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How I Started Getting Up on Time

“I’m going to need you to stop being late,” my boss said for the third time in this week as I darted myself through the front door of the company I had worked for at 10:15 in the morning. I mumbled a fake apology and got behind my desk.

“Actually, I decided to give you a penalty every time you’re late again,” continued my boss even though I was already in the process of muting him out with my headphones.

He proceeded to explain that I’ll need to start coming in at 9.00 or I’ll lose half of that day’s pay check. Workplace law and ethics aside, this measure was actually the only thing that worked and got me out of bed on time.

Put your alarm clock away from the bed. Drink water as soon as you wake up. Use one of those quirky alarm clocksGo to bed earlier. All of those waking up early methods never quite worked for me. Every morning when I wake up, I get greeted by my inner lazy voice that talks me into staying in bed juuust a little bit longer.

Steve Pavlina describes the inner lazy voice it perfectly in his article about getting up:

Maybe I’m trying to get myself up too early.  I’m still sleepy, aren’t I?  Maybe getting up with an alarm is unnatural.  Won’t I function better with more sleep?

There are communities of people trying to get up earlier, whether it’s to write a few pages of their novel or to go to gym in the morning. In this article, I’ll give you a few pointers on what I did to change this habit.

Sleep Patterns

You can’t let our inner lazy voice take charge as soon as your alarm clock starts ringing. You have stuff to do. Important stuff. Stuff that scares the inner lazy voice and makes it want to hit snooze. So we need to keep inner lazy voice quiet.

On weekends, the inner lazy voice tends to disappear, because we sleep longer and wake up rested.

How can we replicate this on weekdays?

As you may know, our sleep consists of light and deep stages. If your alarm clock happens to ring while you’re in the deep sleep stage, you’ll feel groggy and unmotivated. However, when you wake up in-between those deep sleep stages, you’ll feel much more well-rested. That’s the key to avoiding the inner lazy voice.

sleep-phases

Image credit Steve Jurvetson

I wish I had tried out this method sooner. It has made all the difference in the way I get up in the morning. What used to be very unpleasant, it has now become an entirely bearable and even enjoyable experience. I didn’t start getting to bed earlier or “turning off screens” by 10.00 pm. I even stopped taking melatonin simply because I don’t need it anymore. I’m not saying that those ideas are unnecessary, they just haven’t made as huge of a difference for me as measuring sleep cycles has.

There are a number of tools available to measure the sleep stage you’re in. Many wearable activity trackers like FitBit, Misfit, Jawbone, and Activité allow vibrating alarms that wake you up in your light sleep phase. There are also plenty of products out there dedicated specifically for tracking your sleep and waking you up, like Beddit and Withings’ Aura.

But you don’t need to shell out $150 just to finally start getting up earlier. Got a smartphone? Great! There are a number of apps out there that can help you wake you up at the right time.

I ended up buying and using Sleep as Android app simply because it has the neat feature that requires you to get up and scan a QR code in order to turn off the alarm. If you don’t need that feature, try out the cheaper and more beautiful Sleep Cycle (there’s also an iOS version available).

To use this type of apps, simply lay your phone on the bed beside you and let it measure your movements. It may seem simple, but it works really well.

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Image courtesy of Sleep Cycle app

So, tip number one is to start waking up according to your biological clock. It truly makes all the difference.

Build a Routine

Another step to silencing the inner lazy voice is to not think. When your alarm clock rings, get up. No thinking, just get up.

But you’ll also need to plan out what happens after you get up. You know the saying, failing to plan is planning to fail. So get that notebook out and start planning out the first few minutes after you wake up.

You need to account for every little detail, form peeing to brushing teeth. At least in the beginning of applying this new routine, it’s been very useful for me to add in a few actions that were sure to wake me up, like doing squats or drinking some water. Even to a sleepy mind I have in the morning, 10 squats doesn’t seem overwhelming, but it gets the blood pumping.

Here are 22 ideas for habits you can include in your routine.

But just writing out a task list for the morning likely won’t work. Here’s the secret ingredient that will fix that: interval timer.

Interval timer app on your phone will read out pre-set tasks one after another in pre-set intervals. I use Timewinder, but have heard good things about Seconds on iOS as well. When you get up, simply run the workflow in the app and perform the actions dictated. No thinking. No inner lazy voice.

Small Changes

Scott had written about the impact small steps can have before, as well as Leo Bababuta and a number of other productivity gurus. The advice boils down to: make small steps if you want consistent and long-term change in your life. Large, earth-shattering change isn’t likely to persist.

When you’re building a habit of rising early, this principle is even more true. Don’t start waking up at 7 am if you now wake up at 11. Don’t build a complicated 1-hour routine right for the start.

Each day, introduce a new task in your morning routine. Once you get used to it, add another. Your inner lazy voice will resist doing 100 pushups. It’s much less likely to resist 10 or even only 3. Don’t give your inner lazy voice a chance to complain — make the change so easy it’ll seem harder not to do it.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal of when you got up each day can help in many ways. One part of this method is that it adds that Seinfield effect to the equation. You may find yourself more motivated to get out of bed when you have been doing it for the last few days.

But an even better result of tracking your morning habits is the ability to compare variables. A journal can, for example, help you with figuring out if drinking the night before causes you to relapse into waking up late or if reviewing next day’s tasks the evening before helps you jump out of bed more enthusiastically.

Conclusion

Here’s my entire method for getting up early. I’d like to point out that while this has been very effective for me at this time, it may not work had I been in a different state of mind. Problem with getting out of bed in the morning can be a symptom of depression, so I’d urge anyone who feels they cannot control this issue to see a doctor.

But for the fellow procrastinators, I truly recommend you try out some (if not all) of the techniques described above. I look forward to reading your experiences in getting up early in the comments!

About the Author

The article was written by Heidi Pungartnik, entrepreneur and productivity junkie from Slovenia. You can follow her on Twitter  and get on the launch list of a new productivity site OnTheGrind.eu to keep in touch.

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