How to Wake Up Early With a Purpose: I Can Do It, So Can You!

As I write this, it’s 7:45am.  So far this morning I’ve done the following:

  • Ate breakfast – open-faced egg and cheese sandwich.
  • Put a load of laundry in the washer.
  • Folded a set of laundry that was done.
  • Emptied the dishwasher and wiped down the kitchen counters.
  • Caught up on the news and commented on blogs.
  • 45-minute spin class at the local gym.
  • Shower, shave, etc.
  • Created my to-do list for today.
  • Started writing blog post.

All before most people wake up in the morning.

Most people say I’m a morning person, and I tend to agree with them.  Afternoons and nights, in my opinions, are more for relaxing and unwinding rather than to work and do chores.  However, it’s not like I used to always be like this.

In University, I was awful at waking up.  In fact, I was your typical college student – going to bed at 3:00am and waking up at 11:00pm.  I missed my early classes, and my marks showed it.  I couldn’t sleep often because I’d stay up late surfing message boards.  I was groggy most of the time, and I had to have my afternoon nap or I was even more cranky.  I gained weight.  My room was a mess.  While I had a social life, I have to say I was a human mess most of the time.

So what changed?  After university I had a short stint working as a construction worker in the field.  For roughly two years, I had to be at work for 5:45am and I’d be on my feet for most of the day.  I’d have to wake up at 5am (or earlier), eat breakfast, and ride my bike 5k before even getting to work.  I had to change my awful habits for work.  However, after changing these bad habits, something else changed –I lost weight, and gained muscle.  I had more energy than ever before.  I was so much more productive in the mornings – even on weekends!  I couldn’t believe it.

Now that I’m all-in in an office job, I’d like to think that some of my habits from a few years ago working out in the field have spilled over into my life now.  I’d like to share some of the secrets I use to make sure I wake up early every day, and ensure that you can do the same.

The List: How I Wake Up Early

  1. I have a to-do list ready the night before.
  2. No computers, no TV, no distractions at least one hour before I go to bed.
  3. I do something to take my mind off the day for that one hour before I’m in bed – reading my Kindle is my best bet.
  4. I drink herbal tea after dinner – preferably something with chamomile, peppermint and lemongrass.
  5. I have black-out curtains in my bedroom.
  6. I have a nightly routine of brushing my teeth and putting away my clothes at the end of the day.  Often, I put a load in the washing machine as well.
  7. When I wake up, I try and get outside as fast as possible.  Often I go onto my patio just to have a quick morning stretch and gauge the temperature outside for the day.
  8. I don’t touch a computer or TV until after I’m done breakfast.
  9. I busy myself in the morning with a few cleaning chores – usually something as simple as cleaning the kitchen.

Honestly, as I sit here, it’s tough to even think of any more strategies.  If you have to take any two away from this list, I have to say getting outside and waking up with a purpose works better than any one of these strategies.

So why does this work?  Well, I believe it is a combination of all of these items.  For you, though, I have created action items for you to work on that will help you sleep, as well as getting up in the morning.

NIGHTTIME ACTION ITEMS!

Nighttime Action #1: Drink Herbal Tea.

As I mentioned before, I drink tea, specifically herbal tea with lots of herbal remedies – make sure your tea has at least the following ingredients:

  • Chamomile – found in most teas, it is often used to settle stomachs.
  • Peppermint – tastes good, and calms the stomach.
  • Valerian – also known as “nature’s Valium”, so guess what: it helps you go to sleep!
  • Lemongrass – relieves insomnia, and stress.

Your local tea store should be able to whip you up a blend of these flowers, and you know what, it tastes damn good too.  When all else fails, drink sleepy time, as it already contains chamomile, spearmint and valerian.  It just doesn’t taste as good as the loose-leaf stuff.

Nighttime Action #2: Make Your To-Do List.

Look, I’m not telling you to do anything too crazy the next day.  Just briefly map it out:

  • What’s your plan when you wake up?
  • What simple chores do you want to do?
  • What do you have to at work when you first get in?

