Waking Up Early: How To Be A 5am Early Riser. (From a night owl)

waking up early

It’s long been a goal of mine to be an early riser. (As far back as my teens.) In January of this year, I made a firm decision that I was going to finally crack the code and begin waking up early every day.

I’ve been trying for years, and although I’ve had success for short stints, I was never able to decode the formula to become totally consistent.

I’ve never lost the determination to figure out how to make it happen, and this year I found my answer.

Some people dream of success, while others wake up every day and make it happen.

Wayne Huizenga

A new dawn of waking up early

Since the 1st of January I’ve been waking up at 5am consistently. I can now say with confidence that it has become a habit for life.

Don’t get me wrong, it still requires effort to wake up at that time. The strategies I’ve implemented have meant that habit is now a large portion of the waking up process. Say at around 60-70%. The remaining 30-40% is based on my desire to get my ass up, and get my backside to the gym. (Getting to the gym is something I’m going to cover in a follow-up piece.)

There have been a number of reasons why I’ve wanted to become an early riser and one of the key ones has been to exert some discipline and achieve a degree of self-mastery.

On this occasion, Mastery played a big part but it wasn’t the key driver. There were three other factors that played an even bigger role:

  1. Now that I’m fully self employed, it dawned on my very quickly that waking up at 9-10am, was not going to give me the time I needed to achieve all the things I wanted to do.
  2. Secondly, My wife is an early riser and I was a late sleeper. It wasn’t helping our relationship us both operating on different times. I had to make a change, for both our sakes, so that I would no longer disturb her at night. I wanted for us both to sleep at the same time and awake early.

Feeling different

There was one other big driver which took me by surprise.

Of all the times I’d tried and not succeeded very well in waking up early, I felt deep inside my gut that this time it was going to be different. A huge part of that, I have to be honest and say, is age.

Since June of last year, I think the concept of ageing has finally caught up with me. 😛 I’ve always felt very young inside and I still do, inside my head I think I’m 25. I’m still fit and healthy, and although I do have more aches and pains that I used to, I’m what people often refer to as ‘young at heart’.

Last year however, I just became more aware that physically, I was getting older. I needed to act now and do it decisively; because, time was running out.

Statistically I’ve already lived more than half my life, and less than half remains. (Although I do feel like I’ll live to way beyond 90 so maybe not quite halfway just yet.)

This new-found urgency was the genesis in giving me the ass-kicking I needed conquer the mornings. Fundamentally, I didn’t care where any of my drivers were coming from. I was just determined to take all of them, including the reasons I mentioned earlier, and the fact it was new year too, and make an unstoppable cocktail of motivation to do this.

Taking massive action

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I had already decided that I was going to begin by waking up at 5.30am, and then gradually make it earlier.

The first few weeks weren’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, but the prior late nights were still an issue in keeping me up, and sometimes even until 2-3am.

I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I knew that I would have to endure a certain amount of suffering in this process, and I was ready. Whilst I don’t advocate trying to get by on just 2-3 hours of sleep, I was determined to not let that stop me building this habit.

There were even some nights where I was not falling asleep until 4am, but I was so determined that nothing was going to stop me, that I got my myself up at 5am, went to the gym, and returned home for some sleep. The key was getting up no matter what.

Having some catchup sleep on those days where I got very little was an absolutely necessity! I wasn’t able to function without catching some zzz’s during the day.

Gradually I began to set my alarm for 5 minutes earlier every 2 weeks or so.

Handling the tests of waking up early

Illness

The first really big test came when I came down with the flu in late February. I was incredibly poorly and I managed to go to the gym for the most part, but at it’s worst, I had to take two days off.

It was a huge source of frustration for me to have to miss two days so early in the process, but I was so sick for those two days that there was no way I could go.

Injury

The next setback came in March when I was at the gym, close to finishing one my workout when I bent down, and through tiredness and poor form, picked up a weight and slipped a disc in my back. Since this was the 9th time I had done it, I knew exactly what had happened.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t the worst episode I’d ever had, and so the next day, I was able to return to the gym and continue working out lightly until I had fully recovered from the injury.

Poor Sleep

I was still struggling with sleep and there were times when I just wouldn’t be able to sleep. I kept telling myself that no matter what though, I would get up. My wife, friends and family thought I was a bit crazy but my wife could see the sense in sticking to the regime regardless of sleep.

