February 2013: Wake Up Early

Wake Up EarlyThe monthly experiment for February 2013 is to wake up early.

“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” – Aristotle

Here at the Monthly Experiments Project, we take on a new personal experiment every month. Sometimes we do it for the sake of fun and curiosity. Sometimes we do it to intentionally create a new habit. This month’s experiment falls somewhere in the middle.

Why Early?

When I was a kid, I loved getting up early and going for a run or just reading a book. I liked the stillness and the quiet of an early morning. I still do.

As I got older (and became an entrepreneur), I became a bit of a night owl. Staying up late, partying or working late, sometimes all night long became the norm for me. I told myself I was more productive and creative late at night. You can read about what happened and how I became a workaholic. 😉

Since I stopped working late a year ago, I’ve been getting up a little earlier. I don’t get up early every day, but I started to notice a pattern that made me want to do this experiment.

On the days I get up early, I feel better and get more done.

Proactive versus Reactive

Somehow, getting up early makes me feel like I’m ahead. Staying up late feels like I’m behind. That might sound silly, but it’s true.

One of the outcomes of the Practicing Mindfulness experiment is that I’m trying to be more proactive and less reactive with everything I do. It’s much better to be one step ahead than to have your back against the wall. It helps you stay in control of the outcome you want.

Morning Creativity

Another motivation is that I want to write more regularly. When I did the Write Every Day experiment, I found I was more creative in the morning. Writing was easier. It was fun.

I’m writing this post before the sun comes up. The house is quiet. The dog is sleeping at my feet. I have a hot cup of tea and my mind is still. I’m not thinking about all the things that happened during the day, because not much has happened yet. I just woke up, made tea and started writing this.

The act of writing takes place first in our minds, and I find it easier to start with the blank canvas of a new day. – Tweet that

So, I’m going to give it a try for a month, and of course you’re invited to join me.

Tell Me You’re In!

I realize this isn’t an experiment everyone will be interested in. I’ve been a night owl, so I understand if anyone is skeptical about doing this.

Still, if you’re curious and want to try something new, I’d love to have you join me. You can click the link below to tweet that you’re in. Maybe we’ll have some early morning Twitter chats later in the month. 🙂

“I’m in! I’m going to #WakeUpEarly with @JohnMuldoon this month.” – Click To Tweet

How To Wake Up Early

Leo Babauta wrote a great post about becoming an early riser. I encourage you to check it out over on Zen Habits.

I’ll write a post with some of my own observations and advice soon. For now, here are a few tips:

  1. Go to bed early. Your body only needs so much sleep. If you go to bed at 9 or 10, it’s not hard to get up at 5 or 6.
  2. Get some exercise. When I get some exercise during the day, I find it easier to fall asleep early.
  3. No caffeine in the afternoon. I like a good afternoon cup of coffee or tea, but it I drink it too late, I don’t sleep well.
  4. Set an alarm, and don’t hit the snooze. Self explanatory, really. The snooze button is optional.
  5. Reward yourself. When you get up early, do something you love. Walk, run, read, write, have a nice breakfast or coffee. If you reward your new behavior, it’ll help your habit stick.

That’s it for now. You’ll notice that most of those tips are things you do the day before you wake up early.

Stay Accountable

I’ve been using the free (and fantastic) Lift app lately. You can join me on there and keep track of your experiment progress. I put some notes on how to do that on the Wake Up Early experiment hub page.

How Early Should You Get Up?

Honestly, I don’t know. I think everyone will have a different ideal waking time. I’m going to aim for something between 5:00 and 6:00 AM. I may adjust that earlier or later depending on how I feel.

If you decide to join us, let me know how early you plan to wake up in the comments.

Any tips?

I’m sure some of you have experience with this. Please share your tips or any advice you have in the comments.

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  1. All so true. My tip, when I first wake, get up. No rolling over for an additional snooze – which usually makes me feel hung over the rest of the day. If my night was too short, I’ll nap in the afternoon for a bit, if possible. But getting up fast and skipping the second thoughts works best for me. Then I usually get a good jump on my day. Great post!

  2. This sounds interesting!

    I started waking up 6 AM last summer and it’s been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I’m just like you, I get more done in the morning when it’s quiet everywhere and my mind isn’t filled up with daily events. You will love waking up early, John!

    I have few tips for you :

    #1 – Watch your diet.

    If you’ve been waking up 10 AM before and now starting to get up 5 AM, your body will react. You’ll be super hungry in the morning because now you don’t eat at night, you sleep. I guess you want to stay fit so watch what and when you eat.

    You’ll see what I mean after few days!

    #2 – Prepare your wife.

    I was a night owl too. When we got off from work around 9 PM with my girlfriend, we had hours to spend together. We used to stay up late watching movies and doing.. stuff. You get the point.

