Are you dreaming of becoming an “early riser”? Of getting up at 5am, jumping out of bed, immediately lacing your running shoes, going for your morning run, coming back and hopping under a cold shower, then meditating for 20 minutes, doing your journaling, and getting off to work knowing you’ll have another epic day?
Yes? Yes! But, you’re not sure you can do it, right? Maybe you tell yourself you don’t have the necessary discipline, or you’re just not a morning person, or whatever other excuse your mind comes up with.
STOP all of this nonsense. Getting up early is something anyone can do, it’s just a matter of overcoming common obstacles by using the right strategies and tools. If you’ve tried becoming an early riser before, you’ve probably failed because of one of the four following obstacles. Fact is, you just didn’t know how to overcome them.
This is what this article will do for you. It will show you how to overcome the most common obstacles to getting up early. Now, dig in and become an early riser!
How to Overcome the 4 Most Common Obstacles to Getting Up Early
Obstacle #1: You Can’t Fall Asleep Fast Enough
Developing the ability to consistently fall asleep within 10-20 minutes is powerful and it’s of paramount importance if you ever want to get up early.
Why? Because if you can’t fall asleep quickly, you’re always at risk of getting too little sleep and being dead tired and groggy when you wake up in the morning.
Needless to say, waking up with too little sleep and tired is NOT going to help you get up in the morning.
So how do you overcome this obstacle? How do you fall asleep faster?
First of all, you want to block all blue lights in your environment within 60 – 90 minutes of going to sleep. This is crucial because blue light interrupts your body’s production of melatonin, your most powerful sleep hormone. The more melatonin your body produces, the faster you will generally fall asleep.
You have two options for blocking the blue light:
- Best option: Buy a pair of blue-blocking glasses and wear them 60 – 90 minutes before you intend to sleep. I use these ones from amazon (but beware: they’re ugly!).
- If you don’t like the idea of wearing orange glasses at night, there’s an alternative. Simply install blue-light-blocking apps on your laptop and smartphone and dim the other lights as good as possible. (I use f.lux for my laptop and the Twilight app for my phone)
By following these strategies you’ll have higher levels of melatonin and will fall asleep faster.
The 2nd trick I would highly recommend is to go to bed 30-60 minutes before you’re intending to fall asleep and use that time for reading. The biggest obstacle keeping people from falling asleep is an overly active mind. When I go to bed after a busy day and try to fall asleep right away, you can be sure I’m awake suffering from insomnia for the next few hours.
You need time to wind down and forget about the worries of the day. Best way to do that? Reading. It will shift your thoughts and make you tired at the same time (reading is quite exhausting for the brain). After 15-30 minutes of reading you’ll find you’re able to fall asleep much faster.
Obstacle #2: The Snooze Button
Hitting the snooze button in the morning doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying, “I hate getting up in the morning so I do it over and over and over again.” — Dimitri Martin, Comedian
The snooze button – the most obvious obstacle of all. And luckily, one that is fairly easy to overcome.
Take me for instance. I’ve been a snooze-button-addict for the largest part of my life, but I haven’t used it in over a year. How’d I do it?
I used implementation intentions – if-then plans that pre-decide how you will act in a future scenario. The “IF” stands for the cue and the “THEN” stands for the predetermined response to the cue.
“If situation x arises, then I will perform response y.”
I suggest using the following two implementation intentions to stop hitting the snooze button:
- “If the alarm goes off in the morning, then I get out of bed right away – no matter what!”
- “If I feel like hitting the snooze button, then I get out of bed right away!”
Simple, yet effective. These if-then plans have been PROVEN in almost one hundred scientific studies to have a strong positive impact on actual behavior. In this case the behavior would be NOT hitting the snooze button.
Here’s one particularly convincing study that will convince you of using this strategy. Twenty drug addicts committed to writing a short résumé before 5pm that day (hospital staff encouraged the recovering drug addicts to write résumés so they will find work upon their release from treatment). They were split up into two groups:
- Group 1: They made if-then plans for achieving the goal. E.g. if it’s 3pm, then I will write the résumé in my room.
- Group 2: They made no plan.
The results? 8 of the 10 addicts who created implementation intentions wrote their résumés. Of the 10 addicts who didn’t create any plan, none wrote it. None. Not a single one.
The point is, this strategy works. So simply write down those two (or more) implementation intentions and read them every night before going to bed. This will – almost magically – kill your habit of hitting the snooze button.
Want a back-up plan? An additional strategy you can use is an alarm clock that forces you to get out of bed. The iPhone app Step out of Bed does exactly that. To turn off the alarm you must walk a certain pre-determined number of steps. You’re literally forced to get out of bed. And once you’re up, chances are you won’t go back to sleep again – you successfully got up early. Congrats!
