Ah, getting out of bed. The eternal struggle. So how do you make it easier to get out of bed? How do you get yourself moving and prepared to have a good day? How do you create a morning routine that doesn’t have you relying on coffee to get anything done? (Though you don’t have to eschew coffee entirely. I’m drinking some as I write this at 9 a.m.—but it is decaf.)
I’m glad you asked, and today we’re going to cover some of my favorite strategies for kickstarting your morning routine so that you can make the most of your day.
But first, why?
If I’m going to do anything that involves a substantial amount of time, energy, or change to my life, I first take time to find my Why, so why bother waking up early?
As a former firmly entrenched night owl, I can tell you honestly that I now love waking up early, and mornings are so much better for my productivity than nights. Mornings are prime time to get things done.
There’s no one around to bother you or try to co-opt your time. We haven’t depleted our stores of willpower, so it’s easier to push yourself to work on your personal goals, and the world is peaceful, so it’s way easier to get focused and get started.
Many people who like to stay up late at night don’t actually find themselves using that time productively. Now, it’s fine (and encouraged) to take some time to relax and enjoy yourself, but if you really want to make things happen, you don’t actually have time to spend five hours every night rewatching The Office.
If this sounds like you, and you haven’t been making progress toward your goals, you might want to seriously consider waking up earlier. Not next month, not next year, now. Start waking up earlier tomorrow. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
It doesn’t matter how many “how to improve your life” articles that you read if you never implement any of them. Considering that waking up earlier and implementing a morning routine was the first thing that I did when I chose to start bettering my life, this is a great place for you to start!
How to Get Out of Bed and Get Yourself Moving for a Good Day
1. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
I’m not kidding about this. The best way to kickstart your morning is to get enough sleep!
I’ve recently been reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker,* (which I highly recommend, by the way) and for most of the first two hundred pages, he talks about science-backed reasons why failing to get enough sleep is terrible for you. If you’re a “sleep is for the weak” type of person or you’re convinced that you’re okay on 6 hours of sleep each night, you need to read this book.
Aside from the myriad of reasons why not getting enough sleep leads to a miserable life and an early grave, getting enough sleep makes it so much easier to get moving in the morning.
There may be quite a few reasons why you struggle to go to bed early enough or fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time. In fact, now that I mention it, I think I’ll cover that in an upcoming post. Get on my email list to make sure you don’t miss out! I promise I won’t flood your inbox.
Without diving in too deeply, though, one good place to start improving your sleep habits is making sure that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Work with your circadian rhythm, not against it. And, yes, this includes weekends.
I’ve been going to bed at the same time each day for so long that it’s nearly impossible for me to stay up later than that anymore. As soon as bedtime rolls around, I shut down and want nothing more than to crawl under the covers.
2. Establish a Morning Routine
Alright, now that we’ve gotten my “get enough sleep” spiel out of the way, it’s time to move on to actual advice about how to wake up early. The best thing that I’ve done for myself to help me get up and get moving each day is to establish a morning routine.
When you first wake up, chances are, you’re not great at decision making. The only decision that you want to make is to go back to sleep. But that’s not what we’re going for here. Establishing a routine takes the decision making out of the process so that you don’t have to think.
Routine is greater than willpower. Your goal here is to automatically override your desire to stay in bed rather than having to fight through it every day. Getting up early is a lot easier when you turn it into a habit.
The best morning routine for you likely won’t look like the best morning routine for the next person. In fact, the best morning routine for you this month may not be the same as the best morning routine next month.
It took me a long time to accept that there isn’t one perfect morning routine that I had to figure out and then I’d be able to follow it for life. Nope. Routines shift often, and that’s okay! In fact, that’s great!
There’s no sense in shoehorning yourself into your college morning routine now that you’ve graduated. As you grow, so should your routines.
How to Build a Morning Routine
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you build your first morning routine. Pick two to four steps that sound good to you and fit well into your life and take those for a test run before adding in anything else.
Stick with that routine for a few weeks. It will soon tell you which steps are working and which ones aren’t. After a few weeks, remove the steps that aren’t working, and add in new steps that you think may fit your life better.
After a few iterations, you’ll likely have a routine that fits your life pretty well. This isn’t a sign to stop changing it. You may go for longer without having to switch things up, but take time every few months to consciously consider your routine and see if there’s anything you could do to improve it.
