How To Wake Up Early Without Hating It : My 3 A.M. Experiment

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It’s Monday morning and you have hit the “snooze” button twice and now its finally time to get out of bed.  Eyes still closed, your feet slide across the floor on your way to the bathroom as you think,

4 more days until its Saturday again, I have two more months until my vacation, and there is another 37 years until I retire. “

How is it that some people can get out of bed early and start their day with a smile while others don’t speak in the morning until they get to work?  I used to wonder about this all the time when I was a late sleeper.  Now that I am an early riser and have been for years, I can’t imagine waking up late.

Years ago, I used to hate being awake before 11 a.m.  The waking up process was always a slow one for me.  A job that required me to wake up earlier forced me to become an early riser. I’ve been waking up early for many years now but I wondered if I could improve my productivity and overall lifestyle by waking up at an extremely early time.

The 3 A.M. Experiment

I decided to try to wake up at 3 am for a week without hating it.  I wanted to track my productivity and how I felt throughout the day.  I also wanted to find out if I had the discipline to do it. It was going to be hard but I felt that if I could develop a routine, it may go a little smoother.

I made the decision to do this challenge on Monday so I decided to start the very next morning.  I knew that waiting until the following Monday allowed too much time for me to talk myself out of it.  I don’t drink coffee and my morning tea is decaffeinated so I made sure to continue that practice so that I didn’t have a crutch for this experiment.

Tuesday

Buzz, buuuzzz, beep beep beep beep!” Day one of my extreme early riser experiment and I’m already regretting the decision.  Today’s task is to write and answer emails.  I like writing and answering emails from visitors so the experience should be pleasant.

The day started slowly as my body was not used to waking up this early.  But after a few minutes of “man, this was a bad idea” I worked my way to my pc and began answering emails.  I was working on an article so I worked on that until about 4:45am.  Then it was off to clear my head.  I went back to my bedroom and sat at the edge of the bed and said my prayers and meditated for about 20 minutes.

I felt good and I wasn’t tempted to lay down for a quick 5 minute rest.

Then something strange happened when I went to the kitchen to grab some breakfast and prepare my lunch.  As I stood in the kitchen staring at an open refrigerator, I notice it needed cleaning.  Without even thinking, I started taking everything out of the fridge.  Then I got down and scrubbed the inside until it was spotless.  Something about being productive early helped me continue that productivity to everything I was doing that morning.  That productivity carried over to work as I felt the need to create new spreadsheets for our process to track an internal customer.

In the evening when I tried to do some more writing, I was much less productive.  From the moment I got off of work, the distractions came.  Phone call after phone call and distraction after distraction, I got very little done in the evening.

Wednesday & Thursday

I repeated the same routine from Tuesday and I seem to be even more productive.  Getting out of bed was getting easier.   Besides a friend who recently moved to Japan sending me an IM at 3:30, I had no interruptions.  It was amazing how much I got done!  I’ve never realized how many times I’m interrupted when I write at night.

I might have to make this a permanent change.”  I thought.

 On Thursday, my alarm interrupted a dream I was having.  Apparently, an ex-girlfriend’s sister, my third grade teacher and I were in Greece when we got lost and had to rent an apartment there.  “I wonder what the physiological meaning of that was”.  I made a mental note to Google “dream interpretations” later. 

 I got even more work done and had an extra long prayer and meditation session that left me feeling energized.  At work, I was one step ahead of myself as I realized some work that was due that day, was already done the day before.  This is going well, maybe a little too well I found out. 

Friday-Basketball at 3 A.M. Anyone?

I ran into a problem on Friday-I had nothing to do.  I got so much work done in three days that I really didn’t have a reason to be up a 3am.  I finished my post and did some maintenance on the website so Friday morning was sort of my free time.  I killed some time on Facebook catching up on how my friends kept themselves busy the previous day. 

Oh look, someone got promoted to level 142 on Mafia Wars.  Is that good?”

After I realized that I was just wasting time I decided to clean my car.  I chose to drive to a gas station and use the vacuum to clean the inside and to clean my trunk.   I figured if I tried to clean my trunk at my place it may look to the neighbors like I was trying to get rid of a body.

