You know waking up early is a great habit, right? You’ve heard it dozens of times: all successful people get up early.
Tim Cook (4:30 am), Benjamin Franklin (5:00 am), Michelle Obama (4:30 am), Warren Buffett (6:45), the list goes on and on.
But what turned into a nightmare for Bill Murray in Groundhog Day – waking up at 6 am sharp every day that is – seems like a distant dream for you.
(it’s Groundhog Day – again)
What if I told you that there were only 2 steps you have to get right, in order to wake up early every day?
Even more so, that neither of them has anything to do with your morning.
You’d be shocked, right? You’d probably tell me: You’re crazy Nik, and I don’t believe you.
But I am typing these words at 6:45 am on a Tuesday, so I am indeed, up early (and I am confident that after reading this post you will be up early tomorrow as well).
I live in a busy city (Mannheim, Germany, 300,000 peeps), yet there is NO ONE out on the street.
Check out how deserted it is:
(Don’t believe me? View the meta data here)
Check out the same street, less than 40 minutes later:
(still early, but getting crowded)
I’ll admit, I had help though.
The 2 step solution on how to wake up early, which I will show you today, comes right from a sleep expert.
Expert advice on the toughest good habit: waking up early
Paul is a health and fitness coach, specializing in sleep. Lucky for me, he’s also one of my best friends.
When it comes to what works for waking up early, don’t believe me, believe a guy who has helped over 200 people sleep better and shown them how to wake up early.
Paul’s plan 21 Days To Superhuman Sleep is one of the top paid plans on the coach.me platform. Over 200 people have purchased it and implemented his advice.
What’s more, waking up early is the goal people need the most help with, according to coach.me CEO Tony Stubblebine.
”We have more demand for coaching in Wake Up Early than any other goal on Coach.me. This surprised us until we realized why people get so much out of waking up early: more productive time.” – Tony Stubblebine.
I struggled with waking up early consistently for the longest time, and I couldn’t figure out which of the bazillion sleeping tips actually work.
But after going through Paul’s plan, I made out 2 key things that, when you get them right, make all the difference.
After testing them, and finding they worked for me, I thought I’d double check.
I asked Paul this: if you could only pick 2 steps from your 21 step plan to help you wake up early and well rested, which would it be?
He picked the exact two things I expected.
Needless to say, I started putting them into practice consistently.
Today I’ll show you how to wake up early by getting the 2 things Paul and I discovered right, so you can knock out your MIT right in the morning.
Step 1: Set a fixed bedtime
Remember when you were a kid and your parents always made you go to bed at the same time each day?
Think back: How much trouble did you have getting up in the morning? And no, not wanting to go to school doesn’t count.
Chances are, after whining and complaining for a bit, you felt fine once you got up and going 90% of the time.
2 words: Sleep. Schedule.
Your body loves routine.
Here’s what Paul says on the subject:
“There are several studies suggesting that not having a regular bedtime decreases kids’ learning abilities. If children have a regular bedtime, they are less likely to misbehave. For adults, a regular bedtime promotes better learning and mental abilities, as well as better social behaviour. Not only will you feel better by maintaining a regular bedtime, you will also sleep better at night.”1)http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lack-of-regular-bedtime-may-affect-kids-learning-skills/2)http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/14/children-regular-bedtimes-behaviour
That’s why setting a fixed bedtime with a solid time buffer is the number one thing that will help you rise early.
Here are the two things you need to do to pick and stick to your bedtime.
1. Determine your bedtime by working backwards
Everyone knows when they have to get up each day, mostly because work dictates it.
Everyone knows they need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to feel good.3)http://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/SleepTimeRecommendations012615%5B1%5D-page-001_0.jpg
So how come NO ONE knows when they will go to bed each day? This baffles me.
When I ask my friends at what time they’ll go to bed on a given day, the answers I get are blank stares and “What do you mean?”.
People with good sleep habits know exactly when they’ll go to bed each day. My parents know. Professional athletes know. Paul knows. And now, I know too.
Knowing when you have to get up and that you should try to be in bed 8 hours before that is all you need. You can work backwards.
