You’ve heard the age old adage about waking up early. You know, the one about “the early bird gets the worm”. The earlier you wake up, the more opportunities that’ll come your way. Sounds easy enough, but there’s one problem. You hate getting up early. You snooze four times, maybe five, before you process the idea of getting out of bed. It’s one of life’s struggles that it’s so hard to fall asleep and yet also so hard to wake up. So if you’re reading this, you probably have two questions floating around in your mind: one, how do successful people wake up early (like how do they really wake up that early), and if so, then what time?
To answer the pressing question on how successful people are up at the crack of dawn, first take a look at when they get up.
If you’re someone like Jocko Willink, you wake up at 4:30 am every day and make sure to post a picture of it on Instagram because “pics or it didn’t happen”. If you’re a retired US general you might even get up at 4 am. But if you’re a regular ol’ CEO, you could be pushing 6 am. And then there’s others who buck the trend and wake up later. Take Mark Zuckerberg for example, who gets up around 8 am to start his day. See, you can be a billionaire and wake up later than 6 am.
So if you’re looking for a de-facto answer on when successful people wake up, hold tight and hold for a long time, because you probably won’t ever get a simple answer. The real answer is complicated, but generally speaking, yes successful people wake up early.
How they wake up though? It all comes down to one pretty big factor.
What time you go to bed?
Because you can bet money that those who wake up at 5 am (or even 4 am) and find productivity/success in life aren’t going to bed at midnight. If you’re solely focused on the “early bird gets the worm” trap and convinced you need to wake up at 4 am, you’re in for a world of pain going forward if you can’t get yourself to bed before 11 pm.
At the end of the day, successful people wake up whenever the hell they want, because they’ve found a system that work for them. It’s about what they accomplish in their waking hours, not what time they start and stop working.
But here’s the deal: if you’re reading this, you probably have a desire to wake up at a decent hour to get more things done, since you’ve got a job that requires your attention from 9-5. You’re looking at how you can spice things up and take advantage of the 5-9 am.
And no, you don’t have to sacrifice shut-eye for the success you want. That means you can have two ridiculously good things at once: sleep and success.
Need some help? Here’s a few ways you can get yourself to wake up a little bit earlier.
Five Ways To Help You Get Up Earlier
1. Roll back in small increments
If you’re used to getting up at 8 am and your goal is 5 am, you can always try the “cold turkey” method and set your alarm for the new time and just deal with the repercussions. But there’s going to be a lot of hoping and praying you can actually roll out of bed and not snooze eight times for awhile. More than likely, you’ll give up after a few days.
Instead, try setting the alarm back 30 minutes from your usual wakeup time for a week or two, and once you’re used to it, set it back another 30 minutes.
Cold turkey can work for some people, but like anything else, if you shoot your ambition way too high way too early, it’s not a recipe for sustained success. It’s not much different than the art and science of goal setting; if you set the bar high too early, you’ll give up. Start small, start slow, and build on that.
2. Get a morning routine in place
If you’re looking to wake up earlier, it means you probably have some notion of what you want to do with that time. Stick with it. Formulate a routine so before you even go to bed at night, you know what’s coming.
Every successful person who wakes up early has a routine in place, whether it’s getting exercise, meditating, and just getting a chance to be creative before the work day starts.
If you don’t really have a valid reason to get up early, why would you? Your brain isn’t dumb, it’ll know you’re full of hot air. Give it a reason to want to get out of bed earlier. Specifically, give it a good reason to wake up earlier: see #5 below.
3. Get a nighttime routine in place
Just as important as your morning routine, the nighttime routine will get you in bed at a decent hour so you can get the sleep you actually deserve.
Everyone’s so focused on the morning routine and waking up early, but if you can’t get to bed at a decent hour, the rest of your day won’t turn out well. You’ve for sure experienced brain fog at this point in your life. Not getting enough rest leads you right into a fog so thick you can’t see three feet in front of you.