After the cleaning, I still had an hour and a half before I needed to get ready for work.  So what does a person do when he is awake at 3:45 and has nothing to do?  He plays basketball, of course.   I had a problem trying to think of a place where I could play without being arrested for trespassing.  I ended up at my old middle school where they recently put bright lights on the side of the gym where the basketball courts were.   I did a few drills and shot around for about an hour.

How to Wake Up Without Hating It

As I was out there shooting in absolute silence, I thought about my week of waking up early.  I thought about how having that extra time had helped me.  I thought about accomplishing something that I didn’t think I could do.  I thought about how accomplishing goals is about doing the extra things that others are not willing to do.  I thought about how my days at work were more productive and enjoyable.  I thought about how, if I wanted to succeed as a writer, businessman, human being, I had to do things that aren’t easy.  Things that most people aren’t willing to do.  Waking up and working early is one of those things. 

I’ve got to share this”, I thought.

So here are the things that I felt helped me to wake up, get more done, feel better throughout my day, and improve my physical and spiritual life.

 

Plan Your Morning the Night Before-Having a plan laid out the day before made things much easier for me.  The first two days were a bit of a blur for the first 10 minutes.  Then I realized that I wrote exactly what I was supposed to be doing on a whiteboard.  I had the tasks numbered in order or importance so that, just in case I was less productive, the most important task would be completed.

Try to organize your morning so that the vital things are taken care of first.  Depending on how you operate, you may want to exercise first.  Or perhaps your prayer and meditation time should come first if that will be the most effective way to get you going.  For me, if I try to pray and meditate as soon as I get up, my thoughts tend to drift.  That is why I like to get up and be active first so that I am focused when I pray and meditate.

Have Something to Look Forward To-Writing in the mornings was an exciting change for me.  Before, when I would wake up later, I would have a good idea and then make a note of it so that I can go back to it.  But when I made writing a morning activity, that good idea was captured in its entirety. 

If there is something that you enjoy doing or experiencing, move it to your morning routine.  For example, if you enjoy taking a bubble bath after work, take that bath in the morning.  It will add the same type of satisfaction that will be carried out throughout the day.

No Snooze, Ever-One of the rules I put into place for my experiment was the rule that I could not use the snooze button, ever!  When you hit the snooze on your alarm you are allowing your mind to wake up gradually.  This may slow down your productivity and energy.

As soon as you alarm goes off, take a deep breath, sit up straight and plant your feet on the floor.   Do this even if your eyes are not open yet.  I found that the best thing to do in the morning is to get moving before your mind even realizes how early it is.

Change Alarm Sounds-To keep from getting used to waking up the same way, I suggest changing alarm sounds.  I use my Blackberry alarm and there are several different ringtones available.  I have a backup alarm that is set to wake me up 15 minutes after my Blackberry alarm goes off.  The sound of that alarm is much louder and more annoying.  This gives me another reason to get up as soon as the first alarm goes off because I know if I don’t, the second alarm that sounds like an ambulance is driving through my bedroom will do it.

 Hard to Reach Alarm-If you really have a problem getting out of bed in the morning I suggest placing your alarm away from your bed.   The sound will force you to get out of bed to manually turn off the alarm.  You are more likely to stay awake after getting up and taking action.

Routines Create a Habit-Create a habit of getting going by establishing a routine.  I found that morning routines are fairly easy to establish.  After Wednesday, I found that I was already beginning to create habits such as not hitting the snooze button and looking at my white board as soon as my eyes were open.  This routine should begin the night before and should include things that will make it easier for you to wake up such as going to bed at a certain time.

Know Your Body-Some people need 8 hours of sleep a night while others can do fine with 6.  During my week, I realized that I could do very well on 6 ½ hours of sleep.  Any less than that and I would need a power nap in the afternoon.  Find out how much sleep you really need to be effective.  Make sure that you are enough sleep so that you are not groggy and tired all day. 

The Next Step

I plan on continuing this challenge for another week and will be posting my results.  Subscribe to our feed for updates.  How do you get out of bed early?