I had to conquer this waking up early business no matter what and I so kept on fighting. Each day, even if it was just 2 hours sleep, I would still jump out of bed as soon as the alarm chimed.

Injury… again

It was the same back injury again. This time it happened at the very beginning of one of my weights workouts. I was able to complete the session and had a very busy day ahead. But, by the time I got home, and lay down, it was game over!

I was barely able to get back up. I was just about able to walk (extremely lopsided) due to the slip disc injury to do basic tasks like eat, but besides that, I wasn’t going anywhere.

However, I would go to sleep saying to myself I will get to the gym in the morning. I would still wake up early at 5am, even just for a few minutes to keep the habit going, and then go back to sleep again.

It took me a week to get back to any position where I had enough energy to actually get out of bed at 5am, and could begin exercising gently again but I got there and it’s been just over 4 weeks since the injury and I’m now back to doing my full workout.

Conquering the snooze

In the beginning I took a leaf out of the play book of Mel Robbins and made sure I ejected myself from bed before there was any chance I could talk myself into sleeping longer.

I’m going to completely confess, I have no idea how I was able to activate that feature instantly overnight. I can only hypothesise that it was keeping that cocktail of motivation, that I mentioned before at the front of my mind.

Getting up for me, had become a must!

I had become aware quickly that I had to be waking up early so that I could take my business to another level.

The awareness that time was running out, and I wanted to be a great influence on all those around me, including my wife, were lunging me forward.

Tips for waking up early.

I was thinking about what tips to share that would really help you in waking up early and things that are not talked about elsewhere.

Although I’m a complete and utter advocate of waking up naturally, to instil this habit I knew would require a strategy involving an alarm.

One technique that was absolutely critical was using my Apple watch. You can use any fitness device that perhaps vibrates with an alarm. I would set my alarm with the vibrate function which was more effective at waking me up. An alarm, I can sleep through, but something vibrating on my wrist is something I could not, and cannot ignore.

So, every day I charge my watch in the middle of the day. That way, at night I still have enough charge to use as my alarm, and for the morning gym session to track my workout.

The other main tip is finding your real ‘why’.

What is the reason you want to wake up? When you have a why, and it’s the right ‘why’, it becomes much easier. If you’re just trying to wake up for the sake of waking up, you’ll find yourself struggle.

Finding your own personal driving force, a real ‘why’, that literally makes you jump out of the bed, is the best piece of advice I can give you. Find your why, and you won’t need motivation.

Benefits of waking up early

I’m still only just beginning to see, feel and reap the benefits of waking up early.

The big and crucial thing of course, is time. Prior to January, I was going to the gym in the middle of the day and I just felt it was eating too much time out of my day. I’d just given myself a net gain of around 2 hours each day. Enough time to do a workout and get ready!

I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained muscle (I’m keeping those details more secret until I either get incredibly close to, or achieve my goals) At the same time in January I became vegan. (Again something I’ll be writing about in the future.)

Overall I’m feeling much better. My mental health has improved and the satisfaction, and fulfilment of doing these, has been immeasurable.

Slowly and gradually. I’m feeling more tired earlier and therefore able to sleep earlier and sleep for longer. (I’m aiming to hit that 7 hours daily.)

However, therein lies a big challenge. The longer the sleep, the deeper the sleep. Last night I went to bed at 9.30pm and slept by around 10pm. I actually found it harder to wake up today, than if I’d had just 4 hours sleep. Just a noteworthy point if you’re embarking on this journey.

Become an early riser

Here we are, six months in and I’m still going strong. I don’t always wake up instantly now when my alarm goes off, but I’m out of bed within 10 minutes of waking up without having to use the snooze.

I forgot to mention earlier that this process is a weekday, Monday-Friday process only for me. Due to my late night radio show on the weekends, the weekends are an early free zone for now. I’m in bed by 2am and most weekends I’m still awake by 9am. But the odd day when I’m able to, I make sure I have a good lie-in!

I truly hope my experience, and my early rising journey helps you on yours too. Even if you haven’t cracked the code yet, keep trying. Keeping doing it until you master it. That feeling of self-mastery is epic, and the biggest battle to overcome is the morning. So when you do it, you’ll feel a monumental sense of personal achievement!

Over to you. What tips would you share with others on waking up early and on beating the snooze?

Share your thoughts with the world :-)