I don’t know if this has always been the case, but waking up at 5am is super trendy these days. There are countless articles outlining why everyone should wake up at the crack of dawn every day and countless YouTube videos displaying staged and edited versions of the “best” morning routines. It all seems so blissful and even tempting. Until your alarm goes off at 5am the next morning and you feel like flushing all your hopes and dreams down the toilet. But don’t give up yet! I’m here to let you in on what you need to know about waking up earlier.
My 5am wake up story
I’ve tried time and time again to wake up at 5am (or earlier, eek) every day before work at 7am. I’ve tried to wake up at 4:30am and workout. I’ve tried to wake up at 5:15am and workout (this did not give me enough time). I’ve tried to wake up at 5am to read in bed (you can imagine how this turned out). I’ve tried to wake up 5:30am just to have a “slow morning.” I’ve tried to wake up at 6am on weekends (LOL).
I tried many things and learned that it wasn’t gonna happen for me. I thought that waking up earlier was stupid and for weird overachievers (no offense if you’re reading this out of pure enjoyment because you wake up super early). I basically gave up and tried my best to complete all the things in the evenings after work.
Only I wasn’t completing all the things in the evenings after work. You see, I wanted to be able to go to the gym, write, read, cook, go to the occasional happy hour, and have down time to chill before bed. All of this seemed extremely plausible and feasible on paper. But, somehow I was failing.
I thought to myself: why not just stay up late every night? I never made it past 10:30pm. I’m one of those people that is neither a morning person nor a night owl. Catch me between 10am and 4pm. Eventually, something had to give because I was constantly down on myself for not doing the things I loved. Namely, writing. I was sick of feeling like a bum for letting another day pass where I didn’t write one word because my creativity had vanished after a long day of meeting other people’s demands.
So, I started waking up at 5am again. Only, this time it was to write for this very blog. It’s been wonderful but let’s just get one thing out of the way: when you’re not used to doing it, waking up earlier than you need to is HARD. You’re tired, you’re slow, your hair is messed up, and within the first five minutes, you want to quit and get back under the covers. And get this: no one is making you do it which makes it even more difficult.
But as they say on those drug commercials, the risks are high but the benefits outweigh the risks. The thing that gets me up in the morning is something that’s actually exciting to me. I love writing. I think I’m onto something. It’s fun. And on top of that, I feel so much more at ease after work knowing I made a dent in my writing projects in the morning. That’s why I keep going even though it’s hard and I do fall off sometimes.
So, what are those benefits of waking up earlier?
There are numerous benefits of waking up earlier. To start, waking up earlier allows for quiet time, more time to be productive, and can even give you more time to eat breakfast before the world wakes up demands your attention. When you wake up earlier, you can ease into the day without as much stress as you would from being hurled out of sleep by a jarring alarm and having to rush to get ready.
In today’s world, more and more people are realizing they have more to contribute to society than their day-jobs. Waking up earlier can give you uninterrupted time to pursue your personal goals or even to do those things you tell yourself you want to do but never end up doing. Whether it be reading more, writing, painting, working out, meditating or whatever you’re into, getting out of bed to do these things can be pretty exciting.
What it’s REALLY like to wake up earlier than you need to.
If you’re not a “morning person” who finds waking up at ungodly hours delightful, waking up earlier is HARD. It takes preparation, discipline, and effort. It’s not this automatic thing that happens just because you want it to happen – you’re probably going to need an alarm to wake you up. It’s also not going to be like the graceful, effortless, and overly produced 5am morning routine videos you see on YouTube. You’re not going to snap your fingers and POOF, you’re up. Nope. You’re going to be tired, groggy, and a little disheveled.
Perhaps the one thing that most people overlook when trying to wake up earlier is the acknowledgement of the things you must give up in exchange for that early wake-up call. The reality is that in order to wake up earlier, you’re going to lose parts of your previous life that you may have loved or at least felt comfortable with. Such as late night Netflix binges, happy hour, or those two hours you dedicate to scrolling on social media. In addition to the discomfort and grogginess from waking up earlier, you’re likely losing time you previously had in the evening because you go to bed earlier.
This is the only thing you need to wake up earlier
The only thing that’s going to get you out of bed earlier in the morning is this: YOUR decision to do so and the action that follows that decision. It was not an accident to capitalize the letters in “your.” Because the decision to wake up earlier has to be owned by you and you only. Not your mom, sister, significant other, or that YouTuber with the perfect 5am wake up video. When you own the decisions you make, you act on those decisions for you and your own reasons.
And more importantly: a decision without action is just a goal. You can buy all the books, planners, and morning routine starter kits. They’ll all be useless without you taking action on actually getting your butt out of bed early in the morning.
Got it. So how do I ACTUALLY, physically wake up earlier?
Aha, yes. You can read all of the articles telling you that it’s a great idea to wake up earlier, but rarely do they give you the blueprint. Once you’ve decided you want to incorporate this into your lifestyle, you’ve got to own it. I recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear. There was one key thing I learned: your habits are part of your identity.
If you want to wake up earlier, you’ve got to identify as someone who wakes up earlier. There’s no more telling yourself that you’re not a morning person or that you hate waking up early. In order to live this lifestyle, you’ve got to identify as someone who lives this lifestyle. You’ve got to be about that waking up early life!
Another important aspect of habit or behavior change is making the behavior super easy to do.
Here are a few ideas on how to make the decision to wake up earlier much easier:
- Get enough sleep the night before. I know this sounds simple, but if you’re expecting to wake up at the crack of dawn, don’t go to bed 4 hours before you need to get up. Simple. We all know by now that humans require 8 hours of sleep each night. Some people can get away with less, some require more. You know what you need better than I do!
- Set your alarm(s). If you need an alarm to wake up at your regular time, you’ll definitely need one to wake up earlier than that. I shamelessly set multiple alarms because I’ve been known to turn them off while sound asleep. The type of alarm is also important. I can’t stand waking up to what sounds like world war III. I use the more peaceful options on iPhone.
- Limit technology before bed. Not only because of blue light, but more importantly because tending to everyone else’s pain and problems before bed isn’t going to lead to a peaceful, restful night’s sleep. That’s it, that’s the tweet.
- Don’t wake up aimlessly. Okay, this is IMPORTANT. If you wake up and you don’t have anything planned to do, you’ll get bored and go back to bed. No matter what you want to do with your mornings, it’s a great idea to have a plan of attack prior to waking up. You can use trial and error to figure out the types of things you like to do in the mornings. For example: do you like to wake up and go balls to walls on a workout? Or, do you like to take it easy with something a bit more peaceful? The morning is your oyster.
- Take the pressure off. I know, I know. Everyone shoves the 5am wake-up time down our throats (there are several references to 5am in this post). The great thing about your life is that it’s YOUR life and that means you can wake up whatever time will allow you to do the things you want before the rest of the world can interfere. Maybe it’s 5am or maybe it’s 7:30am – do you, boo. On a similar note, you don’t need to plan to do 80 million things in the morning. Trying to do too many things in the morning can be stressful and you may end up disappointed because you couldn’t fit them all in. Pick 1-3 things, depending on how much earlier you want to wake up and crush it.
Waking up earlier isn’t a one size fits all kind of activity. Everyone’s schedules and circumstances are different. The most important aspect of successfully waking up earlier every day is to decide to do so and then act on your decision – each and every day. Your mornings are what you make of them.
What time do you wake up in the morning? Comment and let me know what your mornings look like!