How to Become a Morning Person

Recently, someone listened to my podcast entitled “Become More Productive by Reengineering Your Morning Ritual.” They wrote to me and said, “I really would like to be a morning person. Do you have any advice for becoming one? Is that even possible?”

How to Become a Morning Person

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mammuth

First of all, yes, it is possible. This is not like trying to become a professional basketball player if you are only 5'6" tall. This is more like trying to change a belief system and a set of habits. You can do it if you are intentional.

Why would you want to do this? I listed some of these reasons in my podcast, but let me repeat them. They are pretty compelling.

“Morning people” tend to:

But how do you actually become a morning person if you aren’t one now? Here are nine steps you can take starting today:

  1. Change your story. So many people say, ”I’m not a morning person,” as though it were an immutable fact. Could it be that there is no biological evidence for this? What if you discovered that this was merely a preference and years of practice? What would happen if you changed the story and began telling yourself, “I am a morning person.” Usually, we adjust our behavior to fit our story.
  2. Determine what’s at stake. Whenever I want to change anything in my life or accomplish a significant goal, I start by articulating to myself why it is important. Write down on a sheet of paper what becoming a morning person would make possible. Then, conversely, write down what is at risk if you don’t. This is great to do when you are motivated; however, its real value is to keep you going when you’ve lost that first blush of enthusiasm.
  3. Plan your sleep. Like changing any other habit, you have to set yourself up for success. You probably can’t keep going to bed at the same time you are now and get by on less sleep. Your body will resist. Instead, if you know you need seven hours of sleep, and you know you’d like to get up at 5:00 a.m., calculate backwards to determine what time you must be asleep. For example, I get up at 5:00 a.m. and need seven hours sleep. That means I have to be in bed asleep by 10:00 p.m.
  4. Use an alarm. After years of waking up early, this has become an engrained habit for me. I wake up at 5:00 a.m. without an alarm. It is amazing how consistent this is—sometimes when I don’t want it to be. But if you haven’t been a morning person until now, you will likely need to use an alarm. It’s part of training yourself mentally and physically. Whether you use the alarm on your smart phone or a dedicated one, put it on the other side of the room—so you have to get up to turn it off.
  5. Turn on all the lights. The environment provides subtle clues to your body, so it knows how to respond. When it gets dark, your body naturally begins preparing itself for sleep (unless you have conditioned it otherwise). When it gets light, you naturally begin waking up. If you want to jumpstart this process and signal to your body that it is time to get up, simulate full daylight. Turn on all the lights in the room.
  6. Set out your clothes. If you are groggy when you get up, the fewer decisions you need to make the better. So, make the decision about what to wear the night before. If you get dressed immediately, it is also less likely that you will take off your clothes and get back into your bed. Since I exercise in the morning, I put out my workout clothes, including my shoes. I put them on and lace them up!
  7. Drink a cup of coffee. At various times, I have eliminated coffee from my diet. However, after considerable research, I’m convinced it is fine in moderation. In fact, it’s probably beneficial. Regardless, it is definitely beneficial for me first thing in the morning. I used a Cuisinart SS–700 to make it, because I can brew one cup at a time.
  8. Enlist an accountability partner. Whether it is a mentor or a peer, find someone who understands the value of accountability. Explain your goal, tell him (or her) why it is important to you, and then give him permission to hold your feet to the fire. When I was in college, a friend and I wanted to get up early to study for a class. So we called one another at 5:00 a.m. to make sure the other was awake. We did pretty well in the class too.
  9. Commit to 21 days. According to many psychologists, this is how long it takes to form a habit. I recommend you become a morning person for three weeks and then decide whether or not this will become a permanent part of your life. If not, you at least gave it a try. If so, you now have a new habit that can serve you well for the rest of your life.

To be honest, the real issue here is not becoming a morning person per se. What I really want to communicate is you have more power than you think. You don’t have to be stuck in a rut. If you are intentional, you can build the habits necessary to accomplish your goals—even if it means becoming a morning person.

Question: What other suggestions would you have for someone who wants to become a morning person? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://luke1428.com/ Brian Fourman

    I was never a morning person and always told myself that. I forced myself into becoming a morning person when I set a goal of running a marathon and only could find time to train in the morning before I went to work. I did steps 1-6. For me the trick though was consistency. I only trained four days a week but I still maintained the same bed time and wake up time on the days I didn’t train.  After awhile my body naturally adjusted. It can be done. 