If you’re really interested in the morning routine thing or looking for more inspiration, here are some resources to explore:
Journaling has quite a lot of benefits. It can help you cope with depression and manage anxiety, strengthen self-discipline and self-confidence, and help you make difficult decisions or face uncomfortable emotions.
Journaling is one of those things that takes a bit of effort to get into, but once you’ve successfully added it to your daily routine, you’ll start to look forward to it and feel weird when you don’t do it.
I know that as I’m going through the rest of my morning routine, I’ll often think about how glad I am that I’m going to be journaling soon because I have some ideas that I want to expand on or problems that I’d like to try to solve.
(This is a bit of a tangent, but quite a few healthy habits are like this. They’re difficult to establish at first, but once you’ve shifted your lifestyle to one that contains certain healthy habits—like meditating, journaling, exercising, or eating healthy—it can be pretty unpleasant to skip them because you crave their mental, physical, and emotional benefits.)
If you live a hectic, demanding, stressful life and are looking for a moment of calm before plunging into the rest of your day, journaling might be just the thing that your morning routine needs. Once you get into it, you’ll find yourself looking forward to that moment of reflection, which will help to pull you out of bed.
4. Start with you-time
This ties right back in to number 3 because journaling is a form of you-time—but journaling isn’t always something that people enjoy. If you haven’t yet gotten into journaling or want something a little more exciting to kick off your day, there’s no reason that you can’t start your morning routine off with something that you do purely for enjoyment.
You don’t have to be productive the moment that you wake up.
Think of an activity that you genuinely enjoy doing and often don’t have enough time to do. It could be eating something yummy that you love, working your way through your ever-growing “to read” list, or even just watching YouTube. I’ve used the lure of YouTube to wake myself up plenty of times!
You’re allowed—no, encouraged—find a way to enjoy your mornings.
In fact, take it from a just a morning routine to being a morning ritual. Rather than just plunking yourself on the couch to watch YouTube for a few minutes, make yourself your favorite coffee, get cozy in a fuzzy blanket, drag your sleeping cat onto the couch, and make it a truly, deeply enjoyable experience.
Having a morning ritual—something sacred and important to you—helps you to think of the morning as a time that’s pleasant and worthwhile. Mornings become something to be enjoyed and embraced, rather than dreaded, because you are the one deciding how to use them.
That said, as I’m talking about starting your mornings with you-time as a treat to yourself, if all of the things that you enjoy are things that leave you feeling unproductive and unfulfilled in the long run, things like video games and scrolling through social media, I strongly recommend reading The Happiness Paradox and How to Find Your Passion. You’ll likely also benefit from reading Grit by Angela Duckworth.*
What you’ll find from all of these readings is that it takes work and effort to develop interests. They typically aren’t love at first sight. You have to try new things in order to find something that is meaningful, enjoyable, and fulfilling. Developing a love for hobbies that are more rewarding—but more difficult—than video games takes effort, but it’s worth it.
I also know “watch YouTube at 5 a.m.” isn’t advice that you hear often, but hey, it works. Stick with this for a few months, and you’ll likely find that you have a much easier time waking up early. At that point, you could consider using that time for something more productive—or not. There’s no reason you can’t treat yourself in the morning.
5. Make a morning playlist
I’m sure I’m not the only person who often genuinely looks forward to listening to good music. And I know I’m not the only person who feels amped up and ready to go when they listen to certain genres of music.
There are plenty of morning-friendly playlists on Spotify (here’s one that I’ve listened to a lot), or you could curate your own.
Once you have your hands on a playlist that makes you feel energized, set it as your alarm in the morning (which, from what I can tell, is only really feasible if you have an Android) or just play the playlist loud and proud as soon as you wake up. It’s also possible to set music alarms on a Google Home. (I’ve found my Google Home minis super useful in upping my productivity in a number of other ways as well!)
6. Talk to a friend
Do you have a friend that you always look forward to talking to but struggle to find enough time to talk to them? Become morning accountability buddies!
This will only work if you can find a way to make your schedules line up, which is often difficult, but scheduling time each morning to talk to a friend, whether it’s a short FaceTime session or just putting them on speaker as you get ready for the day, assures that you’re both awake on time, and serves as motivation to wake up and stay awake.
This is an especially useful bit of morning motivation if you’re an Obliger*. You do best when someone else is expecting you to do something, so if you risk letting your friend down by staying in bed, you’ll have a much easier time waking up.
What steps have you added to your morning routine to make it easier to get up and out of bed each day? Let me know in a comment! :)