8 Practical Steps to Establish the Powerful Habit of Waking Up Early

Waking up early to have some quiet time at Starbucks with my leather bag.

I made a habit to get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning over two years ago and I’ve been sticking to it pretty well. Sometimes I’ve moved to 5:30 a.m. but then that leaves me only half an hour until I like to start work and my day just doesn’t go as well.

I'm so much more productive when I get up early.Click To Tweet

I haven’t always been an early riser.

For years I felt really frustrated when I opened all those smart books about the highly effective habits of successful people. Each one of them told me that successful people wake up early. That simply wasn’t me.

I identified as a creative night owl. My best artwork developed after the sun went down, but the rest of my life wasn’t working out so well with late bedtimes after 12 a.m.

I hated waking up with the mid-morning sun in my eyes and half of the day already gone.

I wanted to know how to actually start getting up early after I’d been a night owl my whole life. I didn’t really believe it was possible, but for some reason, I gave it a try.

8 Steps that Helped Me Start Waking Up Early

1. Go to bed by 9:30 p.m.

Going to bed earlier and getting enough sleep at night is the most effective way to get your body ready to wake up early.

2. Set three alarms for the morning, at 15-10-5 minutes apart.

I use my phone as my alarm. It’s easy to set as many alarms as I need to this way.

BONUS TIP: It always works best when I keep my phone plugged in out in my kitchen. Most importantly, I have to walk further to get to it to turn it off. Secondly, this keeps me from browsing social media right before I go to sleep.

3. Get up the first time your alarm goes off.

Put your alarm in the kitchen or living room — somewhere where it echoes off the walls and sounds really loud. At least put it somewhere away from your bed, across the room. YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF BED RIGHT AWAY FOR THIS TO EVEN HAVE A CHANCE OF WORKING. Drill this into your head and mentally prepare yourself.

Once you get up and turn off your alarm, take your half asleep self straight to the bathroom and…

4. Take a shower.

You should shower immediately after you get up. Do not turn left, do not turn right, do not pass go, DO NOT GO BACK TO BED. Stand there like a zombie under the hot water as long as you have to. The water always wakes me up nice and slowly.

5. Turn the lights on.

I get it, you won’t want all the bright lights on as soon as you get up, but once you’ve taken your shower you may still feel a little groggy and you will need something to encourage your brain to wake up.

6. Turn music on. (optional)

If you have little people that you don’t want to wake up, just plug into your smart phone with some ear buds and pick your favorite playlist as you heat water for a cup of tea.

7. Eat something.

After I get dressed, I have a cup of hot tea with a light breakfast of peanut butter on a piece of Ezekiel Bread toast or oatmeal.

Did you know? “The ideal time for breakfast is within an hour of waking. You are much more likely to overeat later in the day if you don’t have something within the first hours of daily activity. Eating breakfast can even help improve mood and cognition.” —Live Strong

8. Choose a ten-minute self-care activity.

Read for ten minutes. Write down one word or phrase that stands out to you in your journal.

As you practice this, you'll be able to not only better retain something that you learned but see progress in your personal growth.Click To Tweet

Or spend ten minutes doing a gentle yoga routine.

Some gentle stretching also really helps you stay up once you’re awake if you still feel tempted to go back to bed. 

I love this short morning wake up yoga routine with Adriene on YouTube. My day goes the best when I incorporate both of these activities in my mornings, spending a full twenty minutes to fill my soul before I start work.

A hot cup of matcha latte at Starbucks.

The Benefits of Waking up Early

Establishing good morning habits and waking up early successfully is so worth it. Remember that it might not feel good right away.

After a couple weeks of successful mornings, you'll feel so proud of yourself. You’ll feel like you could do anything!Click To Tweet

Your days will automatically be more productive.
You’ll get to work on time.
You’ll feel less stressed.
You’ll have more patience with those around you.
You’ll make better eating decisions throughout the day.
You’ll find yourself hitting more of your goals.
You’ll find yourself feeling more confident and capable.

With time, you’ll begin to feel inspired in the romantic quietness of the early morning hours as you sip your coffee or tea while you watch beautiful sunrise colors stretch across the sky.

The city in early morning light.

It takes Time to Form a New Habit

New habits typically take about a month to form. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t feel like this sticks right away.

If you’re stubborn about sleeping in like me, you might get up to turn off your alarm and wake up 15 minutes later right there on the floor where you came to turn off the alarm and simply laid down and went back to sleep. I’ve done this more than once.

When I tell you I struggled to learn to get up early, I’m telling you, I STRUGGLED. But I won.

I learned to get up early and now I never want to go back to my old funky ways.Click To Tweet

4 Tips to Make the Habit Stick

1. Commit to change.

Decide that you are going to do this, no matter what.

Stayed up till midnight or later?

This isn’t a game, soldier. Set your alarms and get up anyway.Click To Tweet

I guarantee you will go to sleep earlier in the evening after a day or two of being sleep deprived as you work on your morning habit to wake up early. You are a champion. You can do this.

2. Don’t stop.

Tried it for a couple days and relapsed? Stuck to it for a couple weeks and then slacked off? Honey, that’s normal. That’s life. Don’t give up. Set your alarms again and start again. You’ve got this. You can do this.

3. Start with manageable goals.

I always give the advice to start getting up at a do-able time. I started out with a 6 a.m. rising. Then I moved up the time when I got used to 6 a.m. Some people just need to start with a morning routine period — maybe it’s simply starting to get up by a specific time each morning and establishing that routine of showering, eating, and self-care.

