thing is a myth.

There’s nothing like a “morning” or “night person”. Human bodies can adapt to anything. You just have to be consistent to get used to waking up early.

Start tomorrow. Don’t deviate. You’ll become an early riser within 30 days.

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