 

 

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  • Aditya Venkataraman

    Sounds great :) I will be trying something similar. I’ll keep you posted. Good work reporting week 1 :)

  • saffy ranieri

    ralph I usually go to sleep…only after I feel yeah I have done something today….I mean I had time for myself and satisfied tat it was a day well spent. Not always bt often I sleep arnd 2 am…tats 1 hr before u get up!!!!!also most of ma frnds get back from work and are free only after 8pm…..wat abt ma social life….shudn’t I meet them in person….hav a blast…..share things…fb is okay but still…of’course I do work, study…finish ma laundry…cook….play snooker and find time for reading at least 4 days a week………..is this alright….I am not happy wid this roytine anymore….plz suggest wat can I do?? 

  • Tehpwnzorerzz11

    wish it would show what time you answered to see if you really answer before 4am lol

  • ralphjp

    Its important to diversify what your week looks like so that you don’t fall into a routine you don’t like.I would first say to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish each day or week.  Working, studying, housework, relaxation, and socializing may be very important to you and a vital part of your routine but it all doesn’t have to happen all in one day, everyday.Try taking a few days to focus on a few things and some other days to focus on other things.  I like seeing my friends but sometimes other things take priority so I do them instead and save my socializing after they are done.Take time to figure out what it is you want to accomplish and then begin to organize you week around that.I hope this helps and thanks for your comment :)

  • BVHusky

    :O i try wake up 3 am and will exercise and forces them to get my a Siberian Husky puppy

  • http://themorningworm.com Morning Worm

    loved this post. i think the idea of not hitting snooze and creating a habit of getting right out of bed is hugely important. i got so used to snooze that it was an automated response from my body. i would hit snooze, go back asleep, and not even realize it.ralph, i’m wondering what time you go to sleep if you wake up at 3am everyday?

  • ralphjp

    Hi Morning Worn,Thanks! I try to be in bed no later than 830 when I wake up at 3. I found that I can function find on 6 1/2 hours of sleep.

  • http://themorningworm.com Morning Worm

    That’s discipline! I sometimes don’t even eat dinner by then. By the way, not to shamelessly plug this, but I have an iPhone app that would be pretty relevant with some of the tips under How to Wake Up Without Hating It. It’s an iPhone alarm app with no snooze (though you can ignore it for a minute) and no off button. To turn off the alarm, you have to complete a puzzle. That way your mind is already being active and you’re less likely to fall back asleep.I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on it. It’s a free app so check it out if you have an iPhone (search Morning Worm on the app store).Anyway, great post. I wonder if you’ve ever thought about trying the sleep diet where you sleep four hours throughout the day in 20 minute intervals I believe it’s called polyphasic sleep cycling?-Ed

  • ralphjp

    Yeah, I’ve thought about trying polyphasic sleep cycling but with my current schedule it wouldn’t work out. I still may try it sometime in the future. The app seems like a cool idea. I really like the “no snooze” part. I’ve got a Blackberry so I won’t be able to test it out but let me know if you ever make it available for the BB

  • http://howtowakeupearly.com Early Riser

    you’ve inspired me for a new post: http://www.howtowakeupearly.com

  • http://Mazzastick.com Justin

    I am a firm believer in planning your morning the night before. I am not all there when I first wake up so to have everything prepared so I don’t have to think too much really helps.

  • http://www.worldoffinance.biz World of Finance

    I was actually thinking about this today actually – waking up early and getting a few things done before going to work.  It sets a great tone for the rest of the day.  Congrats on your self discipline and new, positive habit :)  

  • http://www.fredtracy.com Fred Tracy

    This is a great article, Ralph.

    I like how you tell a story and use examples and humor from your own life. And I definitely agree about not hitting that snooze button, that’s my main weakness.

    I actually did a 30 day trial on waking up early using the Steve Pavlina method. I would have several “false awakenings” each night to train my brain to get up on time. Before long I was waking up easily and immediately. Even today, when I tried to sleep in, I simply couldn’t. My body would allow it.

