The Groundhog Solution – how to wake up early in 2 steps

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.

groundhog-day-clock

(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.

Fair enough.

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:

Emptystreet

(Don’t believe me? View the meta data here)

Check out the same street, less than 40 minutes later:

Crowdedstreet

(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.

In case you just landed on this post, this is the third article in a series that will take your productivity to new heights:

Lesson 1: How to set ONE goal and constantly focus on it

Lesson 2: How to break your one goal down and identify one key to-do each day

Expert advice on the toughest good habit: waking up early

Meet Paul.

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.

Note:

I also used my heightened morning focus to trick Paul into letting me give you a free week of coaching with him (normally $25) and access to his plan at 67% off ($10 instead of $30).

You can grab that along with a bunch of other bonuses, that I’ve compiled to help you implement this, in the bonus section.

Click here for the good stuff.

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.

Why?

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.

Clock_reversed

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.

Phonefavepixel

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:

textbedtime2

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…

Any guesses?

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?

Play.

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.

gotobed

But when your Mum and Dad finally got you tucked in, how long did it take you to fall asleep?

Exactly 2 minutes.

Why?

Because while you were running around, your circadian rhythm made sure your body started getting tired, by starting to produce melatonin, a sleep hormone.

What changed?

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.

late-night-screen

(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.”

electronicsofftime

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.

triggers10

(shut off your laptop already!)

To do this, go to your calendar app and create the event, like this:

multipletriggers

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:

multipletriggersdone

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’.

energysaver

(where the magic happens)

Then go to schedule:

shutoffschedule

Now check the lower of the two boxes, choose ‘Shut Down’, leave the second dropdown at ‘Every Day’ and specify your time.

autoshutdown

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.

Before:

fluxbefore

After:

fluxafter

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

Get all the goodness by entering the bonus section here:

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?


References   [ + ]

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
3. http://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/SleepTimeRecommendations012615%5B1%5D-page-001_0.jpg

Niklas Goeke

I am a German student on his way to becoming an entrepreneur!

  • Fantastic Post Niklas! Loved the breakdown of each point. I am going to try and see if it works for me.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    • My pleasure Boni,

      let me know what results you get! 🙂

  • Hi Niklas! Amazing article on waking up early. I like how you laid out 2 points to doing this. Although I am not entirely sold on point #1 due to the following reasons:

    1. It assumes that we need the same amount of sleep each day. Some days we might feel more energetic than usual and it will be harder to sleep. Some days it’s the opposite.

    2. I love the no alarms suggestion but I do think it still does help a lot in making sure you wake up at a fixed time in the morning as well.

    But that’s just me. 😀

    Coincidentally, I published an article at the same day as yours and it’s about waking up early as well. Let me know what you think!

    Here’s the link:
    http://rockysantiago.com/article/waking-up-late/

    • Hey Rocky, ha, what a fun coincidence!

      Regarding your suggestions:

      1. You’re right. It varies. But you want to be in a certain window. If you check out the 3rd footnote (sleepfoundation) you’ll find an infographic showing the different sleep windows for certain age groups. You’ll see we both fall into the 7-9 hour range.

      You should give yourself a time from this window (which is why I went for 8 hours). You’re right, some days you might need 8.5 and some days you might only need 7.5. But if you make sure you always have a big enough sleep window, you’ll always wake up early, no matter whether you sleep 7 or 8 hours on a given day.

      Regarding 2., if you have your sleep window set right, and it starts at the same time each day (say 10 pm), you will, after a while, wake up at roughly the same time each day,without an alarm. If you go to bed at 10 you’ll probably wake up between 5:30 and 6:30, depending on how much sleep you need that day. That’s good enough for me, but I understand you might need an alarm, depending on whether you have a day job or not.

      Just my 2 cents 🙂

      I’ll look at your article! Keep at it, you’ll get it 🙂

  • Amazing post, Niklas. I like how systematic you’ve gone about the whole thing.

    A couple things that have helped for me in setting consistent waking/sleep times:

    1. I use a quick calculator on sleepyti.me which allows you to calculate when you should be falling asleep, if you have to wake up by a certain time. The best thing about it is that it accounts for the length of one sleep cycle – typically 90 mins. And it counts in cycles, to make sure that when you wake up, it’s in between 2 cycles, and not in the middle of one. Waking in the middle of a cycle is what causes that horrible groggy feeling that’s so frustrating to shake off. Plus, the site also has a helpful reminder that you need to account for the 14 mins or so that it takes an average human to fall asleep.

    2. I recognize that complexity is a barrier to new habits, so this might come for later, when you’re in the optimization section of the cycle. It’s simple – track how much sleep you actually need. I did this with the Sleep Cycle app. I did 2 weeks of waking up without an alarm, tracking how much time I typically spent sleeping, and what I felt like when waking up. It’s been enlightening. I apparently function best on 7 hours and 30 minutes of sleep, plus or minus 30 minutes. If I go much longer, like a 10-hour sleep or something, it’s basically a death sentence, because I get all too groggy. So, yay for self-knowledge!

    3. Same as you, no electronics/screens a couple hours before bed. Also, I make sure to drink just one glass of water to combat dehydration, not so much that I’d wake in the middle of the night and end up breaking my sleep cycle by peeing. (I discovered that from tracking too. Pee in the middle of the night? Basically dead sleep cycle – good luck to me, trying to go back to sleep.)

    Other general things might just be preferences, but I also go for a very dark room. Curtains blocking the windows, lights off, and everyone else in the house knows that while they’re free to stay up, they’ve got to be quiet about it. So, no noise, no light, no screens, and not too much water.

    Aside from that, you’ve covered basically everything needed. And your tips? They work. I’m proof.

    • I believe it was Seneca who said: Know thyself. Absolutely right Bea!

      I didn’t know about that calculator, that’s brilliant! Thanks so much for that resource!

      I used Sleep Cycle for a while as well, that’s actually when I found out I need roughly 7.5 hrs 🙂 Highly recommended, but as you said: fix this later, get the basics down first!

      You’re addressing a lot of the steps from Paul’s plan actually, so it seems like you’ve got that down pretty good by now, congrats!

      What’s one thing you think you could improve?