For example: If you have to get up at 6, just go back 8 hours and boom, you hit 10 pm. There’s your bedtime.
Have to get up at 7? Hit the hay at 11 pm.
Note: If you don’t have a day job, pick a time when you want to get up. I recommend shooting for a time between 6 and 7 am.
Yes, you might need slightly more or less than that, but you’d be surprised how much a good sleeping routine takes care of this.
Don’t get lost in the details. You can fix those later.
Setting a fixed bedtime is the first step in coach Paul’s plan.
Why? Because it takes care of most of the other stuff.
Alarms? Don’t need them. When you go to bed at the same time each day you’ll wake up after the same amount of sleep in less than a week.
Room temperature? A minor adjustment you can make once you got the amount and quality right.
Using a sleep app to wake up in the right “cycle”? Gimmicks.
Note: Still want to take care of all the other stuff? Paul’s plan addresses 21 little things over the course of 21 days, that you can improve to sleep better and wake up early. I negotiated him to give you a solid 67% off the $30 price tag.
2. Stick to your bedtime with an accountability partner
Picking a bedtime is easy. Sticking to a bedtime is hard.
The best way to stick to your bedtime, by far, is simple: go to bed at the same time as someone else!
Have you ever agreed to meet a friend at the gym to work out together at a certain time? Or made plans to have lunch with a co-worker at 12 pm?
How much did that increase the likelihood of you being there?
My educated guess is somewhere between 100% and 2344%.
How did you feel when you still didn’t make it? Probably pretty shitty and you promised to make it next time.
This is called accountability and it works just as well with bedtimes, as with anything else.
Here’s how you can use it:
If you have a partner, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or even just a roommate: Agree on a bedtime with them.
Here’s a script you can use to call a friend:
“Hey, I’m doing a one week productivity challenge that I found online. The goal is to get up at 6 am for the next 7 days, with a solid 8 hours of sleep. I’m looking for an accountability partner to make things easier. Are you up for it?”
If they agree, respond:
“Awesome, I thought a good bedtime would be 10 pm. Do you agree? How about I call or text you at 9:50 each night to make sure we’re both on track?”
When you both know up front when you will go to bed, you’ll make sure you both hold your end of the deal.
Married couples usually do a great job at this.
They settle on a bedtime, watch their favorite show or a movie together at 8, or read for a bit, and are in bed by 10 (granted, going to the same bed makes this even easier ;)).
If you’re single and have no friends (or are just lazy) automatically text yourself at the same time each day:
I’ve created this as a recipe on IFTTT to make things easier for you.
I like to make the text a little inspirational, for example:
“You have to make yourself the only person who can control your dreams. It starts with you going to bed right now.”
Note: You can also just hire Paul to be your accountability coach. He’ll kick you in the butt each day to make sure you stick to your bedtime. I’ve gotten him to personally coach you for a week for free. Get that deal in the bonus section.
Step 2: Set a fixed “electronics off” time
I wasn’t sure whether Paul would agree with me on this one. But he did.
Because next to accountability, the easiest way to keeping your bedtime, is…
Being tired when it rolls around, duh!
Back to childhood: Your parents set you a bedtime, but what did you do until the very last minute?
If you’re childhood didn’t completely suck, then chances are you went right back to playing after dinner.
With your toys. Puzzling. Alone. With Dad. Or Mum. Or Outside. Shooting hoops. Or your friends – with water guns.
Playing in the yard, running around in the fields, whatever.
The last thing you wanted to do, was go to bed.
But when your Mum and Dad finally got you tucked in, how long did it take you to fall asleep?
Exactly 2 minutes.
Because while you were running around, your circadian rhythm made sure your body started getting tired, by starting to produce melatonin, a sleep hormone.
Technically, not much. You’re probably still ‘playing’ before bed, relaxing, winding down.
But ‘technically’ is the exact problem.
Your so-called ‘winding down’ is not relaxing.
Watching TV until you go to sleep, surfing on your iPad, playing TinyWings or, even worse, working till the last minute are NOT making you tired.
Note: Work is especially stressing when your desktop is cluttered. That not only slows down your computer, it also slows down you. Worst case it hides your MIT from you. You can workshop your way to a clean desktop together with me in the bonus section.
