The internet is littered with tons of articles about how the biggest and best entrepreneurs live on barely any sleep and wake up around 4-5am in the morning.
Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his day at 3:45am, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey both wake up around 5am.
“The reason I like to wake up early is so that I can work through my emails before most of the world logs on,” Branson wrote in a blog post about his early starts.
Best-selling author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris likes to say “if you win the morning, you win the day.”
You may be wondering whether there’s anything in it. It’s something a lot of successful people have in common so they must be doing something right.
But is an early wake-up the key to success?
The simple answer is no. Waking up early does not guarantee success unless you use that time well. But it could very well be worth it, with the right plan.
In this post, we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide to waking up earlier and taking back control of your mornings.
Benefits of waking up early
First of all, what are the benefits to waking up that early?
Fewer distractions – With everyone in bed, you’re free to spend your time how you want, with fewer distractions.
Time to exercise – Fewer distractions, emptier gyms or quieter areas to focus during yoga sessions are top reasons cited by early risers who want to get in a workout.
Catch up with others around the world – If you work with companies in different time zones, waking up early may make this easier.
Arrive at work more awake – Just like athletes need to warm up before a game, your mind needs warming up before you tackle the day to ensure it’s at its peak.
Time to prepare healthy food – Some people use this time to prepare a healthy breakfast and lunch, rather than grabbing fast food in your rush to the office.
Fit in that thing you’ve been meaning to do – Have you been meaning to start a novel, meditate, read more or learn a language but don’t have the time? Early mornings are perfect for personal projects like these.
How do you do it?
If it sounds like something you’d like to try, your next concern might be – how the hell do you get up at 5am every day?
We’re not going to lie and say it’s easy. It’s not, it will take some training and realistic expectations.
Step 1 – Go to bed early
Almost everyone who researches waking up early looks for tips and tricks that will bypass the most basic step – going to bed early. Just because you wake up early doesn’t mean you need any less sleep.
Sleep is important to ensure your brain is refreshed and you’re more alert during the day. It’s a crucial step that many people underestimate when trying this. You probably won’t be able to maintain your current bed time and will have to adjust. No more midnight Instagram scrolling.
Step 2 – Have a wind-down routine
Following on from the previous step, the best way to wake up early is to ensure your pre-sleep routine is effective. A good wind-down routine will ensure you get to sleep faster and have a more restful slumber.
This could involve reducing caffeine intake after a certain time, drinking herbal tea, switching off screens an hour before sleep and getting some reading done. Another one is to have a (gentle) alarm to remind you when to get in bed. It works the other way round, so why not have a go-to-sleep alarm too?
Step 3 – Prepare for the next day
Notice how we’re still talking about the day before? Preparing for the next day makes it easier to get out of bed for.
If you want to get something productive done at 5am, you’ll have to prepare for it. Some people lay out their gym clothes, put their phone in their home office or set their coffee maker on a timer. This makes 5am wake-ups easier, or as easy as they can be.
Step 4 – Work up to 5am
Going from waking up at 8am to 5am is a big jump. Plenty of people trying this think it’s best to just get it all out of the way, but that doesn’t always work.
Working your way up to 5am is a more realistic and sustainable goal. You need to make it as easy as possible to wake up at 5am, so there’s less internal argument for you to contend with when your alarm goes off.
All you need to do is set your alarm 15 minutes before you usually do, followed by another 15 minutes a week later and so on. In no time, your body will have started to adjust to this new wake up time. It won’t be such a shock to the system and you won’t feel as zombie-like.
Morning grogginess means you’ll struggle to utilise this new-found time and it’ll be easier to convince yourself it doesn’t work and to give up.
Step 5 – Have a reason
Waking up at 5am is great, unless you spend it doing nothing of value. Then soon enough it’ll be easy to justify sleeping in and all your hard work will be for nothing.
It’s really important that you have a solid reason for getting up at this time – ideally something that is helpful to your life, your health or your business. It could be to become better at running your business, to become healthier or to work on personal projects you’ve had no time to start.
Focus on why you’re getting up this early and track your progress if you can. Signs of progress will continue to motivate you.
Step 6 – Make your routine bulletproof
Getting up with a vague idea or plan can end very quickly with mindless tasks, daydreaming or sitting in front of the TV.
If you know why you want to get up this early, you’ll need to tailor your morning routine to make this possible. Try writing down every little thing you need to do to build up to that thing you want.
E.g. get out of bed, go bathroom, wash, make coffee, meditate, exercise and so on. Tick these tasks off your to-do list and you’ll already feel accomplished.
Routine is all about the little things. Doing things the same way means you don’t even have to think about them anymore. It’ll become easier, we promise!
Step 7 – Don’t neglect the coffee
You don’t have to go it alone, coffee is there to help you wake up and shouldn’t be ignored if that’s what you need to get going. It’s a helping hand to allow you to achieve more in that time.
However, once the early wake-ups become a bit easier, we’d recommend swapping the occasional coffee with something a bit healthier like green tea or lemon water.
Eventually, when you get used to waking up at 5am, you will find you don’t need gallons of coffee to start the day.
We hope this guide has helped and inspired you to get the most out of your mornings.
Have you tried the 5am wake-up? What tasks would you/do you do during the early hours of the morning? Share your stories below.
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About The Author
An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.