Few weeks back I decided to finally become a morning person. My extensive experience at failing to wake up early coupled with some neat tips I stumbled onto on the web helped me achieve what I once only dreamed of. In here I make an attempt to summarize my lessons into a structured approach to rising early.
Step 0 : Sleep early
Retire to bed on schedule even if you are not sleepy. You can’t arm twist your body into waking up early if you do not give it enough sleep. I call this the 0th step, because all others are worthless without it.
This rule has another payoff; Since you already know that you do not have the luxury of waking up till late, you tend to focus on finishing up your tasks instead of stupid Facebook updates and senseless cat videos.
Step 1 : Moms are bad alarms
During my high school days, my mother used to wake me up for school somewhat like this: She would stand in the kitchen (busy preparing lunches for dad and us children), and yell my name, telling me that it’s 8 o’ clock and I should get my lazy bum out of the bed. This did not work, ever. Instead of doing her bidding, I would curl into a ball, shielding my ear with my pillow, more determined to stay in my bed. My dad, on the contrary, would walk up to my bed, sit by my side and just keep his warm hand on my forehead. This used to work like magic.
And hence the lesson: Never use harsh or very loud alarm tones. Unpleasant triggers invoke instant negative response; You would simply shut the alarm off even before giving it a thought. Your alarm should be soothing to ear and low in volume. Personally, I rely on a playlist of my favorite slow and melodious songs that my Mac is programmed to play when I want to wake up. Most of the times I let the music play long after I have left my bed.
In the same rhyme, don’t place your alarm within your arms length. Make sure that you have to move out of your bed to reach the alarm. Keeping the alarm too close is a recipe for an incurable disease called chronic snoozing, and this brings us to the next step.
Step 2 : Death to the snooze button
I hereby declare the snooze button as the most evil invention of our times and a threat to humanity. I believe it was invented to lead us all into a state of procrastination and denial. Snooze button represents a false assurance that next time the alarm rings you would actually feel inclined to wake up and not hit the snooze button again. And the more you do this, the more powerful this false belief grows. I have spent countless mornings snoozing and sleeping, ending up in bed for longer after the alarm went up first time than before.
If you can’t make it out of the bed, just stop the alarm. Follow this rule strictly, burn your bridges, even if this screws up your schedule a few times. The fear of not having a backup to rely upon will help you jolt out of your bed. But wait, not so fast..
Step 3 : You don’t have to get out to get up
Don’t bog your mind down with the mammoth task of getting out of your warm, cozy and irresistible blanket the moment you wake up. Take small manageable steps towards being fully awake and aware. Open your eyes. Check what the time is. Take a long, leisurely, I-feel-oh-so-awesome kind of a stretch, making every muscle in your body realize it is time to get going. Message your loved ones, wishing them a beautiful day. Visualize what you plan to do this morning. And, then, finally, get out. Ah, the getting out..
Step 4 : Getting out to more comfort
This is important, because this is where we fail more often. Getting out of bed is almost like a punishment, no wait, it is a punishment. Take steps to make the world outside suck less. One of the tricks is to have a warmer room, using lets say a programmable thermostat. The alternate is a warmer you. Make sure you wear enough clothes so that the room doesn’t feel frozen as compared to your bed. Socks do wonders here.
You could add some more incentives to getting out of bed. Program the coffee machine to start brewing at the time you want to wake up. Or keep those cozy furry slippers by your bedside. You could even program your system to boot up and play your favorite songs.
Step 5 : Winning the war
Doing all this helps, but, there is one thing which is critical: Winning the war within, empowering ourselves to win the argument about waking up or sleeping off. You could take some cues from the very talented David McRaney. His blog and book discuss at length about the human tendency to put off what it otherwise seems important. Few excerpts from his excellent article on procrastination:
…the problem isn’t you are a bad manager of your time – you are a bad tactician in the war inside your brain… The trick is to accept the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you – a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties…
All the best and happy mornings!!