Wake up early you lazy ass

19 August 2018

I used to be a person that hated getting up in the morning. And by in the morning, I mean anywhere earlier than 10 AM. Just the thought of having to see the sunrise or people going to work made me uneasy. I instead chose to wrap my head in my pillow to avoid the morning sunlight hitting my face and snoozed my day away. No more! Now, I wake up religiously every morning at 6, with the exception of weekends when I don't have a specific hour, but I aim to be up before 10. I believe that if a person like me can go from sleeping as a hobby to getting excited to get out of bed and begin the day, I believe everyone can.

Find something that excites you

Let me first explain what I mean by exciting. I've read lots of articles and posts where "exciting" meant "OMFG I live for this" or "The world will be on fire if I don't do this". I am not talking about your life purpose here. I'm talking about an activity that you enjoy and it puts you in a good mood. It can be anything from sports to cooking to reading and so on. Anything that doesn't involve the bed. Don't pick something that you have to do, pick something that you love to do, otherwise, you'll burn out quickly and quit getting out of bed unless you absolutely have to. I have gone through this when I started working. I went from waking up at usually 9 AM to go to class to 7:30 AM to go to work to 6 AM to go to the gym before work but it wasn't an easy transition.

The transition from 9 to 7:30 took a while to get used to. I had mornings when I would wake up just before my alarm and feel fresh and mornings when I felt like I hadn't slept at all. Sometimes I would even take longer to do tasks like make my morning tea and choose what to wear and that sometimes made me lose my usual bus, which in turn made me get a bit late for work and overall make my mood worse than it should have been. But why all this? Because I didn't wake up looking forward to an activity. Commuting through London isn't something to get excited about.

Waking up at 6 was even more challenging and I had more than one attempt at it. The first time I tried was because I wanted to be able to get earlier to my office in order to work on side-projects or other educational activities. It worked for a couple of weeks until I started feeling tired because sometimes I would not fully understand what I was trying to learn, I didn't enjoy the course or I was simply coding too much (course + work afterwards). After a while of going back to the 7:30 schedule, I tried again, this time by trying to exercise at home or run around my neighbourhood before getting ready for work. This was worse than the first try. Not only that I didn't enjoy the physical activities I was engaging, I was feeling miserable because I was failing my first task of the day most of the time. So I went again to my previous waking hours.

The revelation came when I discovered the gym. About a month ago I started weightlifting and I'm absolutely in love with it. And this is what made me wake up at 6 AM every weekday because I'm looking forward to the session. I don't think that ARGH IT'S 6AM WHY I AM AWAKE I HAVE WORK IN 3 HOURS, I think this: I can't wait to get to the gym and see if I can lift more than last week. This is absolutely not about the gym. The activity is your choice and it can be anything you'd like, as long as it creates a good mood to start the day with.

Define what morning is for you

I see morning as both that part of the day before your first significant activity and the part of the day before noon. It's a mix of two and it's different for everyone. For example, my morning is around 2-3 hours before I need to be at work. For you, depending on what your significant activity is, it might be only 1 hour or even 4 hours. But why is this important? Why can't I just wake up 30 mins before I need to leave for work, quickly prepare for the day and then just head out? Well, I'm glad you asked. I for one, have done that since I was in high school and I always felt like a bus hit me in the face and I would get to my class and hate myself for the first hour because I didn't allow my body to wake up properly before my significant activity (which most of the time was the hardest class of all, maths). Which brings me to my next point.

Create a routine

Creating a routine was very important to me. It allowed me to stop wondering what I should be doing and getting out of the door at the right time to catch the bus. The point of routines is to improve your life so find something that does exactly that. Don't include anything that you have to overthink or that makes you feel bad. And make it as simple as possible because this is a preparation step, not the main activities of your day. My following morning routine at the moment is:

  1. Wake up
  2. Make bed
  3. Start kettle
  4. Shower
  5. Dress
  6. Have tea & journal
  7. Face beauty routine
  8. Add lunch and gym items to my bag

Obviously, this is my routine and yours might look entirely different and might not even have these many items. Find what works best for you and don't worry if you have to change it over time, it should be adjusted if your daily activities change or if the current one you have no longer works for you. I haven't got it right the first time either!

Going to sleep early

Now you're probably asking "If I wake up earlier and go to bed earlier, what's the point in all of this?". The point is that you get more sunlight to work with. Artifical light is good, but your body is not meant to work 100% in artificial situations. And yes, I know there are night owls out there, I don't deny that they don't exist, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most of us like to spend the time awake while the sun is up and shinning.

Going to sleep early might not even be necessary. I used to sleep around 10 hours before, but I actually was feeling tired regardless of getting up early or not. The problem wasn't the hours I woke up or went to sleep, it was the amount I spent sleeping. Now I sleep around 6 to 7 hours and I feel much better than before because I find that this is my optimal amount. And it might differ for you. The only way you can find is to experiment for a while and see how you feel. I would suggest trying 6, 7:30 and 9 hours, as these are complete REM (rapid eye movement, see https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/rem-sleep) cycles. If you feel a bit overwhelmed by this, try www.sleepyti.me to know when you fall asleep if you want to wake up at a certain hour and the SleepCycle app if you hate your noisy alarm and want to wake up gradually. Try them for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

One step at a time

Don't do all I've suggested above at once. This is going to end up in you giving up and returning to your previous schedule. Instead, pick one and try it out for a couple of weeks. See if you feel any better and if not, discard the one you've tried and pick another. Over time, you might not even need some of them as you've built the habit of waking up early. For example, I don't use the apps above anymore as I don't mind my alarm since I'm already half awake when it gets triggered because my body is aware that at 6AM I'm going to wake up.