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How to Actually Wake up Early

We all know the feeling after a long day at work — stressed, unmotivated, mentally fried… you just want to sink into that armchair or couch and decompress for a few hours.

But you can’t. You know you need to get into the gym to get that beach-ready body that you want. Or maybe you need to work on your side hustle. Either way, you know you need to get stuff done. There’s that sinking feeling in the back of your mind nagging you to get after it.

But you’re exhausted from working for someone else all day.

You can’t drink any coffee because it’s already after 5pm and you know you won’t sleep until 2am if you do that.

But this 5pm exhaustion is not the problem. It’s the symptom of a problem.

And the problem is this: you aren’t prioritizing what is important to you. Instead, you’re prioritizing your 9–5 existence.

That is what you are proving is more important than getting in shape or working on your side hustle. Your 9–5 job is more important than working on yourself.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by 5pm you had already completed your wildly important goals (WIGs) for the day?

Instead of simply working to pay the bills by 5pm, what if you had already gotten your workout in as well as worked on building your side business?

Imagine walking in the door of your home at 5pm, feeling confident after a productive day’s work. You can sit down with your family at the dinner table feeling content, not rushed or stressed.

I have created a step-by-step method for getting you from the exhausted 7am alarm that you snooze, to waking up at 5am feeling energized and ready to attack the day.

You don’t need to invest in fancy alarm clocks or drink 6 cups of coffee just to get to a normal level of energy in the morning.

Instead, you need to follow a system for yourself to succeed. You can’t set the alarm at night and simply hope or pray that you will drag yourself out of bed in time… You can’t rely on discipline. But you can rely on a system.

Build a system that you can trust to wake yourself up at exactly the optimum time without setting 6 alarms and needing to hide the alarm across the room under a pile of books just to prevent yourself from snoozing the alarm for 40 minutes.

The first part of that system involves mastering the evening. If you master the evening, you’ll master your sleep, and you’ll dominate the morning. If you just fuck around at night and go to bed whenever, eating and drinking whatever you feel like, how can you expect to have a better than average sleep?

The nighttime routine

With any new habit that you are developing, it helps to build a routine around that habit. Usually, what we think of as a new habit, is really a cluster of related behaviors. By building a routine with these behaviors stacked on top of each other, we shortcut the difficulty of developing all of the new behaviors.

1. Turn off all lights an hour prior to bed (especially blue wavelength light)

This is really important to start to trigger your brain to settle down. It takes no effort, and in the background your brain will start to understand that it is approaching bed time. Here are a few suggestions to complement:

  • Use F.Lux on your computer to limit blue light

  • Use Night Shift mode on your iPhone (I have this set to be on from 8pm — 4:30am)

  • Use Blue Light Blocking Glasses

2. Take ZMA and a night tea

ZMA is a great supplement for improving sleep quality, but check with your doctor. If you enjoy tea, that can be a great trigger to tell your body to wind down, as you have to drink it slowly. My go-to is Sleepy Time Tea, but YMMV.

3. Personal care and hygiene routine

Beauty and personal hygiene, like most other things in life, is about consistency. Take care of the things that you need to: brush & floss your teeth, wash your face, apply moisturizer, whatever you need to do to feel and look great tomorrow.

4. Read, watch a show, play a game that is not too stimulating, spend time with loved ones

You work so hard, why don’t you enjoy it once in awhile? I am motivated by providing a great life for my family. But sometimes we get lost in the grind and forget to enjoy that life with them.

5. Go to bed

If you are a back sleeper, I recommend lying still with your hands by your sides, and trying not to move a muscle — you’ll be astonished by how quickly you fall asleep. If you have trouble with sleep onset (falling asleep), try these tips:

  • Try recalling your day backwards

  • Try reading a book (paper book or Kindle Paperwhite)

  • Try taking a hot shower

  • Listen to a podcast with a sleep timer set to shut off after 10–15 minutes

The morning routine

You wake up groggy. If you’re good, your alarm has only gone off once — or maybe even not at all. If you’re like many of us, it has already gone off a few times. You don’t want to think about what you have to do. In fact, you don’t — you do the same thing that you’ve done every other morning. Whether that is sleep walk straight to the shower or the Keurig, you don’t think about that first hour — especially the first few minutes.

Now, that’s natural — when you wake up, it takes your mind and body time to get rolling. If you’re driving a high-performance race car, you don’t just pull it out of the garage and redline it from the start — you give it time to warm up. We don’t want to act like you don’t need time to warm your body and mind up, and we don’t want you to have to think about it.

That’s inherent in the rationale behind having a good morning routine. We want a series of steps that doesn’t make you think about what to do next, but will also get your mind and body warmed up — slowly.

1. Water

We start off the day dehydrated. Laying down for 8 hours without drinking water tends to do that, even if we aren’t conscious of it. Start off the day with a glass of water, especially with hydrating minerals — Liquid IV is a good option.

2. Light

I always try to get blue light time within the first 30 minutes of waking. Otherwise, it feels like it just takes me too long. You can actually go outside or using a blue light.

3. Movement

Go for a walk. Stretch. Use a foam roller. Whatever works for you, but start moving just a little bit.

4. Work on yourself

Daily self-improvement is really important, but also really hard to regularly make time for it. This could be reading to learn something new, meditating to reduce anxiety,

3. Work on something really important

Understand how you work. I don’t do a good job with creative work early in the morning, so I do more editing in the morning than new writing. I save that for my evenings.

Putting it all together

It’s incredible how many people don’t take the time to reassess their nighttime and morning routines. All of us have them — we are habitual creatures, so we tend to do the same things as we wind down each night and the same things as we start to get after the day in the morning. But most of those things aren’t done consciously — we don’t choose to check emails for the first hour of our day. We don’t choose to scroll through Instagram for 40 minutes while laying in bed. It just sort of happens. That’s why we build intentional, thought-out, and self-affirming morning routines. When you rise in the morning, you should elevate your mind and body — without needing to think about how to do it. You alarm sounds, you get up, and you follow your routine — before you know it, you feel awesome and have gotten valuable work done before many are pouring their first coffee.

That’s the power of following a self-care nighttime routine, waking up early, and following a morning routine that sets you up to rock the day.

Most of us know that we need to do this… we hear in the self-help blogs and Fortune magazine articles that all successful people wake up early. We also hear that they eliminate decision-making by wearing the same t-shirt every day. While we might not go that far, we can standardize the first and last hour of our day so that it isn’t even a decision, it’s just something we do as top performers.

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