Up until the last few years, early mornings used to be my enemy. Depending on who you are—or, who you train yourself to be—they can help set the tone for the most wonderful and grounding part of the day or become the most exhausting and irritating part of starting the day. I’ve been there when it comes to the latter. I used to stay up late “working” (note: the air quotes) in front of the TV every night or scrolling through Instagram and locking myself into an endless cycle of non-productivity and exhaustion. Honestly, it wasn’t even productive downtime.
Really, it was just a prime example of getting maybe 5 hours of sleep a night and priding myself on how great I was at functioning on little sleep. It wasn’t until I realized that functioning is not the same as thriving that I finally started putting my sleep first, waking up early, and shifting my business into one that worked during normal hours. My life = changed. Here’s how I did it, and why:
How Taking Control Of Your Mornings Is Good For Life and Business:
I used to be a prime example of that good ole’ Winifred Sanderson quote: “Oh, look. Another glorious morning. It makes me SICK!” So, if you’re sitting behind your screen right now shaking your head because you’re not a morning person… trust me when I say that I get it. I really do. But, the benefits are crazy good.
First off, there’s nothing like a relaxing morning when you’re untethered by all of your other responsibilities. Plus, before the world is awake, life is nice and quiet (what a concept!), and you feel like you actually have the space to breathe again. Waking up early also gives you prime time to do things that can set the tone for the rest of your day, like planning out your schedule, working out, meditating, journaling, and drinking your coffee in sweet silence before the rest of the world begins to come out and play. Harnessing your mornings is key to starting your day one step ahead: and once you get the hang of early wake-up calls, it’s hard to imagine how you ever managed before.
How I Took My Mornings Back In 3 Steps
#1: I created a *realistic* morning routine that I actually love
I’m not going to tell you to wake up every day at 4:48 a.m., make exactly three teaspoons of matcha, do 7 sun salutations, and howl at the rising sun. Not my thing. And if I had decided to go for all of that in one shot, I certainly would not have been setting myself up for success. The truth is, a morning routine truly can make all the difference…as long as you make it work for you.
I had to try quite a few things to find out what worked for me, and my routine doesn’t necessarily look the same every day. Some days I meditate, some days I journal, some days I spend extra time to work on a project, and some days I quite literally stare at my coffee like it’s going to tell me something. But I went into it knowing that taking back my mornings was going to be a work in progress. An intentional process that would involve lots of trial and error.
For instance, I like to work out… but super early AM workouts? Cue flashback to my college athlete days of early morning scrimmages and strength and conditioning sessions. Instead of holding myself to an unrealistic standard, I’ve learned 2 things: 1) big things happen in baby steps, and 2) there’s a big difference in disciplining yourself to form hard habits and continuing to force things that don’t feel largely productive. For two weeks, I would get on my Peloton every day at 5 AM. For another week, I also tried meditating and journaling at 5 AM as well. And you know what? Pushing my workout to later in the day actually contributed more to creating a morning that I love.
Uno Tip: Challenge yourself to do something in the morning that makes you want to get out of bed this week. It might be a new coffee creamer, it might be a good book, and it might be your pup knowing that she gets an AM walk. When you fill your morning routine with things you enjoy, you learn to love them and begin to crave them.
#2: I didn’t go from zero to sixty
I can guarantee you, I did not go back from 8:30 AM one Friday to waking up at 5:30 AM by the next Monday. That’s like a superhero transformation in my eyes. Instead, when it came to changing up my wakeup time, this was a much slower progression. But the key for me was to create mini-goals and work backwards.
First, I define my goals: I wanted to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Since I had been waking up at 8:30 AM most days, this served as the marker for when I needed to get myself into bed. My first move was to push back that wake up time to 8:00 AM. Then, I moved down to 7:30, and 7:00, all the way to 5:30 AM. Now, most days I’m in bed by around 10:00 PM and up by around 5:30 AM. My goal? Accomplished. My body craves the 7 hours of sleep time now. At this point, it is so used to waking up early that I usually wake up before my alarm. 8:30 AM Tracy could never.
Uno Tip: Download an app that helps you land on a desired go to bed and wake up time, and utilize it. There’s tons of apps out there (like SleepCycle) that can actually recommend a personalized wake up time for you depending on how you slept the night before. Plus, like I mentioned, start slow! If you’ve been waking up daily at 9:15 AM, you’re not going to instantly enjoy a 6:30 AM wake up. Give yourself grace.
#3: I…used my phone
Most morning routine articles are going to tell you that keeping your phone in your bedroom is a cardinal sin of sleep hygiene. And honestly…who knows? Maybe it is. But full disclosure: I use my phone as my alarm in the mornings, so keeping it outside of my bedroom (which I did attempt multiple times) was obnoxious. But this isn’t the wild, wild west here. Keeping my phone on my bedside table at night only works because of certain conditions. I learned to create boundaries and respect them.
If I use my phone during bedtime downtime, it’s only to read my book or plan out the next day. I intentionally make it hard for that time to be dominated by social media consumption. And I put my phone down about 30 min before lights out.
I wish I could say I do this easily and effortlessly on my own. But thankfully, there are lots of tools (read: apps) to help you nail down this part of your bedtime routine.
- I use Bedtime Mode religiously and have it set so it turns on automatically each night. Bedtime Mode is a setting on iPhones that turns on Do Not Disturb (so any notifications come in silently), dims the screen, and automatically adjusts the colors of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum—making anything that appears on your screen easier on your eyes and much better for getting you to sleep. It also tells my brain that it’s getting close to wind down time.
- To limit social media, I also use an app blocker that makes it hard for me to access Instagram and Twitter (and whatever other apps I add to the list). App blockers are super helpful in limiting social media time spent on your phone after hours. If your Instagram or Twitter app locks you out at 9:00 PM every night, you’re much more likely to go to sleep than to stay awake for hours endlessly scrolling.
Uno Tip: If you’re a person who has noticed a big impact when it comes to not using your phone before bed, keep it up! But, if not, set boundaries (and respect them). Simple fixes, my friends! Simple fixes.
For me, training myself to wake up earlier and prioritize my sleep has changed my mindset around life and my business. But productive mornings, 7 hours of sleep, regular exercise, and maybe even dragon breathing isn’t the stuff that great entrepreneurs are made of. It’s the ability to tap into your higher self; what that best version of yourself looks like and then actively step into that person every single day. With these tips, I fully believe that you’ll be ready to change the world… tomorrow. And you’ll feel wildly productive in the process.