Updated: Jul 29, 2019
First of all, don’t feel pressure to become a morning person if you don’t want to. There’s a lot of pressure to become a morning person, but it’s not something you have to do. Night owls can absolutely be successful.
We all get the same 24 hours in a day and choosing to sleep at a different time won’t inherently prevent you from being productive. If you get your best work done late at night and loathe every single aspect of mornings, then stick with nights.
There are definite advantages to being a morning person, but it isn’t a requirement. As with all change, if you don’t genuinely want it, it’s not going to happen. Don’t feel bad about it.
All that said, if you have any interest in being a morning person, I highly recommend it. I went from sleeping in until 2 or 3 p.m. as often as I could, to rarely waking up later than 7:30 a.m. I find mornings are by far my most productive time. I’m more creative and energized in the mornings than I ever was at night, and waking up early makes me feel happier throughout the whole day.
There is one absolutely non-negotiable aspect of becoming a morning person, and that is getting enough sleep. There’s no way around it. No matter how much you may think you can function well on four hours of sleep every night, you can’t. I promise. Science promises.
Consistently getting insufficient sleep is terrible for you. And once you start getting enough sleep every day, there’s no way you’ll want to go back. It truly is life-changing. Getting enough sleep is my number one priority on a day to day basis, and without enough sleep, it’s virtually impossible to become a morning person.
While we’re on the topic, there is a post in the works about how to get good quality sleep, and have good sleep hygiene. Anyway, the takeaway here is that if you want to start getting up at 5:30, you’ve got to be in bed at 9:30. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Sometimes, I have to leave events early, or skip them entirely, in order to be in bed on time. I’ve come to learn that I really don’t mind this because usually, getting up early is more valuable to me than the late night would have been. In the morning, I get to enjoy time to myself to get personal things done, which makes me so much happier that a late night does, and it moves me in the direction I want my life to go.
Becoming a morning person involves a shift in mindset and priorities. To be a morning person, you, your time, and what you love to do have to be your first priority. People will often try to take your evenings and your precious sleep time from you. To be a morning person, you’ll need to value yourself and your personal plans enough that you’re willing to say no.
Becoming a morning person means that whatever you put first in your day is your #1 priority and everything else comes second. Typically, that first thing is going to be you-time. Commit to defending your time.
Second in importance after getting enough sleep is creating something to look forward to every morning. Basically, reward yourself for waking up. If your planned morning is exciting enough, it may even motivate you to go to bed earlier, just because you’re looking forward to your morning so much. A good cup of coffee is a common motivator.
Personally, painting is what I used when I first started getting up early. I had an early morning painting class for a year in college and was always excited to get up and paint, so I’d get up earlier than necessary and show up to the studio before class to paint because I loved it so much.
These days, I love mornings because I’m the only person awake. I love my me-time, and mornings are absolutely perfect for me-time. I get to see the sun rise and work on my own personal things as soon as I wake up, be that going to the gym, writing for the blog, or just catching up on recently uploaded YouTube videos.
The important thing is to have the first hour or two of your day be set aside for something you genuinely love.
If you want to become a morning person but the first thing on your schedule is going to a job you hate or to class with a terrible professor, it’s going to be really hard. Not only will you be battling with yourself to get up early, you’ll also be battling with your desire to avoid doing that thing you hate.
Try getting up 45 minutes earlier than you need to for work so you can take some time to yourself first and have a slow breakfast, or get some reading done. Getting up at 5 to do something you love (e.g. reading) will be much easier than getting up at 6 to do something you hate (e.g. going to work).
Looking at these first two tactics together gives us a unique solution to a common problem. If you often find yourself unable to sleep at a reasonable time because you’re stuck in a Netflix loop (i.e. telling yourself “just once more episode” for 5 more episodes), try deciding instead to go to sleep now and getting up a bit earlier to continue watching the Netflix show in the morning.
Mornings are now you-time! If you wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual and still want to watch that show, do it! Sip some coffee, get cozy in your robe somewhere that you can see the sunrise, and have a slow morning of Netflix and coffee. But if it turns out that you don’t want to watch that show once you wake up, then you didn’t need to be watching it last night either and were really just wasting time.
