Mission Possible: How to Finally Wake Up Earlier
It's personal productivity month here on Inc.com, and the site is chockablock with great tips to get more done. Among all this advice, you may have noticed a near perfect consensus on one point: You really should get up earlier.
This probably isn't news to you. If you're not a natural lark, most likely people have been hectoring you (or you've been hectoring yourself) to wake up earlier since high school. If it were so simple, you would have done it already.
So, after all the years and all the failed attempts, how can you actually get yourself out of bed earlier?
Kick Your Snooze Addiction
I know you love it. Everyone loves it—Snooze is probably the most beloved button in America—but according to blogger Meredith Jaeger, like most things that feel so good, it's actually bad for you. And addictive. "Let’s face it, if you hit Snooze even once, you’re going to hit it again. The damn thing is addictive. It’s sort of like, 'Oh, I’ll only have one beer.' (We all know that never happens)," she writes.
So, it's time to take drastic measures to kick the habit. Put the alarm clock where you can't blearily whack it when it goes off. Across the room maybe, or if you have it really bad for your buddy the Snooze button, more elaborate tech solutions are on offer. Here's an app that forces you to violently shake your phone to make it shut up, or how about this alarm clock that runs away from you?
A Teaspoon of Honey
The first tip is all about tough love, but give yourself some sweetness to help that bitter medicine go down. Don't choose an alarm sound that enrages you. You have a choice as to what will be the first sensation you experience each day, after all. Is grating, repetitive beeping really what you want to choose?
Even better than a less gruesome alarm tone may be using light to wake you up. The underlying lesson is not to settle for your default sound. "I started using a cell phone as my alarm clock and quickly realized that different ringtones irritated me less but worked just as well to wake me up. I now use the ringtone alarm as a backup for my bedside lamp plugged in to a timer," writes Lifehack's Seth Simonds, who concludes: "Experiment a bit and see what works best for you."
Also consider further carrots to lure you from the embrace of your comforter. Or in other words, don't be ashamed of self-bribery! It worked for writer Jeff Goins. "Don’t drive yourself with guilt about why you have to wake up early…motivate yourself by doing something fun in the morning," he says. "Play some games or indulge in some leisure reading." If that still doesn't work, then "you can also keep track of your progress and reward yourself when you reach a milestone," he says. This system works to get toddlers to behave, so it may even work on your grumpy, morning self.
Fight the Battle at Night
As you've read this far, we've already established you're not a natural early riser. So why are you fighting the good fight to wake up earlier when you're at your worst, i.e., in the morning?
"I understood the benefits of waking up early. I made plans to wake up early," confesses Goins, "but that discipline was gone in the morning. The groggy person hitting the Snooze button wasn’t the same clear-thinking person that had set the alarm the night before. When I realized waking up early is a battle fought on two fronts, everything changed." He began taking steps, like those outlined above, at night to force his hand when he was feeling weak-willed in the morning.
These three principles should get you started, but there's plenty more advice out there. Business Insider's Vivian Giang offers seven solid tips, while author Laura Vanderkam wrote an entire book on the hows and whys of waking up early.
Any encouraging advice out there from former late risers who made the switch to being early birds?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.