Alarmy is a good Android alternative.
Obstacle #3: The Weekend
So you’ve been waking up early from Monday to Friday, but uh-oh… here it comes: the weekend.
You stay home to watch a movie on Friday night, so Saturday morning is no problem. You stay disciplined and manage to get up early as well. But now comes Saturday night – time to party. You go out, have a great time, and go to bed at 4am.
You sleep in on Sunday morning, getting up at 11am. That’s totally fine. You enjoyed yourself and deserved some sleep. The problem is you’ve just created a mini-jetlag. You got up 4-6 hours after your normal wake-up time (depending on when you get up during the week). That’s like traveling 4-6 time zones!
Your body doesn’t know where it’s at. Which means you probably won’t feel tired in the evening, will have trouble falling asleep, will get too little sleep, and will have a super hard time getting out of bed Monday morning. That’s called a Monday Jetlag.
Worst case scenario: You stay in bed Monday morning and don’t get up early. Your motivation takes a nosedive and you give up on getting up early completely. Believe it or not, this happened to me many times! One miss-step can ruin everything. And after the weekend we are most prone to make that mistake.
So what to do?
First, try to stick to your sleep schedule on the weekend as good as possible. Try to go to bed and get up at approximately the same time as you do during the week. If that’s not in your books, use the next tip.
Second, supplement with 0.5mg of melatonin 1 hour before you intend to fall asleep. Melatonin is your #1 sleep hormone and will quite literally tell your body to slow down, get sleepy, and head to bed.
Supplementing with melatonin is one of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster. For example, this study shows that people who supplemented with it fell asleep faster and even had an improvement in sleep quality of 15%.
On a Sunday night I’ll usually take it at around 9:30pm which will help me fall asleep at 10:30pm or so. No matter how crazy the weekend went, this helps me ease back into my normal sleep schedule. Then, on Monday morning, I can get up early again – almost as if nothing ever happened on the weekend. (Note: I use these tablets and break them in halves.)
Obstacle #4: You Lose Motivation, Fall Off Track, and Give Up
Has this ever happened to you? You are excited to become an early riser and you successfully get up early for 5-10 days in a row… Only to lose your motivation, mess up on one morning, and then give it all up?
It happened to me all the time, with all kinds of habits I tried to install in my life. Thankfully, the solution is fairly simple: You have to know your “why”. More precisely, you need to have a big enough why, a strong enough reason to keep going. You must want it bad enough. You must find ways to stay motivated and inspired until getting up early has become a habit of yours.
So how do you do it? How do you keep this fire burning? How do you stay motivated and ready to go the full distance?
One of the best strategies I’ve found is to get inspired by reading about other people getting up early. How do they do it? How is it changing their lives? How do they find the discipline? Or read about other people’s morning routines. What do people do during the first 30-60 minutes of their day? Do they exercise, read, meditate, visualize a better future?
Oh, or read Laura Vanderkam’s book on what successful people do before breakfast – that’s pure motivation.
Whatever it is, find something that inspires and motivates you and read a little bit of it every day. This will ensure you won’t quit and will do whatever it takes to install the habit of getting up early.
Whenever we’re trying to achieve a goal, there are obstacles we need to overcome. The same is true for the goal of getting up early. Maybe you’re always hitting the snooze button, or you lose motivation too quickly, or you always stay up too late. Everyone’s fighting with his or her own demons.
In today’s article, we discussed 4 of the most common obstacles to getting up early. See if they concern you and then use the strategies to overcome them.
Have trouble falling asleep fast enough? Try blocking out all blue lights in your environment, especially the ones emitting from your pc and smartphone. Also, go to bed 30-60 minutes before you intend to fall asleep and use that time for reading. This will help you wind down, calm your mind, make you tired, and ultimately fall asleep faster.
Hitting the snooze button in the morning? Read these 2 implementation intentions before going to bed:
- “If the alarm clock goes off in the morning, then I get out of bed right away – no matter what!”
- “If I feel like hitting the snooze button, then I get out of bed anyway!”
Are you at risk of losing it all on Monday morning after a party weekend? Simply supplement with 0.5mg of melatonin 1 hour before going to bed on Sunday night. This will help you fall asleep fast and wake up energized the next morning. This way there’s no reason NOT to get up early on Monday morning.
Are you running out of motivation and feeling like giving up? Then you need to upgrade your WHY, you need to get inspired! Best way to do that is by reading about other people crushing it early in the morning. Read about people’s morning routines and what they are able to get done in the first few hours of the day – that’s inspiring.
What is your biggest obstacle to getting up early? How are you planning to overcome it? Let me know in the comments below!