Getting enough sleep and creating a morning routine that you’re excited about are the two most important steps in becoming a morning person. This will allow you to be awake enough in the morning that getting out of bed isn’t downright impossible, and it gives you an incentive to actually get up in the morning when you do wake up.
On top of those two things, here are several other ideas you can try to move yourself in the direction of loving your mornings.
1. Keep a routine.
Once you start getting up early, don’t stop getting up early. The more consistent you are with your sleep schedule, the easier it will be to maintain. The easier your schedule is to maintain, the more likely you are to enjoy it.
Keeping a consistent schedule will also make it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day, since your body will get used to it and want to keep that schedule on its own.
Most days I wake up between 5:30 and 7. Even on weekends, I rarely sleep past 8. I go to bed between 9:30 and 11 every night. Stay in a routine until your body learns it so deeply that you’re unable to stay awake later or sleep in later.
2. Wind down your day no later than 8 p.m.
I don’t mean get in bed at 8, I mean that nothing you do after 8 should make you more awake than you already are. Take it easy. No exercising, no scary movies, no blue light, nothing stressful. Focus on things like reading, writing, meditating, and spending time with loved ones.
Admittedly, this will have a bit of an impact on your social life. I still go to events that end after 10 sometimes, but it’s rare. Frankly, it has been totally worth it for me. The people that I want to hang out with totally don’t mind hanging out earlier in the day. Just communicate with them. Suggest brunch instead of a night at a bar. You can still drink at brunch, don’t worry.
3. Create a morning routine that you love.
There are a couple of benefits to a morning routine. Having a routine that you love will make getting up early more exciting. More exciting = easier to stick with.
If you’re starting your day with a solid hour of things that make you feel great about yourself, getting up in the morning is way easier. Additionally, having a routine will give you something to do when you first wake up, in order to get yourself moving without much thought.
If you set an alarm for 5 a.m., but then wake up at 5 and go “okaaaayyyy… now what?”, chances are that you’re going to go back to sleep. But if you set that same 5 a.m. alarm and know that when it goes off, you’re going to get up, change into your favorite sweatpants, make some tea, and read a library book with your cat on the back porch, getting up will be much more enjoyable and easy.
4. Try a light alarm.
Personally, I haven’t used one, and Bennett, who is decidedly not a morning person, likes the room to be completely dark while he’s sleeping. When he’s not around though, I love to throw the curtains open when I wake up in the morning (assuming it’s light out at that time. This doesn’t work in the winter).
A light alarm is the same concept. Getting some light into your eyes will help to set your body’s natural rhythm to wake up early. Your body follows what light does. Blue light wakes you up. I’m sure you’ve heard that you should avoid blue light before bed.
Applying the same concept, but in the opposite way, would tell you that you need light in the morning to wake up. If you’ve also got a Bennett and can’t use a light alarm, some other tactics to wake you up in the morning could include going to the gym, showering, drinking a bunch of water, or even just changing into your regular clothes.
5. Stick with it.
Becoming a morning person takes a while. Give it a solid two to three month try before deciding it’s not for you. I recommend trying this in the summer, since it’s way easier to get up early when the sun is already up.
Something I did one spring that worked well was setting my alarm ten minutes before sunrise every day. You get to see the sunrise every day and, as long as it’s done in the spring, you steadily move your alarm earlier by a few minutes each day.
6. Don’t expect those first ten minutes to ever suck any less.
This probably isn’t true for everyone, but for me, those first few minutes after I wake up still suuuuuuuck. It’s dark. I’m tired. It’s cold. I don’t actually want to leave my bed. Becoming a morning person isn’t about making those first ten minutes magically not terrible, it’s about doing your best work in the four hours that follow those ten minutes.
7. Don’t implement all of this at once.
That’s overwhelming and doesn’t work. One small step at a time is the best way to make consistent and sustainable progress toward any goal. Start by just going to bed at 12:45 instead of 1. Take ten minutes for yourself in the morning by getting up ten minutes earlier.
Don’t go from waking up at 11 to waking up at 6, and immediately try to implement a fifteen step long morning routine. Building a new lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. Pun unintended.