(stop doing that!)
That’s not winding down, if anything, that’s winding up.
“Studies have shown that exposure to blue light lowers melatonin levels. Melatonin is your sleep hormone, and suppressing it causes you to feel awake when you should go to bed, disrupting your sleep and reducing your sleep duration.”, says Paul.
Not only will setting a fixed “electronics off” time help you put an end to this, but also give you more time to make sure you stick to your bedtime.
Set your “electronics off” time 1-2 hours before you want to sleep.
For example: If you want to go to bed at 10 pm, set your “electronics off” time to 8 pm.
This will give your body enough time to wind down and you the chance to develop an actual evening routine (like cleaning the coffee maker for the morning), which also helps with your new sleeping schedule.
Note: I’ll show you my entire evening routine as a bonus to this post, so you can get some inspiration for coming up with your own.
I found 4 ways to keep my “electronics off” time:
Number 1: Text yourself, as in the example above. I’ve created another IFTTT recipe for this.
Here’s a sample text you can use:
“It’s 8 pm, so it’s time to power down your electronics. Before going to bed at 10 you wanted to clean the coffee maker for tomorrow morning and read one chapter in a book.”
Number 2: Multiple triggers are great. Nowadays notifications start to become less and less efficient, because we receive so many of them.
Ignoring a single notification or alarm is easy.
Ignoring 10 is hard.
(shut off your laptop already!)
To do this, go to your calendar app and create the event, like this:
Now, all you have to do is mark the event and press Cmd+C and then Cmd+V 9 times.
Your day will then look like this:
At the specified time, 8 pm in my case, 10 triggers will blast your screen and annoy you into shutting your electronics down.
Number 3: An automatic shutdown of your laptop at the same time each day might seem a little drastic, but maybe you just can’t get a grip on yourself. Lucky for you, your laptop can.
If you’re on a Mac, do this:
Go to system preferences, and then select ‘Energy Saver’.
(where the magic happens)
Then go to schedule:
Now check the lower of the two boxes, choose ‘Shut Down’, leave the second dropdown at ‘Every Day’ and specify your time.
Boom, now your Mac will say good night every day at the same time, whether you like it or not 🙂
Note: If you’re on Windows, you can set up a task for this. Here is a guide.
Number 4: If all else fails, and you just ‘have’ to use screens until bedtime, at least use f.lux.
f.lux adjusts the color of your computer screen to the time and light of day, meaning it’ll change the sunlight-resembling glow to a warmer color at night, helping your body wind down.
You can even see how much of the blue light f.lux removes at night, check out a before and after on my Macbook.
Try it, your body will thank you.
Recap: How to wake up early in 2 steps
Over the last few weeks you’ve learned how to focus on one goal and then how to break that goal down and pick one key thing to work on each day.
Waking up early and knocking out that one to-do right in the morning is the best way to get to your goal FAST.
So let’s recap what you need to do today, so you can wake up early tomorrow:
Step 1: Set a fixed bedtime by going back 8 hours from the time you need to wake up. Get a friend, your partner, or Paul to be your accountability partner. Worst case, text yourself every day.
Step 2: Pick a time where you will shut off your electronic devices, ideally 2 hours before your bedtime. Have multiple triggers fire at that time, like texting yourself or even an automatic shutdown. Worst case: use f.lux.
In the next post of this series, you’ll learn how to create a morning routine after waking up early, so your brain has no chance of going astray before getting to your most important task.
For now, I’ve compiled a bunch of bonuses to help you ace your evening and wake up early:
- A free week of personalized sleep coaching with my friend Paul. He’ll make sure you stick to your bedtime.
- My full evening routine that I do after my “electronics off” time so you know what to do between turning your gadgets off and going to bed
- A video workshop where I show you how to declutter your computer’s desktop in 3 simple steps, so when you wake up early, nothing but your most important task stares at you
PS: My friend Ted took the last of his 7 exams this Friday (7/24/15). The day after he slept in for a change, I think he deserves it after reaching his ONE GOAL. What will you wake up early for?
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