I have the internal clock of a farmer. Every morning, my eyes fling open between 4:59 and 5:03, and then I am UP.
I’ve been an early riser my whole life, out of necessity as a child (perks of the literal farmer life when I rode horses during my youth) but even through my teens and college years after I retired my spurs, I never wavered. Part of it is the guilt. I rarely have regrets, but the days I do manage to “sleep in” (till 6:30, only on the weekends.) I feel such a strong pang of remorse for missing so much of the day. The other part is my genuine love of the morning hours. I can only speak from experience in the three cities I’ve lived in- Portland, New York, and L.A.- but they are g-dang wonderful at 6:00 A.M., like, post-apocalyptically quiet in the best way. I may be a morning person, but I’m very much in the camp that speaking to other humans before noon should be illegal, so the peace and quiet of the wee hours are my sanctuary.
The number on question people ask me when they hear I’m an early riser is how to ‘become’ a morning person. For a long time, I took the Elle W0ods approach- What, like it’s hard?– and just encouraged people to jump in headfirst with a 5:30 alarm. This method unsurprisingly does not work for most people, yet the inquiries still cometh, so I decided on a slower, more deliberate strategy, and lucky you, I perfected it just in time for summer, the absolute best season to start sleep training. Early morning light = night and day difference for learning to wake up earlier. It takes 3 months, but I’ve successfully gotten two friends- both ~8:00 risers- up at 6:30 consistently. Here’s how we did it:
MONTH ONE – START SMALL
Do not, I repeat, do not set the bar too high when you’re just starting out. Yes, it sounds great to say you’ll go to boot camp, read the newspaper over freshly brewed coffee and then actually “do” your hair all before you leave for work the first time you decide to start getting up early, and while that is all feasible, it makes hitting your goals so much harder. If you fall off the wagon just once, you’re totally discouraged and immediately back to your old ways.
Instead, break the first month up into four weeks of training. The caveat here is you have to be in bed by 11:00 for this to work, or else you’ll be too tired. So, fair warning. For week one, set your alarm for the time you want to get up, in this case, 6:30, and just open your eyes. You can hang out in bed and scroll on your phone, as long as you stay awake. Week two, open your eyes and sit up in bed. I know, crazy, stay with me here. Week three, actually get out of the bed, and to make it more enticing, plan to do something in the morning that gives you ‘joy’. Save an episode of a T.V. show or chapter of a book you’re reading specifically for this time of the morning. Or just do nothing, but I find that even small rewards go a long way in making getting out of bed easier. By the fourth week, you should be ‘up’ at your desired time- now time to introduce some morning person activities.
MONTH TWO – GET MOVING
As you’ll soon notice, mornings are prime time for knocking stuff off your checklist- stuff like the gym! When you workout in the morning, most of the time you’re still partially asleep, so you don’t even realize what you’re doing yet or have the brain power to psych yourself out, but best of all, you don’t have to dread the gym all day long. Your workout doesn’t have to be crazy, even a 30 minutes of a Youtube exercise video works, but prioritizing moving month two, even just a walk around the block, is helpful to lock in the farmer time lifestyle. If lack of caffeine makes this sound impossible, have a shot of espresso. I don’t recommend a full blown coffee, or a full meal for that matter, before a workout, but I understand that caffeine withdrawals are real. On the days you’re not getting physical, keep finding ways to make mornings pleasant. Listen to music! Make yourself breakfast! Maybe don’t attempt waffles, but a nice bowl of oatmeal works. Small goals!
MONTH THREE – EXPANDING YOUR HORIZONS
You will feel like a pro by now. More than likely, you’ll be waking up before your alarm of your own volition. Now that you’ve hit your goal, keep going! Set your alarm 15 or 30 minutes earlier, continue to reap the fruits of your labor enjoy all the extra time in your day.