4. Keep your morning schedule on the weekend.

I know. This is hard. This isn’t for everyone, but this has definitely helped me stick to an early morning habit. I’ve discovered that starting a weekend morning nice and early allows me to make the most of my weekend. I may sleep in for an hour, but I don’t recommend sleeping in more than an hour past your week day rising time.

Comment below if you decide to learn the habit of waking up early. We would love to be your cheerleaders!

Two cups of tea by my leather tote.

21 Comments

  1. Ruth Ann on January 6, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    This is something I have known for a long time that I need to do. I have always been a night owl, then I married an early bird. Now he says I am converting him rather than the other way around. Oops.

    • Meg Delagrange on January 6, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Ruth Ann! Thank you for commenting! I can relate so well. I felt for a long time that I needed to somehow be more productive with my life but I never linked it to getting up early until I realized they directly affect each other. I’m not saying everyone should get up early or that you can’t be successful if you don’t get up early, but this is what works for me. I’d love to know if these tips are helpful for you!

      • Ruth Ann on January 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm

        It makes me feel like I can do it if I just decide to make it work. I’ll let you know in a month or 2.

        • Meg Delagrange on January 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm

          I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

  2. Cassandra on January 6, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    This is good stuff. Adding it to my new normal!

    • Meg Delagrange on January 6, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      I’m so glad you found this helpful, Cassandra. Thank you for commenting!

  3. Chris on January 6, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    I am excited to start a better morning routine! Thanks for the tips!

    • Meg Delagrange on January 9, 2017 at 9:01 am

      Thank you Chris! You’ve got this.

  4. Mary on January 7, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Establishing a morning routine is something that I started trying last summer. I was tired of the rushed mornings and foggy head at work. I slacked through fall but I’m ready to try again this winter. These are some excellent tips, do you have any advice when going to bed early is not an option? Currently I have something in my life that has me staying up past midnight most nights and it’s not something I can stop right now. It’ll probably end in a few weeks, do you think I’m better working on a consistent routine, even if it’s not early, until I can get more sleep? Then once I can get to bed earlier start moving back the wake up time?

    • Meg Delagrange on January 9, 2017 at 9:05 am

      First of all, huge kudos to you lady! I would definitely encourage you to get enough sleep first. While you have this situation of getting to bed late, I would recommend starting with that good morning routine that you’ll be able to move to an earlier time once you’re able to get to bed earlier! I believe the success of good morning habits have more to do with the consistency of a healthy routine than the actual time you get up. I’d love to know how this goes for you!

  5. Bethany on January 10, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I’m postpartum nearly three months now and know it is time to make changes. I’ve started but haven’t been consistent. I really want to learn to love early mornings. I have found that showering right off is the best day starter. And sitting down with Jesus before the kids wake up is so valuable. Most days they are my alarm clock-which I dislike. So here’s to self-discipline

    • Meg Delagrange on January 10, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Hi Bethany! Congratulations on being three months PPD! That time was honestly difficult for me because I felt like I should be back to normal but I wasn’t. The main thing I would encourage is to be so gentle with yourself as you work your way to your goals. You’re not a first-time mama so you already know it takes time. Shooting for a consistent morning routine is such a great goal. Having some time set aside before your kids are up is always a win. What I like to do when I’m starting a new habit is to count a week with say, 5 wins in it as being an awesome week. I may miss two days, but I got 5 — that kind of thing. Or you may have 3 wins for the week, that’s a win. Every single win is a win, focus on your wins! Last fall I felt so discouraged when I found myself starting work without that time to properly get up, feeling all rushed and disoriented. I felt like I’d lost all my progress. But I was so focused on my setback instead of my wins. Going back to what I knew and starting over was key, I got back to consistency much much quicker this time around! You got this mama!

  6. Rebecca on January 10, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I’m going to try this. Pray for me.

    • Meg Delagrange on January 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Find the first two steps that work for you and get consistent with those, change doesn’t happen overnight! You’ve got this. I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

  7. El on January 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Me! I’m sick of my mediocre exhausted lifestyle. I’m ready and willing to make a change.

    • Meg Delagrange on January 10, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Hey El! I’m excited for you! I honestly believe that this is the best change a person can make because it positively affects every other area of your life. We would love to know how this goes for you! You’ve got this.

  8. admin on January 10, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    I’m on day three of this… So far so… yaaaaaaaawn! But seriously, each day I have made it a point to get up with the first alarm I hear (which is my biggest struggle). I may not keep to 4:30am, but I must say that I enjoy how much stuff I get done before I begin my actual work day (9am).

    • Meg Delagrange on January 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Hi Alex! I hear you! I feel a little punished today because I went to bed a bit too late last night. It’s definitely motivating me to hit that proper bedtime goal tonight. I’d have to say that getting up with the first alarm I hear is also my biggest struggle which is why I put so much emphasis on the importance of that. Keep at it! You’ve got this.

  9. Waking Up Early and How It’s Helped Me to Focus on February 6, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    […] of my clients, Meg, of Urban Southern, wrote a blog post about how she gets up early. I was skeptical because 4:30 am is a pretty gnarly time to wake up. But that first day, I did it. […]

  10. Robin on October 9, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    I’m an old grandma raising my two young grandchildren. They wear me out, I’m much too old for this. I always get up as soon as the alarm goes off. But I’ve got to say, I love to sleep. Some days I think I could sleep for 20 hours straight. But I think my biggest hurdle will be getting straight into the shower. I like to sit for an hour and have no one talk to me.

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