The Only New Year’s Resolution You Need: Waking Up Early

Truth be told, waking up early and having a morning routine is one of the best things in my life. It sets my day on the right path and helps me consistently take actions towards my goals.

I don’t always get a lot done, but it helps me focus and get grounded in my day. Any time I wake up later than expected or end up rushing to get into work, my day and brain are always a bit more scattered. It’s neat to see how much more effortless it is to have an amazing day after you’ve started it right.  Compared to the opposite of that, where I am foggy brained from over or under sleeping and struggling to keep up.

This one decision, to wake up early, will make or break your day. The morning routine/ritual is optional… What you do once you wake up is up to you. But I guarantee you’ll be more positive and grounded in your head space and decisions if you get up early and begin acting with intention.

Understanding a Few Things

First realize you’re neither a “morning person” or a “night owl”. You can choose to be either through consistent actions (read: habit building).

How early you choose to wake up is relevant to your situation. For some it may be between 4AM and 6AM, before the kids and spouse wake up. For others it’ll be getting up between 6AM and 8AM. Some even have crazy schedules like Police or shift workers. Adjust accordingly.

The point here is that you’re getting up and taking action well before you are required to do anything else. Whether it’s work, childcare, chores, vacation, whatever. Get up with enough time to get your mind right.

The exception with all of this can children. While it’s much easier to have children over 1 on a better, consistent schedule, newborns and other kids have their bad nights. This makes it tough and I recognize waking up with your kids in the middle of the night is absolutely killer. Disrupted sleep is terrible and almost always makes me feel worse when I wake up.

I haven’t completely figured out how to deal with that scenario except work on a consistent schedule and power through when necessary. I’ve been fortunate my son stays in bed and sleeps relatively well. Maybe some more experienced parents can chime in.

How to Start Waking Up Early

The true key to waking up early is simple: go to bed earlier.

It all begins here. Work backwards from the time you want to wake up.

How much sleep you need will vary but I’ve found 6.5 to 8 to be a good range. Experiment and find what works for you.

If you wanted to wake up by 6AM with 8 hours of sleep, that means you’d need to be asleep by 10PM. I’ve been using Sleepyti.me for a long time to see how many sleep cycles I can realistically get each night. This site says it takes about 15 minutes to fall asleep.

This means you’d be falling asleep around 10:15PM if you laid down at 10. Not bad. So just under 8 hours of sleep.

Something I’d highly recommend that helps me a lot is a pre-bedtime ritual. Once you do it enough, it’ll become a habit. One hour before bed, don’t watch TV, use your phone, or do anything too active. Instead opt for activities like reading. I guarantee that if you read a physical book an hour before bed you’ll be pretty tired at the end of that hour.

The cool thing about this is that you’ll suddenly start finishing a lot of books. Make sure to hit up your local library so you’re saving money on books.

Most people recommend fiction before bed, because it’s more oriented towards relaxation and entertainment rather than learning. But I’ve done both for years now and I don’t mind reading non-fiction. As long as it’s not too technical and I don’t need to take notes I’m good.

I’m not a huge fan of reading on a tablet or a mobile device in general. But even if I was, that would expose me to more blue-light. That’s a big cause in why people have trouble falling asleep. Also, no caffeine after 1PM!

The night before, not only do you need to go to bed early, but you need to do a little bit of planning before bed most nights. For example, before bed you need to decide what time you’re going to wake up, how you’re going to wake up (natural or alarm or alarm with two snoozes, etc), and what you’ll do once you wake up. That brings us to…

How to Use Your Time

What is there to do when you rise early? For starters, you should breathe, stretch, and drink water. And that’s about it. Don’t even think about touching your damn phone. 

Getting on your phone is a fast-track to a scattered, unproductive day.

Instead, try being silent and still. If I feel groggy or sleepy, I drink more water, get out of bed, and do a slow squat or two. This usually does this trick almost instantly. If I still feel like crap, I’ll reevaluate my situation and try to make the most rational decision next. Sometimes you’ll need more sleep, but you’ll be able to read your body’s signs much easier once you’re in a habit of waking up early. 

The next thing I do is my morning ritual. This is basic but it keeps me clear headed, positive, and focused on my goals.

My ritual is very important to me. I am calm and still, and I try my best to cultivate focus (it’s a really hard skill to develop apparently). I try to be grateful, plan my day with some intent, breathe some more, attempt a visualization, and read some type of virtue list or code of honor. Something that gets me in the right mindset for how I want my actions to be reflected.

I’ve tried a lot of things over the past few years and the few things that have stuck are…

  • Gratitude. Write three things you’re grateful for.
  • Priority List. What are the top 5 things I need to do today that will propel me closer to my goals? If you wrote yours the night before, review these and prioritize / block your day.
  • Intentions. This can be a meditation, a prayer, a reading, or just a clear thought. I started as a meditation, moved to a reading (of something I wrote for myself, like an affirmation and a visualization), and now I’ve done it so often that I can just think of these things in my head.

My morning routine used to take me over 30 minutes and that was fine. That’s what I needed at the time to get me grounded. Now it’s about 10 minutes. Experiment and figure out what works for you.

The key is getting your mind on the right track.

After this, you can either carry on with what you need to do like go to work, or if you woke up early enough you can do other things. Meal prep for the day, work out, write, talk to your spouse, walk your dog(s), catch up on a book or magazine. You get the idea.

Final Thoughts

After waking up early and having a morning ritual for the past few years, I can definitely say this has been a game changer for me.

This one thing, waking up early, has been the first domino to fall, so to speak.

Once you nail this, everything else starts falling into place.

Suddenly I began to have a lot more free time outside of work. This allowed me to be more active. That increased my appetite, which I fueled it with even better foods (because if you don’t, you won’t perform as well). Then I started learning how to cook better. This lead me to saving money on food.

I found that I had more time to do things myself, like change my oil, cook my food, build a simple home gym, ride a bicycle to work instead of taking my car.

All of these small shifts began to take place, and many more, once I began waking up early. And all of these small shifts began to save me a lot of money over time.

At first I didn’t notice it whatsoever. But gradually they compound, and suddenly you don’t even notice when it’s payday anymore. And that’s a damn good feeling.

From our family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful new year. May 2019 be a year of thriving in your life through spending less and living more. 🙂

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