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://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    I do tend to lean toward being a morning person, but I also enjoy the quiet of late nights–when the house is still (productivity seems to be high for me at this time). Not  a workable combination! I am slowly working toward a routine bedtime and early morning rise. Thanks for the push–I do believe in the power of intentionality. 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great comment Julie!

  • http://stuartloe.com Stuart Loe

    If you want to become a morning person against your will, have kids.  Better yet, have twins.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Perfect!

  • http://jbdeaton.com/ Ben D.

    Michael, I have been using an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock for the past month that has really improved my sleep habits and I think is very consistent with the things you discussed above. Basically, it uses the iPhone accelerometers to track your movements, recording how long you were in bed, how well you slept, and it has a wake-up mechanism that attempts to wake you up in a period of light sleep near the time you set your alarm for. It also gives you lots of stats over time. 

    I like all the features well enough, but for me the biggest benefit was that it got me thinking about establishing better sleep patterns. Once I actually started tracking how long I was in bed, I couldn’t ignore the data. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That is absolutely fascinating. I’ll have to look it up.

      • http://jbdeaton.com/ Ben D.

        Here is the link: http://www.sleepcycle.com/

        Also, it has incredibly better alarm sounds than the stock iPhone alarm clock.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Got it. Thanks.

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    Interesting thoughts Michael. Though, I have to say that my body has never been conditioned to wake up early. I think some of us are naturally night owls. That said, there’s also something to be said about sleep cycles. I don’t know much about them but if I wake up when I’m in between cycles, it’s much easier to get up. Just some things I’ve found recently that have helped me get up when I need to. :D

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    I’ve been a morning person as long as I can remember. I certainly helps that I have kids to get ready for school (the first one leaves at 6:45)! Even though I love mornings, it’s not always easy to get up, particularly when it’s a busy week and I’m exhausted. To increase my motivation, I usually plan something I love first thing in the morning: A breakfast I enjoy, reading a good book, or some kind of activity that I look forward to doing. That helps me jump out of bed with a bit more enthusiasm. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great strategy, Michele.

  • James Kinson

    Michael, Great post. One other suggestion is to have something you look forward to upon waking. I look forward to my reading, exercise, and listening to a podcast, often one of yours, as I have only recently discovered your blog.  Keep you the good work!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestion, James. Thanks.

  • Beau

    Thanks Michael! I like to have a clear task to do right when I wake up. Maybe that is assumed, but if I don’t I have trouble getting “right up”.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Agreed, Beau.  Though, I actually find that one task isn’t enough for me.  I can usually squeeze one extra task into my day.  For me, it needs to be enough projects/tasks to convince me that it won’t get done unless I’m up early.  

      • http://releasetheape.com/ Beau

        What I meant is that if I start work at 9am usually and spend time with my kids from 7-8:30, then I need a clear task to do from 5-7am or I wont get up. A task as you say, that wont get done unless I do it from 5-7!

        • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

          Right on!

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  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    Well for me, I need to make it a serious commitment. Do I really want to become a morning person?

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      That’s a very effective question, Jon!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s the question. And the answer may be no. My only purpose in writing is to tell you (a) it’s possible and (b) how to do it. Thanks.

  • http://trillionsmall.tumblr.com/ Trillion Small

    I Love this post! Just reading the title made me giggle because just recently God has been urging me to get up earlier than normal! I would say too that “I’m not a morning person” but I have found, just like you mentioned, that I have to go to bed earlier to get up earlier (I am a minimum 8 hour sleeper which I have attempted to cut down by an hour or two also). 

    I would say you have covered pretty much all of the basics of becoming more productive in the morning! I had a dream that was basically telling me to stop sleeping in so late and one of the things mentioned in the dream was about money too :-) 

    Great post, mornings and I still struggle sometimes but I have gotten better. Progress! 

  • http://twitter.com/SoCon13 SoCon13

    I’m not sure I buy they idea that being a “morning person” is qualitatively better. Of course, we have all learned that professionals are expected to be early risers. But why? Are we really more productive? Why do we stereotype those who come into work at 10am and work until midnight? 

    There are holes in the links posted as evidence that morning people are healthier, happier, and richer. Professionals have learned that they should be morning people, so of course those answering that way will have higher incomes. And those with higher incomes will be healthier and generally happier. So, there really is no evidence that it is better in any way other than the fact that society has, for some reason, decided that it should be the way. Uncovering insights that justify those claims would have to be done with cross-cultural ethnographic research – not a “poll.”

    And articles like these perpetuate the myth that being a morning person is somehow better. I ask again, why? 

    Disclaimer: I’m a healthy professional with a high income (at least by the linked survey’s standards), and I’m not a morning person though I often feel shamed for not being.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No problem. If being a night owl works for you, great. I know there are exceptions (from my point of view).
      The main point of my post is that if you want to change you can. “Choose your adventure and live it!” It’s up to you to decide what kind of life you want to design.

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  • http://twitter.com/NVEchols Noah Echols

    I’m not sure I buy they idea that being a “morning person” is qualitatively better. Of course, we have all learned that professionals are expected to be early risers. But why? Are we really more productive? Why do we stereotype those who come into work at 10am and work until midnight? 