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  • Ernest Dempsey

    Number 6 has been invaluable to me.  When I started doing that, I found I was less rushed in the mornings.  
    The point behind number one is also deeply rooted in conscious and subconscious beliefs.  As far back as I can remember, I have always been tired in the mornings.  The last year or so, though, I’ve been less tired. I think it is because I wake up with a list of daily goals I want to accomplish.  
    Getting a little thirty minute head start is huge on those things like, write 500 words before work, edit 10 pages of the next book, or whatever the goals might be.
    Of course, coffee is always involved!  
    Thanks for the tips!

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  • http://www.johngallagherblog.com John Gallagher

    Well, I want to consider myself a morning person, but I still struggle with it.  I am ready to start the 21-day challenge. 

    Other things I might consider adding: Put the alarm clock where you cannot reach it from bed.  It’s tooo easy to hit the snooze and sneak back under the warm covers.  Lots of folks (including me) use their smart phones as alarm clocks.  I need to push it away from the bed.  It will help.  Avoid the snooze button if at all possible.

    One way I can improve is putting my clothes out the night before.  I like that idea, especially when I am supposed to go work out.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  • Smccull

    I recently turned myself into a morning person after years of convincing myself “I am not a morning person”. And what a difference it’s made already in my life! I managed to do this on my own but now after reading your post I can attest to all your readers the importance of #1, 3, 4, 7 and 9. Especially # 9. 

    In fact, I am now down the path of selecting one life change I want to make per month, so I allow myself plenty of time to ingrain the new thinking and habits. And during that time I won’t allow myself to try to focus on a second or third major change. It’s liberating and tremendously effective so far to be focused on only one major change at a time. 

    Going into 2013 I’m excited about the prospects of 12 new improvements that could be as life changing as this habit has been so far. I am definitely happier and much more productive now that I can proudly say I am a morning person!

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  • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

    i once heard that a rut is a grave with no ends…. I do not want to be stuck in one! Thanks! 

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  • Cindyannhorn

    The only way that I can become a morning person is to make a promise to God – that is honestly the only way I can pull myself out of bed at 5AM.  When it’s still dark outside, and I know how miserable leaving my warm, cozy bed will be – especially during the winter – I need more than a commitment to myself. This however, only works if your a person of faith and having a healthy fear of making promises to God.

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  • http://twitter.com/PreachManJoseph Joseph Jones

    I have tried so hard to become a morning person, but fail every time. I am what you would call a night owl. I stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, which means I sleep until 10 or 11 in the morning. I would love to be up at 6 am, so I’ve tried  going to bed at 11 pm. Because my body is used to 2 or 3 I end up laying there with my eyes wide open. This then leads me to get up and find something to do until 2 or 3. Could you offer any suggestions on fixing this? Or is it just going to involve a few nights with difficulty going to sleep?

  • http://twitter.com/PreachManJoseph Joseph Jones

    I have tried so hard to become a morning person, but fail every time. I am what you would call a night owl. I stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, which means I sleep until 10 or 11 in the morning. I would love to be up at 6 am, so I’ve tried  going to bed at 11 pm. Because my body is used to 2 or 3 I end up laying there with my eyes wide open. This then leads me to get up and find something to do until 2 or 3. Could you offer any suggestions on fixing this? Or is it just going to involve a few nights with difficulty going to sleep?

  • Tyler Wall

    It is easy to become a morning person…..just have a baby!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      isn’t that the truth!

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  • http://andrewledwith.net/ Andrew

    I like your tip to turn on all the lights. I think I’m going to use a timer on at least one lamp to aid in the wakeup process. I’m far less likely to roll over and hit snooze if there’s already light hitting my face!

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  • http://www.judiholler.com/ Judi

    Love this one … sharing with my followers!!!   Thanks for the post!

  • bradblackman

    For me the biggest challenge is making myself go to bed in time to get up early. It’s something of an inconvenience because I like to watch movies after the rest of the house has gone to bed, but I know the tradeoff of getting time to create first thing in the morning is far better. I’m leveraging a small sacrifice for a much larger reward.

