Confession: I am a night owl. I struggle with this concept called morning that seems to generate such strange excitement in some people. I don’t feel the need to rise with the sun, because you know what? If I wake up several hours later, the sun will still be there. Didn’t miss it.
But my schedule prefers that I wake up early, even if my brain was on fire the night before and my body will call me all sorts of names for rising before sunlight.
I’ve had to learn to wake up early. And not just get my body out of bed, but actually have my mind wake up, too. As in, begin functioning before noon. For a night owl, that’s a huge ask.
But here’s the thing: when I can pull that off – when I’m up and alert and ready to go, with time to spare, I’ve realized I like it. And if I get up early enough to accomplish a few tasks before I go to work, I’ve just lassoed the day.
I, proud Night Owl, like the morning. Now that we’ve met, anyways.
In order to make this work, though, I’ve had to change a few habits and be really intentional about sticking to the changes. Is it easy for a night owl to go to bed early and wake up early? That would be no. Is it worth the effort? A hundred times, yes.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned, and then see if you’re up for a little challenge…
5 Tips to Wake Up Early & Make Morning Work for You
1. Choose a time to switch “off” every evening
If you want to wake up early, you need go to bed early. Makes perfect sense, except as a night owl, you can be tired all day long and then suddenly switch to “on” about the time the sun sets. No, we’re not vampires. At least, I’m pretty sure about most of us. We’re just wired differently.
Morning people don’t understand how this is an issue. They’re all like, “How can you possibly not be sleepy at 9 o’clock in the evening?” And we’re like, “Shut up, I’m about to solve world hunger. Just give me another 6 hours.”
So how do you go to bed early and actually fall asleep? Change your triggers.
You know what wakes your mind up. For me, it’s working on my computer, watching an action-packed show (or the news, heaven help us), or anything that gets my mind chewing on a problem or project.
Your mind is just waiting for an excuse to click on for the next five hours – don’t give it one. Instead, try an activity that will trigger your mind and body to relax.
Most every night around 8:30 PM, I get a cup of decaffeinated tea. From that point on, I don’t work on my computer or phone. I knit, practice drawing, chat, or watch light TV. By 10:30 PM, I’m in bed and nearly asleep.
2. Get ready the night before
Your time in the morning is limited. What can you do tonight to prepare for tomorrow morning?
You’ll need to get dressed (always a good idea), so set out your clothes. If you need lunches for the kids or yourself, get them ready. Set your coffee maker to turn on when your alarm goes off. Are there any permission slips or homework papers to be signed? Oh, and bonus points if you gather the ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner in one spot the night before.
When morning comes and your brain is telling you off for getting up this early, you won’t have to think through all that other stuff. Just get dressed, get coffee (or tea, in my case), and know you’re already ahead of the game.
Want a cheat sheet? Write down a routine for your evening. Don’t make it too complicated, but include the tasks that will make Morning You a little happier. Use the printable at the end to get started. Write down a morning routine, too, and you can be your own hero.
3. Make tomorrow’s to-do list today
If you’re a night owl, you don’t think well in the morning. It’s something your fellow night owls expect of you. Solidarity, sister. So be kind to yourself, and make your to-do list the night before.
This is different from making a morning and night routine, which will usually be the same from day to day. What you need to accomplish today will be different from yesterday, and different from tomorrow.
In the evening, before you check out for the night, jot down the tasks you need to do the next day.
Now, look at your list and your morning routine. What’s the first thing you want to do in the morning? Do you want to read your Bible or other devotional? Set it out tonight. Do you need to make a phone call? Write the number on a sticky note and leave it where you’ll see it. Are you going to exercise? Set out your workout clothes.
You need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and the sun isn’t it. If you have something waiting for you when your alarm goes off, you’re more likely to get up.
4. Don’t hit snooze
And don’t hit me, either!
For me, hearing that alarm go off in the morning awakens in me a need for revenge on the alarm for going off so early. I get my revenge by hitting snooze. I know, I wake up in an interesting headspace. Night owl!
So your goal is to have more self-control than that. What I’ve found (and Actual Studies back this up) is that if you hit snooze even once, you’re likely to be more tired when you really do get up. The reason is that by going back to bed, you’ve restarted your sleep cycle, which your snooze alarm will rudely interrupt in the next 5-7 minutes. The nerve.
This is a huge step of faith for the early morning brain, but believe me that it really is better to get up and stay up the first time your alarm goes off. You can do this. I believe in you.
- Keep your alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
- Leave the room the moment you turn off the alarm. Get coffee, get a slice of apple you’ve cut up the night before, walk around the living room, brush your teeth, do something! Just don’t get back in bed.
When I was in high school, I came up with the bright idea of asking my mom (a morning person, bless her), to throw a pillow at me when my alarm went off. I don’t recommend this. The resulting scare at being woken up from a dead sleep by an over-eager woman coming at you with a pillow required at least 20 minutes of recovery time. In bed, of course.
5. Don’t wreck your routine on the weekend
Here’s the catch. This whole retrain-your-brain-to-recognize-the-morning shtick isn’t just something to help you survive the weekdays. It can help improve your overall energy level, mood, and productivity. Which means you have to be consistent.
Don’t throw the alarm at me – I’m not saying you have to get up super early every single morning for the rest of your life as you know it or you’ve ruined everything. Take a breath.
I am suggesting that Weekend You be kind to Monday Morning You and don’t force yourself to relearn your routine at the beginning of every week.
Staying up an extra hour on the weekend? Fine. Staying up until 2:30 AM when you’re normally in bed at 11? Please don’t.
My general rule of thumb is to stay within an hour of my normal bedtime and wake-up time, even on days I don’t have to. Do I always follow this? Well, no. I’d have to turn in my Night Owl membership card.
But I’ve learned that I function better (and actually like my schedule better) when I do.
Trust me on this one, young owl, until you’ve discovered it for yourself.
Take the Challenge
“But I can’t go to bed early! I have so much work to do!” Yup, me too. So much work, in fact, that I can’t afford not to get enough sleep. I need energy if I’m going to make it through tomorrow. I’m guessing you do, too.
:Here’s the challenge:
Download and print out the handy little printable I’ve made for you. Write down a simple evening routine and morning routine, and post them where you’ll see them. Post a few, if you need to. Morning Brain needs all the help it can get.
Try it out for 14 days. That’s two weeks, and you can so do this. That’s about the time it takes for you to get to the point where you’re actually tired in the evening when you want to go to bed.
So, you up for the challenge?
You make awesome content. Shouldn't your graphics match?