The Pain and Joy of Transforming Myself into a 'Morning Person'
Tons of people who think they know a thing or two about being successful love to tell you to get up early and attack the day. Very few of them focus on how easy and fun it is waking up in the wee hours of the morning if you're not used to it. That’s because it’s not. At all.
Very few people have the natural capability to get up really early and happily attack the day. Unluckily for me, one of my best friends is one of those people, so I am constantly reminded of how much she’s accomplishing before I hit “snooze” for the first time.
I am not naturally an early riser of person at all. I love to sleep. Sleeping in is one of my favorite activities of the day. And, boy am I good at it. And some nights I'm working as a standup comedian, so getting to bed early is not always possible.
But, after years of seeing my friend accomplish a ton of career success — much of which she attributes to her morning routine — I decided to bite the bullet and commit to getting up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.
Set Goals, and Reach for Them
For a comedian, 5 a.m. only exists if you stay up all night or if you have to talk to a morning radio station early in the morning. It’s not exactly a desirable time of day.
But only the comedian in me is served by staying up extremely late. And, though this may come as a shock to people who know and love comedians, not all of us are only comedians. I’m also an actress, a writer, someone’s fiance, a yogi, a dog mom, a friend, a runner, a reader, and a person generally obsessed with productivity.
Though I can achieve a lot in a day, I also have lofty goals for myself in life. And, recently, I became frustrated with my inability to get myself out of what felt like a hamster wheel of feeling rushed, overwhelmed, and constantly lacking in both time and money.
Though my stand up comedy self was satisfied staying up very late and getting a few minutes of those late-night sets in, the rest of me was feeling more and more drained by the day.
So, I did what I always do when I’m feeling blah and picked up a new book on personal growth. Luckily for me, LA traffic means I have plenty of time to listen to all sorts of audiobooks about self improvement while screaming at the people merging last minute into my lane.
One particular book, Jeff Olson's The Slight Edge, summarized the lifestyles and choices of some of the most successful and wealthiest people in the world. And the one thing that stood out from me was that they all got up extremely early — like, at least 5 a.m. early. And I figured trying it certainly couldn’t hurt.
I did it for about a week. I was wrong. Early mornings can actually hurt.
Time to Commit to the Clock
Fast forward about a month later and my early-riser jerk of a friend kept letting me know how much she was accomplishing before 8 a.m.
As my days continued to be stressed and rushed, I decided that maybe I was had been a bit melodramatic when I gave up on my early mornings, which really did make a difference in my schedule and attitude. So I committed to 5 a.m. for real this time.
And, yes, it’s the worst. But it’s also been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my adult life.
Let me assure you that it has not gotten any easier to wake up early. With practice, it’s more manageable, but it’s certainly not easier. And I am not always successful in my attempts. But I do more often than not now, and it has completely transformed my view of the world.
My particular routine consists of taking my morning pup on a quick walk, sneaking in a meditation, and then heading to yoga. When I get back, I take both my dogs (the other one has finally woken up by now) on a 20ish minute run around the neighborhood (which makes them — and therefore me — so happy) before making coffee and protein shakes for myself and my fiance.
Then I shower and sit at my desk, ready to take on the day.
And, boy, let me tell you how good it feels to start plugging away with so much accomplished by basically 9:30 a.m. I feel proactive instead of reactive (which it turns out is an actual byproduct of becoming a morning person). As an added bonus, my mind feels sharp and especially creative.
Whatever Gets You Through the (Early) Morning
It’s not particularly important what you do in order to . The most important thing is simply that you have one.
For me and the other crazy people who follow this ridiculously early wake up time (and, if you can believe it, there are some people who get up even earlier), the quiet hours of uninterrupted peace are worth their weight in gold. I no longer feel rushed knowing that I’ve done my absolute best to accomplish everything I could with the day.
Plus, it makes me feel like an object in motion, which physics will tell you means I want to stay in motion — so I accomplish even more throughout my day.
Despite the fact that I’ve been doing it regularly for weeks now, it has not gotten any more enjoyable. My natural early riser friend has been helping hold me accountable by sending me texts in the late morning letting me know everything she’s accomplished. My competitive self wants needs to keep up with her, so it’s very helpful.
How to Do It
There are a few tips and tricks I embrace in order to help myself open my groggy eyes every day.
Aside from the fact that one of my dogs is also a natural early morning riser and loves to jump on my chest and give me slobbery wake-up kisses, there are a few additional actions I take and general mind motivations I remember to make it easier to get my warm feet to hit my cold, dark, hardwood floors every day.
