21 Tips To Wake Up Early

Sunrise over the horizon

For some mysterious reason, waking up early is one of the hardest habits to cultivate – not just for me, but for almost anyone I know. Here are 21 tips you can use to wake up early and stay up. The ones which work best for me are #1, #9 and #12 :) :

  1. Create a compelling reason to wake up early. What is it? For personal activities? To get more work done? To get a head start in your day? Almost all attempts to wake up early fail because there isn’t a strong enough reason driving this habit change. I can personally attest to this – during the days when I want to wake up early just for the sake of it, I fail miserably. However, when there is a compelling enough reason to do so (such as for an appointment – tip #12), I am able to, no matter how sleepy I am. If you really want to wake up early, you need to first have a strong reason on why you want to do it.
  2. Cut out the stimulants that affect your sleep schedule, namely caffeine and alcohol. These mess around with your sleep and quality of your sleep, which subsequently affects your waking time.
  3. Make a transition. If you always wake up at 10~11am, it isn’t too realistic to expect that you will immediately wake up at 5am the next day. Start off by improving your waking time by 15~30min every day until you reach your goal.
  4. Create a reward for accomplishing this goal. A reward creates additional motivation. (Though if you satisfy #1 and have a compelling enough reason to wake up early, a reward wouldn’t be necessary.)
  5. Place your goal in a prominent spot: Environmental reinforcement of your goal will embed it consciously and subconsciously into your mind. If you have a notice board, you can put up your goal on the board. Other options are to stick it up on a post-it note in front of your computer or set it as your wallpaper.
  6. Create accountability to others. Share your goal with friends/family/acquaintances. This creates accountability on your end to wake up early.
  7. Plan a non-negotiable agenda for the next day. This agenda should start right from the point you are supposed to wake up right till your day ends. If you don’t wake up, you will mess up your schedule for the day and end up with a backlog of work at the end.
  8. Create urgency # 1. Set up extremely important and urgent tasks as the first items of the day so you have to wake up and finish them.
  9. Create urgency # 2. Fix an appointment with someone early in the morning. It should be with someone really important whom you cannot cancel on or there will be dire consequences. This is by far one of the most effective methods for me. However, if you have a chronic disability to wake up early, please try other methods first. You don’t want to risk ruining your reputation and your relationship with the person if you end up oversleeping. There were times when I overslept for appointments and it would be tricky to deal with the situation each time.  Nowadays, I make absolute sure that this doesn’t happen at all.
  10. Get a morning call service. Some services are: iPing and Wake Up Land. Or you can ask someone whom you know will be awake at that time to call you.
  11. Work on the goal with someone else. If you have a friend who wants to wake up early too, this will help generate more motivation to wake up early.
  12. Sleep earlier. Be realistic – if you target to wake up at 5am, don’t turn in at only 1am or 2am the night before expecting to be successful in waking up on time. You are more than likely going to crash in your goal. It is the times when I sleep early and have sufficient sleep when waking early becomes a significantly easier task.
  13. Set your alarm clock (with the correct time). Probably goes without saying, but you can’t believe the times when people tell me they woke up late because they forgot to set their alarm clock or they set their alarm time wrongly! If you are trying to get into a new sleeping routine, an alarm clock is going to be essential in the first few weeks. Once you get into the hang of it, you will likely start waking up automatically at around the same time every day without it.
  14. Set multiple alarm clocks (3-5) at the same or different times (5 minutes apart from each other). If you are a heavy sleeper, this is a tip for you.
  15. Put your alarm clock(s) really far (but still audible) such that you need to get off your bed to reach it. Of course, don’t go back to bed after you turn it off!
  16. Switch your alarm to your favorite music (most mobile phones today have this function). What better way to wake up to a new day than to listen to your favorite song? By the time the music finishes playing, you will be more awake and ready to get up.
  17. Before you sleep, mentally recite the time you want to wake up. This might sound bogus, but it works for me. Initially I thought it was just me, until someone told me recently that he was able to wake up early using this method (of which he learned from his friend, who was able to wake up early using the same method too). Our subconscious works in its own mysterious ways.
  18. Set your alarm clock 5 minutes earlier than your designated time. When it rings, put it on snooze, and spend the next 5 minutes mentally preparing yourself for the day ahead. The next time the alarm rings, get off the bed. This is another method that works for me.
  19. Get out of the bed immediately once you hear the alarm. You all know how it feels in the morning when you wake up – the voice in your head is just coaxing you to go to sleep every morning despite your best intents to want to wake up. Instead of giving it the chance to speak, haul yourself out of your bed the second the alarm rings. While you may feel like lead for the first 5~10 minutes, the sleepiness starts wearing off beyond that. Before you know it, you will be awake and ready to start the day.
  20. Establish it as a daily habit. Make it a daily habit. It’s much easier to maintain a daily habit than one that’s only 5 days a week. If you keep having to balance around different timing schedules on weekdays and weekends, your body clock has to constantly adjust and it makes your task much harder.
  21. Load up a full combination of the tips above. Don’t be modest and only use 1 or 2 of the tips above. As you already know, waking up early can be a monumental task in itself. Combine as many of the tips to drive up your chances of success! Also known as the military tactic of ‘overwhelming force’ where you overinvest your resources to ensure the certainty of success.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] 21 Tips To Wake Up Early