But going to bed at a decent hour so you can ultimately get a good night’s rest may be the one thing most people struggle with the most. It’s nearly impossible to just shut things down at a decent hour when you aren’t feeling tired. This is why the nighttime routine is so important and why successful people wake up early and have consistent performance day after day.
As boring as routines sound, they’re what make top performers top performers. If you know you’re getting up at 5 am and you also know you need 7 hours of sleep on average to feel rested enough, do the math – that means getting to bed around 10 pm. If you need to get to bed around 10 pm, you should start a nighttime routine around 9 pm so you aren’t rushing through it.
What you do in the routine is up to you, but the important part is doing it consistently, day after day, so your brain associates the routine with going to bed. The other important part is doing things that relax and calm you down. Don’t exercise, jam heavy metal, or read the news in your nighttime routine. Turn off most electronics (or all), read for a bit, stretch, meditate, or whatever else works for you.
4. Use light to your advantage
If you’re really ambitious (golf clap), you might be looking to wake up before the sun cracks the horizon. In this case, it’ll be pitch black outside still, which isn’t exactly the time you’re biologically wired to jolt out of bed.
Lucky for you, there’s a way to trick yourself into the sunrise pattern: get a bright light to shine in your face when it’s time to wake up.
These days, you can get a wifi enabled smart light which can be set to turn on at whatever the fuck time you choose. Get one in conjunction with your alarm and slap it near your bed. Just make sure the alarm stays a bit further away so you don’t snooze it. When it’s time to get up, your alarm starts chirping and the light is shining in your face so bright, it’s impossible to ignore no matter how much you yell at it.
There’s even alarm clocks built with this light functionality inside if you want something a bit more official.
5. Do something worth getting up for
Let’s say you love getting up no earlier than 9 am. And now let’s say you were told, in essence “sorry, hope you enjoyed that 9 am getup for the last 10 years, you now have to get up at 6 am.” Ok, pretty crappy card you were just dealt; you aren’t a morning person and now you’re forced to get up 3 hours earlier. Now imagine if you were told that not only do you have to wake up 3 hours earlier, but it’s because you have to exercise.
Some of you would actually love the sound of that, but for most people, the idea of getting up early to workout sounds slightly better than getting asked to help a friend move in the dead heat of summer.
Really, what makes you think you’ll keep up the momentum and wake up early every day for that? Not much probably. Instead, try to do something that you actually look forward to doing. If you’re a coffee snob or fantasize about running your local independently owned coffee shop, it can be a delicious cup of coffee. If you’re all spiritual and shit, it can be to meditate. If you’re an exercise addict, well, it may just be to wake up and work out.
Give yourself a reason to wake up earlier. Otherwise, you’ll snooze your way into failure again and again.
The Ultimate Secret About Getting Up Early You Aren’t Told
If someone told you something that sounds too good to be true, you’d probably question it.
So if someone told you that the only secret to life was that successful people wake up early, the idea doesn’t sound so shabby. You want to out-shine your competition? You get up earlier. Problem supposedly solved.
But the issue with society today is a pervasive notion that you can get up early (ultimately giving up proper sleep) and find the success you want. That a persistent lack of sleep can be balanced with your daily life and you’ll be just fine. And the less sleep you get, the more determined you are to find success relative to everyone else, because you’re willing to work at all hours.
But this is a sham – you don’t have bragging rights because you didn’t get enough rest. When you repeat the process over and over of shorting yourself on slumber, it doesn’t take long for the brain fog to kick in. And when you start walking around like you belong in The Walking Dead, you’ll quickly become an unfocused wreck. Your creativity gets zapped; it just broke up with you and has moved on. Caffeine sounds like a great alternative to stave off the fog, until you’re four cups in on a daily basis and realize your sensitivity to the elixir of the gods has weaned. Big time.
So the next time you think you need to skip the slumber to out-hustle someone on your path to success, sleep on it before you make the call. Remember that successful people wake up early after getting enough sleep.