    We really are so much more productive when we wake up early. Everyone should try it.

  • ralphjp

    Yup, thats exactly why I did it.  It’s hard enough to get up early, but to have to develop an action plan for the morning is asking to much of my tired brain.  Planning at night makes much more sense.

  • ralphjp

    Thanks!  Waking up a little earlier really does make a difference.  If you try it out let me know.  I would love to hear your results.

  • ralphjp

    Hey Fred,
    Thanks! I’m the same way now, I can no longer sleep in. It’s actually much better for me to get stuff done in the morning since it allows for a more relaxed evening.  Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.fredtracy.com Fred Tracy

    I say that and yet I slept in really bad today, lol.

    No more snooze for me, that’s for sure.

  • http://chrisdaoanis.wordpress.com Chrisdaoanis

    Amazing!
    I would like to do a 4 AM Challenge, too.
    Thanks for this, Ralph.

  • ralphjp

    Awesome!

  • ralphjp

    Lol!  Yeah, that snooze is a trap.  When I used to hit the snooze all the time I hated myself for sleeping in longer than I should have.

  • Reshma

    I too would  like to try your method of waking up early. But I would make it 5 a.m. 

  • ralphjp

    Great!  Let me know how it goes.

  • Razwana Wahid

    Waking up early is great for productivity, as long as you sleep early also. However, I’ve found biphasic sleep works best. I conducted a 30-day experiment with it a couple of months back and have been sleeping this way since. It’s like logging off and logging back on again in the evening.

    - Razwana

  • Saurabh Kalaskar

    In the morning, I never got to know that when did i hit that Snooze button and fall asleep. and it ends up in waking up late. I think there shouldn’t  be snooze button only.

  • Nattykadifa

    Hi,
    Great article! I seem to be suffering from up and down syndrome. I cant seem to go a week without having one day to lie in. My aim is to wake up at 5:15 am. I have a routine, it is now 20 star jumps straight away, then stretching and yoga for a about 10 minutes meditation for 5-10 minutes, then toilet, brush teeth, pluck brows (if needed), breakfast, gather bag and leave (I cycle to work and shower at work) at 7. Sometimes I have to iron but I try to do it the night before. I just cant seem to keep it up AT ALL. I can do this for about 3 days at the most. I always have a day where I just turn off my three alarms or ignore them and go back to bed, sometimes im not always asleep im just laying there thinkign and thinking about rubbish. This used to be something i did when i was going through a rough patch but now im not going through a rough patch and my mind hasnt kept up! I do receive councelling, but it just seems that I have 3 days of productivness and something always go wrong, somtimes it is an outside factor, but other like last night, I dont know why I did this today. Btw – i am going to bed early 80% of the time.
    Any suggestions on achieving consistency would be greta. Meditation does seem to be helping but if i have a bad day at work it just sends it crashing down

  • ralphjp

    Its fantastic that you have a routine and a dynamic on at that.  The good news is you know where your wall is; It’s at 3 days. If I were in your situation I would take one of two approaches.  I would either commit myself to following my early morning routine 4 days in a row or I would commit to two days in a row, followed by a day off, then two more days in a row.

    By committing to 4 days in a row, you have addressed the fact that you know you will probably not feel like doing it on that fourth day.  But, you could always say to yourself “today I have to wake up but tomorrow I can stay in bed”.  Do the same thing the following week until 4 days is your new normal. Then, work your way up to five days.

    By having two days in a row followed by a day off then two more days in a row, you are allowing yourself to not wake up early on that 3rd day but you are still waking up 4 or 5 times a week.  However, it will take some discipline to be sure that you do go back to waking up early after that day off.

    Hope that helps!  BTW I’m going to be doing a post soon about morning routines.  If you haven’t already, subscribe to the site or join me on Facebook so you can know when it is posted.

    Thanks again for your comment! 

  • Nattykadifa

    Thanks Ralph,

    That does seem to make a lot of sense. I have kind of ‘unofficially’ comitted to this, I would say my unconscious has!
    But making it an ‘official’ commitment might take the pressure off. I guess I thought that I’ve been trying long enough (about a 2 months) with this new routine so Ive questioned why is it not working yet?  But I know I have made progress, but moving to the next step seems to be harder than the first…
    I will try this 4 day commitment. GIve it a month and review moving to 5 days.