    When you start waking up 6 AM you can’t night owl all night anymore. You need to go sleep around 10 PM or you’ll turn into a Negative Nelly next day. So it means less time with your wife (unless she goes to bed early too, then you can ignore this) plus you’ll be more tired at 9 PM than before. When you’re tired you don’t have energy to do things what you did before.

    Explain to her what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how it will affect to your relationship and daily life. When she knows what to expect, life with her gets a lot easier 🙂

    #3 – Don’t cheat

    You will need your 6 to 8 hour sleep every night. If you find yourself doing some midnight tweeting, don’t try to get up 5 AM next morning. It will backfire you later and ruin whole experiment.

    Waking up early = going to bed early. Do not slip or I’ll travel there.


    Hopefully those tips will make your Monthly Experiment a little easier. Feel free to ask if you have any questions or need my help!

  3. I love waking up with the sun. So in the Winter months, I sleep in a tiny bit more. I’ve been waking up quite early, in the last couple of weeks. I lie in bed, petting a cat or two and do a lying down meditation (which I think is changing my life), and then pop up. Even if it’s 5 a.m., it’s a gift of time. Love getting up early. And when you do, it just has to be early to bed that night.

  4. Lisa Jacobs says:

    I love the idea of getting a head start on the day by rising earlier. I’ll be giving ths a try for sure!

  5. Hey John,

    Nice Article! Ever since I started Blogging I’ve struggled with getting sleep. Working 9-5 and blogging at night has taken a toll. I like the idea of getting up early.

    I will do my best. Good Luck and I’m looking forward to seeing your other experiments.

    I like the premise of this blog. Good Stuff. See you on Fizzle


  6. Hey John, this is excellent.

    Several years ago I wanted to capture more of my “morning quiet time” and decide that waking up early was the first step.

    My tip: I chose to wake up 5 min. earlier each week for 6 weeks in a row, starting with 5:00am. (measureable and trackable) result = success .

    This came from a previous failure of “just trying to get up early.”

    Looking forward to the conclusion!

    • That’s an awesome tip, Karl!

      Yeah, I think this experiment might be more complicated than I’d originally thought. My style is often just to brute-force something until I adapt, but that’s not always the best approach. Your idea makes much more sense.

      Today is Day 2 and I woke up at 4:45 with no alarm. Going to bed early seems crucial. 🙂

  7. Yeay I love this. I actually started doing this last month- I wake up at 5 M-F and 7 on the weekends. It’s been amazing– I get so much done in the mornings! A few tips.. For me at least it has been helpful if I have a 6am workout or something like that to get me up and to the gym, or a set plan for the morning, even if that plan is to make breakfast and do the crossword puzzle. I also used to set my alarm across the room so I had to get out of bed to turn it off. Then resist the urge to jump back in bed 🙂 if you can get someone else to help hold you accountable, awesome.

  8. I can’t believe I’m just now finding this blog! This is awesome! I’ve started to wake up earlier, but only because I’m now I’m a position at work that requires it. However, I can’t stop going to bed so late! I’ve got to break that habit.

    • Hey Crownie,
      Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot to this humble experimenter. 🙂

      Yeah, it’s been really interesting so far. I haven’t actually used an alarm clock yet to wake up early. This is 100% down to going to bed early. IF I’m asleep by 10, getting up at 5 just seems to happen naturally.

      Anyway, let us all know how it goes for you! 🙂

  9. I can’t sleep in if I wanted to! Here’s what’s worked for me and hopefully is helpful for your readers:

    In these secret, bonus hours in the morning (time you didn’t used to have), don’t do what you do in your regular day. That’s what the regular day is for. These are special hours, a time when you can do what you’ve always wanted to do.

    For me, lately, it’s been writing every day (thanks, John!). But one rule is No Client Work Before 7 AM. Maybe sounds easy (“Ugh, client work? Really?”) but I’m a bit of a work-a-holic so I feel like I’d get a jump on my work day. But that’s not the point as I see it here: I don’t want to get up and get a jump on my “regular” day, I want this time to be Bonus Time, Extra Time, The 20-Dollar Bill You Find on the Sidewalk Money. It’s a gift, use it to your heart’s content, but don’t waste it.

  10. I’m in! Then again, getting up early is a habit I adopted from childhood. Maybe it’s anxiety, but I just always wanted to start….!

  11. Here’s something I learned from waking up early.

    If you push past the ‘tired phase’ at the end of the day — until you get your second wind — you’re pumping stress hormones through your body to stay functional. Cortisol, adrenaline, and any caffeine or other stimulant is just rubbing salt in the wound.

    Early riser? Stay healthy and crash before 10pm.

    Great work, John!

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