For decades, I'd take at least 20 minutes to get out of bed, often 40 minutes or more.

But since November, I've gotten out of bed in under 60 seconds, without fail, each day, at 6:15 a.m. I've made it my habit to turn off my alarm, which is across my room from my bed, while it still says 6:15.

I would have believed it impossible except that I did it. Now I look for how to build on the success.

This is through a cold, dark New York City winter. Totally worth it, which I could learn only from doing it.

Inc. readers know the value of a morning routine. The challenge is starting the practice and making it automatic.

I'm not special. If I can, you can too.

I'm not saying my solution will work for everyone, but it worked for me so it may work for others.

I have no special superhuman skills, no special waking-up history. I have morning activities, but I had never fixed them into a routine.

On the contrary, starting this practice got me to arrange my activities into a set routine, making my mornings more fun, efficient, and productive.

I used to tell myself that lying in bed was meditating to start my day with focus. Deep down I knew I was procrastinating, though, not meditating.

I did have one advantage: I've worked on creating habits I value. For example, I used to labor over deciding between taking the elevator or stairs to my fifth-floor apartment. Then I realized that deciding once and for all would free my mind to think about what I value thinking about.

The value: mental freedom.

That's the benefit to systematizing things: freeing my mind--that is, mental freedom. The extra exercise is a side benefit.

If you don't have experience systematizing practices, I recommend starting. Since this article piqued your interest, I recommend starting with this practice. Use this post to get out of bed in under a minute tomorrow morning.

You may succeed, you may fail, but at least you started. Once you start you can iterate and improve. My experience doing so is how I succeeded this time.

How the change happened.

I teach leadership and entrepreneurship through my book, Leadership Step by Step, at New York University. In my leadership course, I assign a personal project. Some students choose to start habits.

The book and course describe a process without relying on willpower or merely hoping for the best, but crafting one's environment, beliefs, and behaviors to make the new habit feel natural.

Last November, one student chose as her habit to wake up early and quickly for a month. She kept talking about how hard she expected it to be.

I knew that her believing it would be hard would make it hard. I suggested that believing it would be easy would make it easier.

As I spoke, I thought of how much morning time I wasted. I thought, "If I'm telling her she can believe it's easy, I can believe it's easy too."

So I did.

I meant what I said.

That evening I set my phone alarm for 6:15 and put my phone away from my bed. When the alarm went off, I thought: "I don't want to get out of bed, but I said I would. I even said it would be easy."

And then I got out of bed, walked to the phone, assured that it still said 6:15, and turned off the alarm.

That's all I did at first. I'd stand there dazed, wanting to go back to sleep, but knew to stay out of bed.

Action leads to results that planning and thinking doesn't.

The result is my morning routine:

  1. I turn off the alarm;
  2. raise the shades;
  3. look at the morning light (or darkness in midwinter);
  4. go to the bathroom;
  5. do my 10-minute burpee/stretching/weights routine;
  6. water the plants;
  7. make breakfast (oats, nuts, fruit, chia seeds, and water); and
  8. indulge in browsing online while I eat.

Then I go into each day's work, having broken a sweat and done my daily essentials.

The routine is perfect for me.

What made it work.

What made it work was not planning.

It works because I acted on something simple and stuck with it. Now it's a 30-plus-minute routine that sets me up for the day, but it began as a one-minute task.

How did it evolve? I kept at it and improved it each day.

When you read about someone else's morning routine, I recommend not trying to replicate it. Use it for motivation and direction, but your routine depends on your life and goals.

I recommend that you

  1. start with a bare minimum routine and
  2. keep at it.

Yes, it's hard to get out of bed, but your routine will create for you what mine did for me: a self-reinforcing routine that you enjoy.

My burpee routine warms me up and keeps me out of bed. My love for fruit and nuts motivates me through my routine until I eat. My feeling of responsibility to water my plants motivates me too. Everything works together.

I could never have planned the routine's success. Only starting it could have led to the improvements.

I'm surprised at how much I like it. In my first waking moment it's hard to get out of bed. Then I'm glad I'm up. Then after the routine I'm fresh for the day.

The big picture.

Most life transformations follow a similar pattern: Planning alone leads to more planning, not action. Action leads to results.

I don't believe planning alone can create perfection or even greatness. Only acting, refining, and improving do.

Which means starting is the key to success: Start small with what you will keep doing. Then don't stop. You will improve inevitably.

Next steps.

Reading Inc. means you have lofty life goals. Choosing to click this article means that waking up faster is one of them.

Start. Wake up tomorrow in less than a minute. And the next day, and the next, and so on until you create your routine.

Your routine will be yours. You will get all the benefits everyone else does for theirs. And people will want to learn what yours is. You'll probably tell them how to start their own instead.

Eventually you'll transform bigger parts of your life, and anything else you want.