    Look forward to your post

    Natty

     

  • poopyknuckles

    Yeah yeah yeah

  • Squirrealdfbaweoiarj

    do you like poop?

  • Lucy

    Great little nuggets of advice there, look forward to implementing some little by little..

  • Early riser.

    I would try this but being young I would wake the whole house up. :/

  • ralphjp

    Lol! Try it little by little.  I’m sure there is a way to do it without causing waking everyone up :)   

  • ralphjp

    Thanks!  Let me know how it works out for you :)

  • ralphjp

    :)

  • Deepti

    This is my second visit to your site. 

    I am sick of everyone complaining about how i hardly do any house hold work. I work around 10 hours a day in office and also had to do office work at home. But, being a house wife from India and living in a joint family is not so easy. 
    I’ve decided to wake up early at 3 AM and finish off all the cooking and house-hold chores before others wake up. (When they wake up (at 5:00 AM), they grab the work from me and yet they complain that I am not doing any work…!!! ). I am a hard worker and don’t like to be complained about how-i-am-not-doing-’any’-work. Office work is also WORK. I helps me in earning money….

    Your blog is a real motivation for me and it’s your blog which gave me the idea of waking up so early. Wish me luck. :)

  • Deepti

    and hey.. Thanks a lot for sharing this :)

  • ralphjp

    Wow, it seems like you are a pretty determined person.  I’m glad I could give you some ideas and motivation.  I’d love to hear how waking up at 3am works for you.  Please, keep me updated and thanks for your comment :)

  • Lydiaanu06

    Hi,
    Nice post by you on waking up early. I used to wake up at 3 and do a bible reading (Psalms and proverbs) till 5. In order to keep my self activate through out the day I do some exercise or yoga or cleaning my home. During that time I say to myself that “I will be active and energetic throughout the day”

  • ralphjp

    Excellent!  

  • Morning

    The alarm clock thing might work out the best. Once you’re off your bed, you don’t really wanna go back and have a headache. Thnx a lot.

  • Morning Master

    Hi Ralph, I have just read your post today, this morning I woke up at 3 30am and I was amazed at how much I got done before 5 or 6am, I felt good about myself, I will be trying the 3am experiment untill early september as after then I will not be able to wake up at 3am and get enough sleep as I have classes, but my hypothesis is that I will get a lot out of this experiment and also learn a lot.

    Morning Master

  • ralphjp

    So glad you tried the experiment and its working for you!  Good stuff!  Keep me posted on your progress :)

  • sonof1

    Hi Ralph, i’m impressed with this experiment and i have the courage and motivation to give it a try now. Instead of 3am i want to make it 4am. Hope it becomes part and parcel of my life till death.

  • Thingsfallingapartoverseas

    Great advice on how to wake up with a smile! I was wondering though, what happens when you want to wake up early while trying not to wake up your roomates as well? It might sound tricky, but I was curious about what your suggestion would be! Thanks :)

  • ralphjp

    If it is the alarm that you are concerned about, try placing it under your pillow. Most of the time, the pillow will muffle the sound and you can wake up with ease.

  • ralphjp

    Fantastic! Let me know how it goes!

  • ralphjp

    You’re welcome!

  • Jay Aay

    Hi Ralph,
    I am a teen and would love to try this, but I don’t know if I would be able to get up at that time, hence needing 7-9 hours sleeep as said by scientists, what would you suggest?

  • jimmy

    It’s amazing how much we learn when we get older! These tricks would be so useful earlier!

  • ralphjp

    3am may be a little too much for you if you need 7-9 hrs. I would start by waking up an hour or so earlier than you do now and going to bed an hour earlier.

  • jimmy

    Im up

  • Jay Aay

    I see, I normally wake up at 5 45am, so would 4 45am, be a better time than 3 for my sleep needs?

