How I Became An Early Riser

If I can do it, anyone can. As most people who know me will attest, I’ve always had trouble getting up in the morning. I blame my family, which is packed with night owls.

In high school, I got suspended on more than one occasion for missing my first class of the day. You’d think that the Navy would have changed me, and it did, for awhile. I only got in trouble once or twice in the Navy for being late as a result of oversleeping. And in spite of my lack of discipline in this area, after I got out of the Navy, I managed to crank through three years of school in 18 months and maintain a 3.9 GPA. But I remember sitting in class on numerous occasions having been in bed sound asleep less than 20 minutes before that. After college, I managed to hold down a job in San Francisco for a year before I quit to start consulting and pursuing my own entrepreneurial pursuits.

You’d think that the unstructured life of a freelancer would be bad for someone who already has trouble getting up in the morning. Well, you’d be right. For a long time, I would work late, late into the night (like 2 – 4am) and then drag myself out of bed around noon. Super lame. The thing was, I hated doing it, but I always felt like I had more to do than I could afford to put off until the next day, so I had to do it before I went to bed.

For awhile, I was afraid I had some kind of sleeping disorder. But over the last four or five months, I’ve had a real breakthrough. The last few weeks notwithstanding (more on that later), I now get up regularly around 4:30am, and am often at my office by 5am. What’s more, I *love* this and don’t consider it to be much of a struggle. If you’re looking to make a similar change, here’s what I would recommend:

1. Practice getting up

Yes, you will feel stupid. But give Steve Pavlina’s awesome technique a try. It really helped me, especially in the beginning.

2. Consider your productivity curve

One of the biggest things I discovered is that I get 3-4x as much done between 5am and 9am as I do between 9pm and 1am. They’re both four hours, but my productivity is drastically different. For some people, it may make more sense to stay up late, as they’ll get more done. In that case, my recommendation would be to just embrace it. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch reportedly sleeps from like 4am to 10am and he’s gotten quite a bit done over the last few years. Figure out what works for you.

3. Go to bed

You’d think this would be basic, right? Took me 25 years to figure it out, though. The thing is, when I started going to bed at 9pm or 10pm, I had to really force myself, because I had *so much* that needed to get done. But I knew that I would get more done the next morning than I would if I stayed up late working. And I did. And over time, I gradually managed to catch up, until I wasn’t so far behind and going to bed was a lot easier.

4. Have something to do with your time in the morning

Exercise, read, write, work, email, whatever. But don’t get up and sit around wondering why you’re up. It’ll just be harder to get up next time.

5. Stick with it

That first week or two was kind of rough, but as I kept getting up, it got easier and easier. Once you get into the routine and your body adjusts, you’ll find getting up much easier to do. Just don’t give up.

Where I am today

My wife and I got two puppies about a month ago, and they’ve completely ruined my routine 🙂 I can only imagine what an infant would be like…kudos to you parents out there. Anyway, we’ve started to get back into a routine, and we’re trading off days so that I can get up early a few days a week and head into the office. It’s not quite the same level of productivity that I had before, but it’ll continue to get better.

For more on this topic, here’s a few posts from other blogs:

Steve Pavlina – How to Become an Early Riser

Steve Pavlina – How to Become an Early Riser – Part II

Zen Habits – How I Became an Early Riser