  • bradblackman

    I’ve noticed that by making myself go to bed earlier, I’m setting a better example for my daughter. She would like to stay up all night like I do, but I hope to instill this discipline in her while she is so young.

  • Rutu

    I wish I could be a morning person…maybe.  My job requires late hours and not early hours.  I suppose I could wake up early anyway but I will still have to work until 1am or later and I am sure that will not be great for my body.  As an IT person, most of the duties I have to do are after hours while most people are not using the system.  That said, morning in our culture is a little subjective and maybe there is a similar article like this for people who work at night.  Nice article though…for most people.

  • Ruserious

     Mike,
        I don’t see the more productive thing happening where I work.   Many of the people that get in real early have told me they do so because they can/want to go home early.   Their aren’t any millionaires, happier or healthier folks in this group either.

      I realize that what is in my environment may not be statistically relevant, but I do believe that the assertions about early risers is mostly a myth.

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  • Fhwharton

    Great article. I can identify with the contents as I’m now becoming a morning persons and most of what is written worked for me.

  • http://www.SmallGroupChurches.com/ Andrew Mason

    The morning routine is critical. Great post!

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  • Jacob Vium

    Hi HM, if you put on your exercise clothes when you first wake up, do you then wear that while having devotional time?

    BR, Jacob Vium (CEO at Scandinavia Publishing House, Denmark)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do.

  • Jacob Vium

    Hi again

    Another addition to your great and inspiring post is that a cup of coffee is something to look forward to (especially if it’s good), so even though you don’t drink coffee (and maybe don’t need it to wake you up in the same way regular users often do), the principle still stand it’s ground in being something to look forward to. You can just replace with juice or something you really crave :-).

    PS. Sorry for switching your initials in the last comment – things move fast :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Ha! No problem. I assumed you meant me. Thanks.

  • http://www.bigboldimpact.com/ David Hooper

    Agree with you, but… If you have to drink coffee to get up early, are you really a morning person? :)

  • http://www.setongod.com/ Joshua Tolan

    Excellent post and thanks for the tips! But I do have one question about it. Do you still go to bed and wake up the same time on the weekends? A lot of times I go to sleep later and wake up later because of social activities that are going on. What do you do?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Most times, I do. But if I am out late, I sleep in. No big deal.

      • http://www.setongod.com/ Joshua Tolan

        Ok, thanks!

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Awesome post Michael. The power of positive thinking. As you eloquently stated, we have to change our story. Change those thoughts. Utilize powerful affirmations and embed these thoughts into our heart. Your posts and podcasts are very deep. I have a 17 month old son who is teething. Would you suggest that I adjust my sleeping routine based on his needs?

  • http://www.jamesshort.net James Short

    Jet lag did it for me… My family and I moved to the Philippines as full-time missionaries. As a life-long night owl, but one that needed his sleep, I found myself constantly sleep starved. However, when we landed in the PI our bodies were still on U.S. time. My eyes popped open around 4:00am (same for my wife and our 2 and 3 year old’s…) whether I was ready or not. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to change my internal schedule as I have wished to do for a long, long time. Shortly after that time you wrote this post, Michael. Thank you.

    LOVE my mornings for devotions, reading and writing. For a long time I ran in the mornings but got out of the habit when I had gotten pretty sick for well over a week. Never started back. But, I think it’s time for that so I’m glad I saw this post again. Keep it up Michael, your work lives on!

  • Rosanne

    Since I actually have turned things down because of how early I would have to get up, I am very interested in how to become a morning person. Before children, my natural rhythm was I got sleepy between 1 and 2 a.m. and naturally woke up between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Unfortunately, the world is not really made for night owls what with school hours. I am better than I used to be. I now get up about 6:45 a.m. but I’d really like to get an earlier start to my day. So, my question is – is it better to go cold turkey and just pick a time and start getting up then OR is it better to do it slowly, like push back your wake up time by 10 minutes every week until you are where you want to be?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m a cold turkey kind of guy. But that’s where you might have to experiment.

  • Jeffrey James

    I’m glad you included #9. A lot of people give up too soon and they miss out on all the benefits of being a morning person.