First of all, I check my excuses at the door. There’s no way that some of the busiest and most successful people in the world make time to get up early and I supposedly have too much on my plate to do the same. Before I go to bed and again in the later morning, I remind myself of how good it feels to have accomplished so much for myself in the quiet morning hours.
Those world-changing moguls and I now have something major in common.
Plan for Success
With that in mind, I set myself up for success. I recently banished my phone from the bedroom and replaced it with an old-timey alarm clock. I hate everything about it. It’s hard to turn off and makes an annoying, screeching beep sound. So, really, it’s perfect.
The first couple days I unplugged it after the first alarm with off (I can be, well, dramatic at times). Then I figured out that there are batteries and put batteries in it. Now, even if my angry morning groggy self unplugs the alarm, that annoying little beep will still go off and remind me that I made a commitment to start the day early.
Because my morning pup wants to go out immediately and yoga is one of the few things on my agenda, I lay out my yoga clothes and a jacket the night before in my bathroom. Rather than wake up my fiance by stumbling around — or, even worse, getting frustrated that I can’t find anything in the dark, giving up, and crawling back into bed — I simply get out of the room as quickly as possible.
My morning dog rolls around snorting on the bathmat while I stretch in the bathroom mirror also snorting in camaraderie.
Early to Bed, and Nap
As I mentioned before, I love to sleep. I am not a person who can function on a small amount of sleep. I go hard during the day, giving tons of different projects a healthy dose of my time, attention, enthusiasm, and energy. Though I can maybe miss one or two full nights of rest, it catches up to me quickly. Knowing that, I make it a priority to get to bed early.
With my comedy career, early bedtimes is honestly the biggest challenge I face. But not every night is filled with late night shows. Plenty of opportunities happen in reasonable hours in the evening. Rather than constantly having anxiety that I’m missing out, I make the most of the opportunities I can seize.
Once in a while, there is no getting around a late night and early morning. But when those days come around, I just look forward to a good power nap in the afternoon and extra coffee throughout my day. And, I make sure that I’m in bed as early as I can the next day to make up for those missed zzz’s.
If you need extra motivation to get yourself out of bed, you can do all sorts of tricks the night before.
Get yourself a coffee maker that goes off a timer, so when you get up you have a fresh pot of coffee ready for you. Find yourself a friend who also wants to get up and at it and text them to let them know you’re starting your day. You can buy all sorts of complicated alarm clocks that won’t leave you alone until your mind is at least functioning. Or you can put an alarm in another room so you’re forced to physically get out of bed to turn it off.
Some people like to dive right into the wee morning wake ups without any warning to your body while others prefer to gradually ease into the mornings by waking up 5 minutes earlier every day until they’re adjusted.
I was always the kid that dove right into the freezing cold water and let my body adjust after the shock, so you can guess which route I took.
The good news is, our brains and bodies can adjust quickly to any major change you really commit to. Of course, that’s also sort of the bad news. After about a week of early morning wake ups where I started to get used to the time change, I suddenly hit a lull.
And that, for me, meant I started to create new ways to sleep through my alarm or convince myself that I didn’t need to get up. If I truly felt and was sleep-deprived thanks to multiple nights getting less than 4 or 5 hours, I would give in. But if it was just my mind looking for excuses to continue to live the way I’ve always lived, I would have to exercise my willpower.
Willpower, like any muscle, can be strengthened. And mine gets stronger every time I get myself out of bed after that first obnoxious beep.
The only way to truly enjoy any early morning wake up routine — or any major routine change — is to simply stick with it. It will be hard at first, then get easier, then go back to being really hard when your body and mind realize you were serious. But, eventually, it won’t be hard or easy, it will just be a thing that you do.
If I Can Do It ....
You may not ever want to get up at 5 a.m. in your life. And that’s just fine. Everyone has their own style.
I will say that, from my own former night owl perspective, it has transformed so many elements of my life for the better.
Even though I continue to dislike the sharp beeps as they come from my cheap alarm clock when it’s still dark and cold outside and warm in my bed, I remember the feeling of total empowerment I get from attacking the day. I feel my body crave my morning workouts and meditation time.
I see my productivity skyrocketing and can quantifiably tell I’m getting more done in my day than I ever have before. Plus, I’ve got a floppy dog slobbering on my face, excited to snort in the bathroom and pee in the freezing morning air. So I don’t have all that much time to deliberate on the matter. I just do it.
While early mornings may not be for everyone, it can create more time and life improvements for anyone. And, believe me when I say, if my late-rising sleep-loving self can do it, you absolutely can, too.