How I Became an Early Riser

“No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.” – Chinese proverb

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” – Ben Franklin, famously

Rising early? Why on earth would I want to do that?

Photo credit: James Jordan
Photo credit: James Jordan

Simple, as the saying goes: “the early bird gets the worm.” Waking early helps me to attack the day and get things done (GTD).

But really, what are the benefits? The one’s I’ve noticed include:

  1. Attack the day. Rising early allows me to be proactive, anticipate problems, and pre-plan my day, and week, in advance.
  2. Jump start. I used to start my day frantically jumping out of bed and rushing to get myself to the gym with Lisa; we’d then rush to return home, change, and eat; I’d then rush to get to work on time. By the time I walked through the door at work I felt jittery and behind already. Needless to stay, this is not a great start to your day. Now, that I have created a morning ritual, I can accomplish my daily goals all before 8 a.m., and I’m on time for work!
  3. Exercise. Rising early gives me the extra time required to exercise before the hustle and bustle of the day hits. I find regular, scheduled, purposeful exercise improves my mood and quality of sleep. I stress purposeful because I want to reach my personal fitness goals—like running a marathon—and I find that exercising for this reason keeps me motivated.
  4. Quiet. The early morning hours are so peaceful. I enjoy that time to myself to meditate, exercise, write, or read. There’s something about the early morning solitude that’s magical.
  5. Breakfast. Rise early and you actually have time for breakfast. My mother told me it’s the most important meal of the day.
  6. Productivity. Mornings, for me, are the most productive time of day. I like to meditate in the early morning, when there are no distractions, before I review my MITs for the day. I get so much more done by starting my projects in the morning.
  7. Goal time. There’s no better time to review progress and plan your next moves.
  8. Commute. I loath rush-hour traffic. While Boston’s public transport is very good, I still dislike waiting for the bus. Commute early, and the traffic is lighter, you get to work faster, and less frustrating. Better yet, actively commute! If it’s an option in your city, you could save yourself more time and sweat by using a bike share. like the hubway!
  9. Appointments. It’s much easier to make early morning appointments on time if you get up early. Showing up late for those appointments is a bad signal to the person you’re meeting. Showing up early will impress them and likely improve service. I don’t know about you, but I prefer good service from my dentist! 😉

How I become and Early Riser:

Waking early has been a boon for me, and perhaps the best behavior change I’ve implemented since the beginning of this year. For many years I was a late riser, which never truly worked, many of my dreams and goals were put on thew back burner—never a good idea—because I never put focused effort into my goals. Worse still, whenever I did wake early I never had a routine and thus found myself wasting the valuable time gained when I did manage to wake early. Not anymore, since committing myself to self-improvement in January that time now goes to achieving my personal goals. (Like getting this blog up and running)

Now that I’ve decided to train for my first marathon, I’ll need to start rising earlier than I already do, if I’m to have time left for my other personal goals and my girlfriend. So, I’m setting out to make waking earlier a habit. When this all started, I was getting up at 5:30 AM, then at 5 AM. Now I’m going to aim for 4:45 AM, 4:30 AM, then 4:15 AM, etc… up to 3:30 AM if needed.

My Tips on Becoming an Early Riser:

  1. Don’t make drastic changes. Like any other behavior change you’ve got to work slowly towards your goal. Start by incrementally changing your routine in 15-30 minute units.
  2. Allow yourself to sleep earlier. This should be common sense, but if you’re rising earlier, you should go to sleep earlier too. If you’re not tired, but sit in bed with the lights dimmed low and read a book, eventually you’ll get tired and fall asleep. Part of the trigger to sleep is environmental, so by getting into bed, your mind will shift into “it’s time for bed” mode.
  3. Get into a natural sleep state. During the past month I’ve started using sleep genius for the iPhone. I find the light etherial sleeping music helpful, but the waking alarms are the best feature of the app in my opinion. Apparently it can also link up to your Jawbone UP, if you have one.
  4. Put your alarm clock (or phone) far from your bed. After all the goal is to get out of bed, not hit snooze for an extra hour.
  5. As soon as you’re out of bed start your routine. You’re out of bed great, now do something with that precious time.
  6. Have a purpose and a routine so you don’t even consider going back to bed.
  7. Make waking early a reward. If you’re getting up early, hopefully you’re using that time to accomplish your goals. This is reward in itself, but I find early morning exercise, meditation, or yoga rewarding as well. They help calm my mind and create a sense of task oriented focus.
  8. There’s many more, but I’m done for now!

If you’re trying to wake earlier, let me know how it goes! What apps do you recommend for sleep tracking?





2 thoughts on “How I Became an Early Riser”

  1. Ryan – such a great post. I’ve been an early riser all my life. Partially due to sports at first, then it became something I adopted as I noticed how full my days felt when I woke up early. The hardest part is starting but, but once you fall into a great sleep patter you will wonder why you didnt start earlier!


    1. Thanks Erik! I agree with you. In high school I swam competitively, I loathed getting up early for the morning two-a-day session, but in hindsight I think the middle part of the season when the mileage was highest resulted in the best sleep I ever had!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s