  • ralphjp

    Awesome!! Way to go and thanks for posting when you woke up! Gonna give you a shout out on the Facebook page.

  • ralphjp

    Definitely. I think it would be much easier to do. As long as you are still getting the amount of sleep that you need. Try it out and see how you feel and how it works for you. Keep me updated on the progress and if you need any more tips let me know :)

  • Jay Aay

    Hi Ralph, It’s me who asked for help on your 3 a.m. experiment. I experimented with my sleep needs a lot, and I found out that I generally need 7-8 hours to function at my best. I tried going to bed at 8:30pm one night and waking up at 4:00 A.M. I was going to track my productivity that whole day, and I got more work done that day than some manage in a typical school week. The second day I tried 9.5 hours and I felt horrible. I kept yawning and being unable to concentrate, the whole day, so I was much less productive. So I found going to bed at 8:30 and waking up at 4:00 seems to do me well. I also don’t mind going to bed at 8:30, because a lot of people socially at my age are very boring, they just lark about on facebook, complaining about homework instead of getting of their bottoms and doing it. 4;00AM is also quiet so I can concentrate on a lot of work.

  • ralphjp

    Yes!! Great to hear Jay!! I’m so glad that you are benefiting from the experiment. Its really good to hear (especially as a teen) that you are taking control of your life circumstances instead of just complaining about them like others your age. It is a great habit to get in to because as you get older it would be much more difficult to change. Thanks a lot for sharing your success story. I always love hearing them. I’m going to give you a shout out on the Facebook page!

  • Jay Aay

    Hi Ralph,
    I realised I won’t be able to stick to 4 A.M. because every Thursday I go to a scout club which finishes at 9:30, and I don’t know if it’s good for you getting up at a different time, do you think just sleeping in on a Friday morning will harm me?

  • ralphjp

    Sleeping in on Fridays won’t be a big deal. It is more important that you don’t rob yourself of sleep.

  • http://workwithfreddy.com/ Freddy Rodriguez

    What an amazing post, Ralph! I’ve been considering doing this for quite some time. I, too, find that I am much more productive in the early morning while my wife and daughter and still asleep. Much less distractions and much more thought clarity. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Mitch Mitchell

    What an experiment! Since I don’t usually go to bed until 3 or 4 in the morning that one won’t work for me, but for a week last year I experimented with the concept of stopping work at 10PM for a week, just to see what I’d do and found the experience illuminating and troubling strangely enough. lol Glad it worked for you; are you going to continue with it?

  • amanda

    Those are some really great tips! I used to be really grumpy when i woke up but now it is all better. I’m using a gradual sunrise alarm clock like the first one here http://www.squidoo.com/gradual-wake-up-light

  • Taylor

    Challenge Accepted.

  • ralphjp

    Love it! Keep me updated…

  • armsj004

    Hi Ralph,
    I have read your post and decided to get up at 6:00am. I have created a morning routine and I tested it this morning. Most of my family are late risers but I enjoy a lot of the day by getting up at 6! :)

  • ralphjp

    Thats great! Keep it up!

  • jakey

    I’m 13 and going to try waking up at 4am most days, I don’t mind going to bed at 7.30 or 8:00 so I can’t wait for tomorrow morning

  • http://potential2success.com/ ralphjp

    Thats great to hear! Keep me posted on your progress!

  • Anne Macnaughtan

    OMG, I am normal. I am a copy writer and for the last 22 years a single mum with 4 children. I learned many, many years ago that the only way to stay on top of things and stay sane was to get up early. 3 am is the time I always wake up – weekdays and weekends. I have a gruelling writing schedule and unrelenting deadlines, but all my writing for the day is finished by 8 am. I then take my granddaughter to school and spend the rest of the day at my desk on the admin side of the business. The best part is the evenings, when you’re sleepy and fall straight to sleep. 3 am to 6 am is a magical time that most people miss.

  • Stewart

    I get up at 3am now. I don’t really mind it. I work and go to college and that is why I choose to get up at that time. Yet I find during the day I get quite tired. Yet I go for a siesta during the day and it helps. I go to bed around 9pm.