None of these are particularly epic, just create a quick and dirty list.  It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes.  It will, however, give you purpose when you wake up, which is what you want, isn’t it?

Nighttime Action #3: Unwind.

This is very important before going to bed.  Usually when we’re on the computer, information is flowing to our head like water.  Well, turn off that tap, and just relax.

Briefly reflect on the day, read, talk to your significant other, listen to some jazz music, or just watch some comedy (Conan does it for me).  Personally, I read a book.  The trick is to just get your heart rate down and to just give your brain some breathing room.

Reading still doesn’t work for you? Follow this trick, from Zen Habits to cure your temporary insomnia:

The simplest cure for insomnia: get comfortable and close your eyes, and then replay your day in your head, in every detail possible, from the moment you woke up. Start from the moment your eyes opened, and replay every movement — getting out of bed, starting the coffeemaker, going to the bathroom, washing your hands, or whatever. Don’t summarize — leave nothing out.

DAYTIME ACTION ITEMS!

Morning Action #1: Get Outside.

Honestly, this is a no-brainer.  Get outside first thing in the morning.  You don’t have to run, you don’t even have to walk.  Take a few steps outside, and just stretch.  If you don’t know how to stretch,follow this guide from Zen to Fitness.  You’ll find that you’ll get the blood flowing, and even just being outside you’ll appreciate the day a little better.  Plus, you’ll know whether or not you’ll have to get out that winter jacket or if it’s just sweater weather.

Morning Action #2: Busy Yourself.

Did you write that to-do list?  Great – now knock of a couple items that take a few minutes each.  Don’t have anything on the list that only takes a few minutes?  Do some simple cleaning, like dusting or cleaning your cabinets.  Not only will you get focused and productive to start your day, you’ll also have a clean house (BONUS!).

NOTE! Please note that when I say “Busy Yourself”, it does NOT mean go on the computer and check email.  This could be the worst thing you can do.  If you check email or flip on your blog reader, next thing you know you’re on TVTropes and it’s 11:00am.  Trust me, I’ve been there, and it sucks. Stay productive.

Morning Action #3: Eat Breakfast.

Now this sounds like a pretty easy task.  Why wouldn’t you eat breakfast?  Well, some people complain that they “just don’t have time”.  You’d rather just get out the door than make a quick breakfast.

Seriously, though, that’s an awful excuse.  They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason.  It gives you fiber, protein and charges your body with enough metabolism to kick start whatever you wanted to get done.  Don’t have time?  Just try these two recipes:

Awesome Open Faced Egg Sandwich (Total Cooking Time: 1 Minute)

  1. Put bread into toaster.
  2. Crack egg into ramekin, cover with shredded cheese.
  3. Microwave for 45 seconds.
  4. Put egg and cheese onto toast.
  5. Cover with ground pepper, or salsa.
  6. Eat.

Awesome Oatmeal (Total Cooking Time: 1 Minute)

  1. Put water into kettle and turn on.
  2. Put two packages of instant oatmeal into cup (I prefer Hearty Medley)
  3. Top with almonds, raisins, Craisins, whatever.  Blueberries or bananas work great too.
  4. Pour boiling water on oatmeal mixture.
  5. Stir with spoon.
  6. Eat.

There.  Now you don’t have a reason not to eat breakfast.

“Great, I Wake Up With Purpose.  Now What?”

Ok, so you’ve done all these.  In fact, you’ve been doing them for a few weeks, and you find yourself more restful than ever.  But what are you doing with all this time?  Enjoy yourself.  Even if you wake up and your goal for the day is to simply finish the book you started the night before, than do it.  You’ll find that by following this guide, you’ll open a world to yourself of productivity that you never knew existed.  You’ll get more done during the day, and hey, you’ll even relax more – who’d have thought?

Now, readers, it’s your chance – do you wake up early?  What are your tricks?  If you’re a night-hawk, do you like it?  Got any quick breakfast recipes?  Please leave a comment or email.  Thanks in advance.