An Easy Guide to Waking Up Early

by Travis Hellstrom

It's been three weeks since my wife and I moved back to Vermont after a wonderful summer with my family in North Carolina. The cozy town of Woodstock has been very welcoming and right now in particular, it's the most beautiful time of the year.

My wife has started an exciting new job that she loves and I'm in my second year of graduate school in what is called our practicum phase. During this phase we gain experience outside the classroom (many students travel around the world) while writing our thesis over a minimum six month period. As a Peace Corps Fellow, I'm consulting with several organizations here in Vermont, as well as launching my own benefit corporation Advance Humanity with some amazing friends.

Early to Rise

One of my favorite things about living here is a surprise perk from my wife's job: she starts work very early. Some mornings we are up at 4am, other mornings at 6am. I've never woken up before dawn so consistently in my life (but I've always wanted to).

For me, getting up early means:

  • Early morning writing
  • Reading when it's nice and quiet
  • Easy meditation environment
  • Watching as the sun rises
  • Letting my mind and body slowly adjust to the day
  • Feeling nice and tired at night

The trouble with waking up early is a lot like the trouble with exercise, it seems a lot harder than it is. In nerdy biology lingo we would say the "activation energy" is very high. Like pushing a heavy box or broken down car, it takes more initial force to get it moving than it does to keep it moving. Once it's going, it starts to push itself.

Getting Out the Door

Waking up early seems to work the same way. We all know once you get up and jump/fall/stumble into the shower, things seem to roll along from there. Once I get up the hardest part is over. Shower, breakfast and we're out the door. Like Leo says, to exercise don't think about the run, just put on your shoes and walk out the door. The rest follows. It really is that simple.

Here are some things that have helped me jump start the process:

  • Set the alarm the night before
  • Pick an alarm you enjoy (ex: soft, energizing music)
  • Put the alarm far from your bed so you have to get up to turn it off
  • Immediately go to the bathroom, shower, kitchen to do something
  • Make the bed before you leave for the day

Each of these things make it harder to go back to sleep or even think about sleep and your body will learn to be your ally as you do this day after day. Surprisingly, you don't have to make yourself go to bed early either.

Early to Bed

Some people say if you want to wake up early you have to go to bed early, but I think it's the other way around. Just go to bed when you are tired. I never force myself to go to sleep. I just force myself to get up.

You will naturally get more tired earlier in the day if you wake up early consistently. I fall asleep easily within 5 minutes every night and have never needed to use sleep medicine. And I don't drink anything to stay awake for that matter either. I like coffee, especially the smell of it, but I always drink it decaffeinated with lots of creamer. People who love coffee can't watch me drink it. I'm an abomination.

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise

The positive affect of waking up so early on my reading and writing has been particulary enjoyable. I'm much more relaxed the rest of the day, get a lot more done and I'm a lot more fun to be around. I'm happy to trade a few hours at night for a few hours in the morning.

If you think you might feel the same, give it a try.

Wake up thirty minutes earlier tomorrow than you normally would and spend it doing something you enjoy.

Good luck!