I’m blogging this at 6.43am. The sky is still semi-dark, the fan is whirring, and the world hasn’t woken up yet – perfect conditions for work. So far, I’ve showered, gotten ready for the office, updated my LifeTest page, and I’m now working on this Results post. All before 7am.
I conducted my third LifeTest to see if I could gain some extra time to do work by waking up early every morning. You can check out the full objectives of the LifeTest here, and the detailed log here.
Why Waking Up Early Rocks
I can totally see why some people set their alarms to go off way before anyone else’s: Because it gives them an hour (or three) of quiet, uninterrupted time to do what they value the most: writing, exercising, praying, meditating, etc.
For me, it’s getting the opportunity to work on personal projects like this blog. Early in the mornings, I tend to be more refreshed, alert, and less likely to get distracted by email and social media.
However, the caveat here is that this only happens IF I get enough sleep the night before. If I don’t get around 7 hours of sleep (give or take 15 mins ish), the morning – and the rest of the day – is pretty much blown.
Which brings me to…
I had mixed results for this particular LifeTest:
First, I actually failed at my goal of consistently waking up at 5.50am – my body embarrassingly crashed one Wednesday morning when I woke up 50 minutes late (more on that later). I spent the remaining part of the LifeTest recalibrating until I found that 6am was my sweet spot.
However, I did do pretty well at creating a habit to wake up earlier on weekdays. It’s a little too early to tell, but I’m pretty sure that I can sustain this habit of waking up at 6 from now on, carving out a huge chunk of time to get work done before heading to the office.
The Tactics That Worked
Waking up early rocks. If you’re thinking of trying this out for yourself (and I highly recommend that you do), here are a couple of tactics that I’ve tested to work really well:
1. Place your alarm clock far away from your bed: This is by far the number one tactic that gets me out of bed. Leaving your alarm by your bedside only makes it too tempting to switch it off and go back to sleep.
2. Have an internal “script”: Once you wake up, set a rule to leave the bedroom immediately and head straight to the shower. No exceptions. This eliminates the internal struggles of trying to decide whether to go back to sleep or not.
3. Drink a glass of water: Your body will probably be dehydrated from the night before, so drinking water helps to get your systems restarted.
4. Unplug: I use an app called Self-Control, which turns off my access to Gmail, Facebook and YouTube for an hour (you can decide on the exact amount of time). Knowing that your access is completely blocked off prevents you from succumbing to your distractions even if you wanted to. You can also use another program called Freedom that completely blocks you off the Internet, though it costs $10 to download.
5. Set a social media cutoff time: I institute a social media ban from 10.30pm the night before, which leaves me with enough time to relax in bed with a book and ease myself into sleep. I haven’t quite figured out how to launch Self-Control automatically at 10.30pm yet, though that’s next on my to-do list.
6. Go slow: Don’t try to wake up one hour earlier immediately. Your body won’t be used to it, and it’s pretty likely that you’ll give up quickly. Instead, try setting your alarm clock to go off slightly earlier than the day before, in 5-10 minute increments. For this LifeTest, it took me 2 weeks to get from waking up at 6.50am to 6am.
The Stuff That Didn’t Work
I did make some mistakes while conducting this LifeTest. If you’re trying to get work done early in the mornings, try to avoid doing these:
1. Attempt to sleep for less than 7 hours: All the tactics I described go completely out of the window if your body is fatigued. For me, 7 hours is the minimum amount of sleep I need in order for my productivity to peak the next day.
I had a horrible streak of 4 nights last week where I got an average of 4-5 hours of sleep per night. That simply isn’t sustainable if you’re trying to get up at 5.50am everyday. For me, I had an epic crash on Wednesday morning when my body refused to budge for 50 minutes, forcing me to skip my project that morning and almost making me late for work.
2. Not having a sleep-in day: I need to have at least one day a week – Saturday – where I get more than 7 hours of sleep. I skipped that one weekend, and found myself feeling super drained the following week.
3. Try to accomplish too much: I can only do one thing every morning. One. It could be a blogpost, an ebook, a video, etc, but it has to be limited to one. There were some mornings when I attempted to rush through writing a blogpost and filming a video (which you’ll hear about soon!) at the same time, but that simply resulted in me doing a crappy job for both.
If you found the above strategies useful, could you do me a favor? I’m actually really curious about whether people will try this out for themselves. So if you’re thinking of waking up earlier in the mornings, leave me a comment below telling me what you’d like to wake up early for. It could be as simple as “I want to wake up early every morning so that I can _________”. I’ll see if I can think of other tactics to help you out.