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. Here are 21 tips you can use to wake up early and stay up. :) The ones that work best for me are #1, #5, #6, and #12:

  1. Have a compelling reason to wake up early. Why do you want to wake up early? To get more work done? To get a head start in your day? To be healthier? Almost all attempts to wake up early fail because there isn’t a strong enough reason driving this habit change. Back when I just wanted to wake up early for the sake of it, I failed miserably. But after I got clear of my real motivations, including because I want to be healthier and I’ve seen how waking earlier makes me more productive, I started to do so successfully. If you really want to wake up early, get clear of why you want to do it.
  2. Cut out the stimulants that affect your sleep schedule, namely caffeine and alcohol. These factors mess around with your sleep cycle and the quality of your sleep, which subsequently affects your waking time.
  3. Make a transition. If you always wake up at 10-11am, waking up immediately at 5am the next day may be a big jolt. Start off by improving your waking time by 30 min each day until you reach your goal.
  4. Create accountability. Share your goal with your friends/family/acquaintances. This creates accountability on your end to wake up early.
  5. Understand what’s causing you to wake up late. And tackle them. Maybe you keep waking up late because you tend to work late. Shift these work items to the morning. If you exercise late at night, then change your exercise to the morning. A study has shown that doing high-intensity exercise before sleep increases the time you take to fall asleep. If you’re always playing games or doing stimulating work activity before sleep, then have a cut off 30 minutes before you sleep, to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  6. Understand that sleeping late doesn’t make you more productive. I used to sleep late because I would be working, which led me to wake up late. However, I later realized that sleeping late doesn’t make me more productive. Ultimately when you sleep late, you wake up late — or you wake up on time (due to work) and become tired the next day and can’t operate at your highest level. I realized that when I wake up early, even when my waking hours are the same, I’m significantly more focused and hence productive. Read: Why I 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. Set up extremely important and urgent tasks as the first items of the day so you have to wake up and finish them. Rather than sleep late to do these, wake up early to do them instead. Another way is to fix an appointment with someone early in the morning. This should be someone important whom you cannot cancel on. This has always been an effective way for me. But if you have a chronic inability 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!
  9. Place your goal in a prominent spot: Environmental reinforcement of your goal will reinforce it consciously and subconsciously in your mind. If you have a notice board, put your goal to wake up early on the board. Other options are to stick a post-it note in front of your computer or set it as your wallpaper.
  10. Get a morning call service. Examples are Wake Up Land and Wake Up Dialer. Or you can ask someone whom you know will be awake at that time to call you.
  11. Work on the goal with someone. If you have a friend who wants to wake up early too, this will give you more motivation to wake up early. If you know someone who is an early riser, get inspiration from their lifestyle.
  12. Sleep earlier. Be realistic. If you target to wake up at 5am, don’t turn in at only 2am the night before and expect to wake up on time. You are more than likely going to fail in your goal! It is the times when I sleep early and have sufficient rest when waking early becomes an easy task.
  13. Set your alarm clock (with the correct time). Probably goes without saying, but you can’t believe the number of times people told me that they woke up late because they forgot to set their alarm or they had set their alarm time wrongly! If you are trying to create a new sleep routine, an alarm clock will be essential in the first few weeks. Once you get into the routine, you will likely wake up automatically at around the same time without an alarm.
  14. Set multiple alarm clocks at the same or different times (5 minutes apart from each other). If you are a heavy sleeper, this is 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 may 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 (which he learned from his friend, who was able to wake up early using the same method too). Our subconscious works in mysterious ways. Of course, you need to ensure you have enough sleep (#12), otherwise it is pointless.
  18. Meditate before you sleep. Meditation helps clear mental clutter, something that our sleep does too. This makes it easier to sleep. I find that when I meditate before I sleep, I fall asleep much easier. I also wake up earlier, like 30 minutes to an hour earlier, and feel much clearer in my mind the next morning. Read: How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps
  19. Get out of the bed once you hear the alarm. You all know how it feels in the morning when you wake up – the voice in your head is coaxing you to go to sleep despite your best intention 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 a zombie for the first 10 minutes, the sleepiness wears off after 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 have to keep balancing different timing schedules on weekdays and weekends, your body clock has to constantly adjust and this makes your task much harder.
  21. Use a combination of the tips above. Don’t be modest and use only 1-2 of the tips above. As you already know, waking up early can be difficult in itself. Combine as many of the tips to drive up your chances of success! This is also known as the military tactic of ‘overwhelming force’ where you overinvest your resources to ensure your success.

No matter what happens, don’t give up. Waking up early can be difficult, but as long as you keep trying, you will get there. Good luck! :)

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

This is part of the Cultivate Good Habits Series. Check out the full series:

  1. 21 Days To Cultivate Life Transforming Habits
  2. Waking Early9 Reasons To Wake Up Early | 21 Tips To Wake Up Early
  3. Quitting Soda5 Reasons To Quit Drinking Soda (And How To Do It)
  4. Improve Your PostureBenefits of a Good Posture (And 13 Tips to Get One)
  5. Be TV-Free: 10 Reasons You Should Stop Watching TV
  6. Being On TimeHow To Be On Time
  7. Meditation10 Reasons You Should Meditate | How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps
  8. Manage Emails EffectivelyHow To Manage Your Emails Effectively
  9. Run Barefoot: 10 Reasons To Run Barefoot
  10. Emotional EatingHow To Stop Emotional Eating (6-part series)