One Saturday, I remember waking up around 3 p.m.
I grabbed my phone and found a slew of texts in which my friends had already gotten up, made brunch plans, gone to brunch, and moved on to other activities – and I had slept through the entire thing.
The worst part? This wasn’t a rare occurrence for me.
If left to my own devices, I would sleep in until the last possible minute. But, clearly, it was starting to negatively impact my life.
It’s not that I didn’t want to get up earlier. I just struggled to actually make it happen. My morning-person friends constantly raved to me about the benefits of waking up before the sun (Slow mornings! Time to yourself! Getting to work early!), but I always assured them that there wasno way in hellI could force myself out of bed even a minute before I had to.
As it turns out, I was wrong.
In the past two months, I went from waking up for work around 8:15 a.m. to getting up at 6 a.m. Here’s how I did it:
I made myself accountable to other people.
For better or worse, I wasn’t great at holding myself accountable in non-urgent situations. Job interview? I’ll be there precisely at 9 a.m. But meeting a friend for lunch? Sorry, going to be at least 15 minutes late.
However, the same way having a gym buddy helps me keep up with a regular gym routine, making myself accountable to someone – or something – in the morning forced me to get out of bed. Whether it was attending a small group, meeting a colleague for breakfast, or responding to a friend’s text encouraging me to go for an early-morning run, knowing that someone else noticed and cared if I got up forced me to be responsible and actually do it. With someone else counting on me, I couldn’t change my mind at the (literal) last second like I had been doing when I was only accountable to myself.
Even if it wasn’t about meeting up with someone, putting pressure on myself worked like a charm. I’m running a race in November, and knowing that I need to run a certain amount each week or risk failing instills a fear in me that’s worked as a sure-fire way to make sure I get up in the morning. The race deadline makes running regularly non-negotiable and holds me accountable to my training, which in turn helped commit me to getting up at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
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I made a plan for each morning.
There’s a huge difference between thinking “It’d be nice to get up early tomorrow,” and “I want to run six miles before work.” My motivation increased significantly when I realized the reward of accomplishing a task, while sleep won out over the empty promise of simply having more time in the morning. When my alarm goes off at 6 a.m., having a concrete goal makes it feel worth it to get up, whereas it’s easy to snooze through an ambiguous idea of more time to get ready.
Even if the task is as small as reading one chapter in my book or taking 10 minutes to straighten my hair (which only rarely happens), the reward of ticking something off my to-do list for the day creates the motivation I need for an early start.
I started small.
Starting with a small amount of time, such as two or three days a week, and working up gradually from there made it much less daunting to give up my precious mornings sleeping in. Going from 0 to 100 in anything is jarring and unsustainable, so instead of pledging to get up hours earlier every single day of the week, I focused on making it happen just a few days a week, usually with one of those aforementioned activities in mind. And over the course of a few weeks, I progressively built up to being able to rise early every day.
In that same vein, I aimed to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier consistently, instead of jumping to a full hour or two. Since I usually got up at 8 a.m., it seemed much less formidable to wake up at 7:30 than jump straight to 6 a.m.
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I go to bed earlier.
You cannot stay up until 2 a.m. and expect to get up before 6 on a regular basis. Trust me – I learned this one the hard way.
I stuck with it.
On all my previous “I’m gonna be a morning person!” missions, I’d force myself out of bed a few times, then stop for a day or two, and never get back into it. Sound familiar?
I realized that even if I only got up earlier two days a week, I had to do it every week. I shifted my mindset from “I guess I’m not cut out to be a morning person” to “I can surely do this once a week.”
The act of consistently getting up early taught my body to expect it, and now it comes – almost – second nature.
I even woke up early on a Saturday.