This is part of the Early Riser Series. Be sure to check out the other articles:

Check out other articles in the Cultivate Good Habits Series:

  1. 21 Days To Cultivate Life Transforming Habits
  2. 21-Day Lifestyle Revamp Program
  3. 14 Tips To Successfully Cultivate New Habits (exclusive article in Personal Excellence Book, Volume 2)
  4. Waking Early21 Tips To Wake Up Early
  5. Quitting Soda5 Reasons To Quit Drinking Soda (& How To Do It)
  6. Improve Your PostureBenefits Of A Good Posture (& 13 Tips To Do It)
  7. Be TV-Free: 10 Reasons You Should Stop Watching TV
  8. Being On Time17 Tips To Be On Time
  9. Meditation10 Reasons You Should Meditate | How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps
  10. Manage Emails Effectively11 Simple Tips To Effective Email Management
  11. Run Barefoot: 10 Reasons You Should Start Running Barefoot
  12. Weight Loss: 25 Of My Best Weight Loss Tips
  13. Emotional EatingHow To Stop Emotional Eating (6-part series)
  14. Better Oral CareHow To Attain Healthier Gums and Teeth – A Simple but Important Guide
  • Rob

    Do not have shades in your bedroom, which is very helpful if you have some east facing windows. I wake up with the sunrise every morning, and never use an alarm clock anymore (which is bad for your sleep since you can get woken up in the middle of REM sleep)

  • http://www.joyfuldays.com Daphne

    Hi Celes,

    I’ve tried most of these, and the only ones that work for me are #10 and #19. I’m sure the rest work for other people, just not for me! I was up early today, which is Day -1 of the February challenge. Yikes, 28 more days to go! :)

  • http://www.jungleoflife.com Lance

    Hi Celes,
    I keep the alarm well out of reach, and this works okay. However, what I’ve found is that if I don’t have a real purpose planned for getting up early, I’m likely to hit the snooze and go back to bed. So, the key for me really has been your #1 on the list – having a purpose. When I have a purpose, getting up early is much easier.

  • http://jayfrawley.com Jay

    These are great tips. I like that you are not just challenging people to do this, but also helping them along the way. You are a special kind of blogger. Thanks Celes!

  • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

    Rob@ Thanks for the tip; that’s very helpful! I’m a light sleeper, so I get awaken by minute things including sun shining into the room. That’ll go into as Tip # 22 :D

    Daphne@ Great to know you’re joining us for the trial too!! :D I’m looking forward to doing the whole trial with you!

    Lance@ I totally agree – I find when I have an actual reason to wake up early, it becomes much easier. I’ve found the reason to be more productive/focused a very compelling reason to ensure success in waking early! (Woke up at 5am today easily, even though I was tired from Frisbee the day before)

    Jay@ Thanks a lot for your comment, Jay! :D Wish us luck! ;) :)

  • Tony

    Hey great article. I have recently started this also, and it is great. The benefit I like the most is the feeling that the day is much longer. Keep it up ;)

  • Ann

    I will not really recommend this tip, although I have been using it to get up early – don’t pee before you go to bed … I hate alarmclocks :-)

  • Dorothy

    Hi there,

    In the vein of your tip 17, what i have done successfully is to review my waking up at the time I want. You create your own movie and screen it as often as necessary.

    Make sure to give lots of details in terms of your senses: what you see when you wake up, what you hear, the feeling of being refreshed, …. Include your compelling reasons as well.

    Doing so, you create your perfect waking up routine. It may not work from the first night, but at some point, after having reviewed your movie regularly, you suddenly realise that you are waking up early, without alarm clock!

  • Dries

    As addition to Rob’s remark: “which is bad for your sleep since you can get woken up in the middle of REM sleep”.

    Smartphone owners can download a program which can calculate your “sleep-cycle”. Now you have the best of both world, because it is an alarm, but it considers your sleeping cycle. It wakes you at the right time in the cycle. 8)


  • http://www.ashmenon.com Ash Menon

    Some smartphones have this option for smart alarms. Basically if you set the alarm for 6AM, you can set a smart alarm, let’s say for 20 minutes, and at 5:40AM a low-ambient noise will begin, perhaps a river flowing, or birds chirping, little chimes, etc, and get gradually louder the closer it gets to 6AM. It’s brilliant for coaxing your mind gently from the REM cycle without suddenly breaking it, but also wakes you up.

    Of course, I still oversleep with this, but it’s worth mentioning :)

  • http://www.autumn-aurora.blogspot.com Christine

    Hey, Celes!

    I think I should follow your tips on this now. Since I need 1 hour to commute from home to office now, I really have to wake up early. Cannot afford to snooze anymore. :-)

    Oh, happy birthday to your blog too.