3 Morning Habits That Make Waking up Early Incredibly Easy
I was never really a morning person for the first quarter of my life. I always struggled to wake up on time, let alone wake up early.
While working a 9-to5, a morning routine never took priority because all I wanted to do was wake up and get to my job. Then the day would take care of itself.
About two years ago, however, when I quit the corporate grind and decided to start working for myself, things changed. Mornings became an integral part of my day. And they impacted more than just my mood. They affected my productivity, my motivation, and my work completion rate throughout the day.
I tried several routines and experiments — from the complicated 3-hour ones to the simple 5-minute ones — before settling for the one I have today.
However, more important than the routine itself are the habits that helped me get there. Without these changes, a routine would be nowhere in the picture. I like to think of these as the fundamentals of having a good morning.
Here’s how you can incorporate them in your life.
Waking up to natural light or better yet sunlight
Almost all species on earth, including humans, have evolved to use the sun’s natural cycle as a guide for their circadian rhythms.
However, our current lifestyle revolves around staying indoors most of the time. That has messed with this natural rhythm. Research shows that reduced exposure to sunlight and increased exposure to artificial light throws our natural rhythm haywire.
I found that one easy way to work around this is to wake up to natural light. I don’t draw the blinds at night and I have east-facing windows. This means that as the sun rises, I get sunlight in my room. And it is the best natural alarm clock.
Waking up early gets easier if you work with your body’s natural rhythm instead of against it. Instead of blocking out morning light, use the sun as your ally and it will become a lot easier.
How you can do this?
- Sleep in a room that is bound to get a lot of natural light in the morning
- If you live in places that don’t get a lot of sunlight or natural light, try using a sun lamp to get some of the same effects.
- Try cutting down on exposure to light from electronic devices right after waking up and right before going to sleep to get your body’s natural circadian rhythm back on track.
Starting the day intentionally and not reactively
Tell me if this sounds familiar: You wake up to your phone’s alarm blaring and immediately after switching it off, you go ahead and look at all the notifications you have from the previous night. Before you know it, you’re scrolling through your social media, reading emails, replying to messages and you’ve spent a considerable period of your morning.
Most of us are guilty of doing this. We tend to start our mornings reacting to external stimuli rather than taking an intentional approach and setting our day according to ourselves.
In a 2018 article in Entrepreneur, writer Dan Dowling talks about how having a reactive approach right in the morning sets you up for dissatisfaction and external gratification, and prevents you from actively pursuing your goals.
About a year ago, when I found myself constantly overwhelmed by this reactive approach, I made a few changes that completely transformed my mornings. I turned off all notifications (social media, email, and any other app except for Whatsapp for personal messages) on my phone. Eventually, I stopped using my phone in the mornings altogether and I replaced my social media scrolling habit with reading.
I started creating to-do lists to get a sense of order about my day right in the morning and I started meditating.
Being proactive can mean different things for different people. You don’t necessarily have to follow what everyone else is doing. But here are a few steps you can take:
How you can do this?
- If you can’t switch off notifications altogether, try putting your phone on the do-not-disturb mode at night so that you don’t have to deal with a barrage of information right in the morning
- Get into the habit of replacing social media scrolling with something more productive such as reading or meditating
- If you can, limit interaction with people right after waking up. Take time to centre yourself and get your mind ready for the rest of the day.
Giving yourself easy wins
If you’re not a morning person, chances are that mornings are not your most productive time of the day. And honestly, they don’t have to be even if you are a morning person.
It is counterproductive to think that you can accomplish everything important about your day right in the morning. To understand this, we first need to understand the concept of ultradian rhythms. Think of these as shorter versions of the circadian rhythm, that happen in bursts throughout the day.
Research shows that these ultradian rhythms dictate our productivity to quite an extent. They’re the reason we feel we can do certain tasks better at certain times of the day.
Once you realise this and once you figure out your own rhythm, you will know the kind of activities you should be doing in the morning to make you more energised. When I was trying to get into the habit of waking up early, the small things made a huge difference. Things like making my bed, brushing my teeth, cleaning up my work desk and sitting and sipping coffee without interference — could make or break my day.
Till you figure out your routine, stick to giving your brain small wins. A study with the Harvard Business Review states, “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”
How you can do this?
- Make your bed before you start your work for the day. This gives your brain a sense of accomplishment and allows you to get into a productive mindset.
- Pick small tasks that don’t take a long time to finish such as making a to-do list, or reading one page of a book.
- Repeat these daily
Waking up early can be life-changing
The process started for me as a means to an end, because my work and business depended on it. But looking back, I wish I had started sooner. Having a morning routine and enjoying my mornings has been the single most transformative thing in my life.
And I know from experience now that it can be achieved even if you’re not genetically predisposed to be a morning person or even if you don’t drink coffee. All that’s needed is finding your natural rhythm and getting in tune with it.