    There are holes in the links posted as evidence that morning people are healthier, happier, and richer. Professionals have learned that they should be morning people, so of course those answering that way will have higher incomes. And those with higher incomes will be healthier and generally happier. So, there really is no evidence that it is better in any way other than the fact that society has, for some reason, decided that it should be the way. Uncovering insights that justify those claims would have to be done with cross-cultural ethnographic research – not a “poll.”

    And articles like these perpetuate the myth that being a morning person is somehow better. I ask again, why? 

    Disclaimer: I’m a healthy professional with a high income (at least by the linked survey’s standards), and I’m not a morning person though I often feel shamed for not being.

    • King Tubbo

      When reading the article, I felt a bit annoyed. I know some professionals — doctors, nurses, chefs in large hotels, for example — who do not work day hours but are very productive and happy. There seems to be a belief that people who don’t get up in the morning are just lazy and unmotivated. Well, it could be that they’ve been working all night!

  • http://jonathanpearson.net/ Jonathan Pearson

    I’ve always been one of those “I wish I was a morning person” kind of people. Gonna try these and start saying, “I am a morning person.”

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      You just nailed the first step!  Congrats, Jonathan!

  • Chattykathy306

    Make sure you have something to which you can look forward. 

    • Jim Martin

      You make a good point.  I have found it easier to consistently do this if I have something in the morning that I look forward to.  For me this would include a great cup of coffee, a good book, and a good place in our house to read.

  • Maggie Bruehl

    Great thoughts, not on just becoming a morning person, but to make a change towards any goal that will make us more productive. It is a shame, though, that it just takes a few time of not doing the routine to take us back to the unproductive behavior!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      That’s exactly what I was thinking, Maggie.  These steps can create behavior change in any area of life!

  • http://markmyles.wordpress.com/ Mark Myles

    Another suggestion would be to move east to a time-zone thats a few hours earlier…then move back, but stay on the other time zone. Maybe that’s not as practical of a solution though.

  • Sueg

    I would say that I am a morning person and yet enjoy the quiet night hours as well. 5 a.m. is not necessary for me to feel productive. A 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. rising time brings on productivity for me without feeling a late afternoon tiredness. Unless one has a long commute to work, rising at 5 a.m. seems somewhat extreme. But that’s just me. 

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    I agree that we can train ourselves to be morning people. I also understand that there are times in my day when I am more creative and, therefore, more productive. By assigning my work to the appropriate time, my day is more productive and my life is less hectic. Great post!

  • corydoiron

    It’s posts like this that make wish I didn’t trust your wisdom. Unfortunately for my current sleeping habits every piece of advice I have read from you and implemented has been fruitful. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      ;-) Sorry, man. Really I am.

      • corydoiron

        No need to apologize. I’m grateful for your generosity with all you have learned. I read Plattform this summer and launched my own personal brand via blog and social media. I’ve seen significant hits on my site and increase in social media following. More than that my increased plattform has given me opportunities to minister to people. Thank you!

  • aamir

    This will really help me because I am in the middle of developing a morning routine, I also posted some of the things in my blog. After reading this I got some more ideas which I ll add :)

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    I think the other thing, perhaps most important and ties into #2, is to have a reason to get up!

    It’s not just about getting an early start on work or being up longer.

    Write the book you’ve always wanted to write
    Go back to college and study during this time
    Spend time with God
    Join a mentoring group

    Make this the most exciting part of the day!

    • Nicole

      Thanks for stating those things…I have had insomnia for as long as I can remember even back into early childhood! Nothing seems to help, I’ve tried numerous things…meds, dietary adjustments, etc. I was in the military and had to wake very early, so I can do it, I’m just not 100% functional until after being awake for a bit. 

      My question has always been, why get up earlier though? I get up and get my kids off to school, read my devotional, spend time with God and go to the office…the only thing I could possible think of getting up early for would be to fit going to the gym in my schedule…but due to the kids being at home sleeping I couldn’t go anyways. I think getting up early may serve some well and make them more productive, however in my personal experience I am equally productive when I sleep later as I am when I wake earlier. Just my two cents :)

  • http://twitter.com/Jeff_Long Jeff Long

    This is such a great post.  I’ve been making it a point to get up at 5am and have noticed that I am a lot more productive.  It takes some time getting used to, but with a little discipline  it has made a huge impact in my life and business.

  • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

    Great post.  I agree that many people can be morning people. It took time but now I love being up early. Good points. 

  • Gina Calvert

    My doctor suggested that you also have to get up at the same time every day (weekends included) during the retraining period in order to reset your circadian time clock. Weekends confuse the pattern.

    Even morning people have to do some of these to get motivated to get up!

    Sending this link to my husband!

  • Theresa

    I spend my early morning time with God and a good cup of coffee while the house is quiet. I sit on my stability ball and breathe in God’s goodness and exhale all my worries and requests to Him. 
    In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

  • Eric Swann

    You forgot to add: have a newborn. She’s up at five thirty REGARDLESS of when I went to sleep or whether I am a morning person or not! Seriously though, she’s made me into a morning person and I love it.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      That is definitely one way to get up early.  It comes with other rewards, too!

  • theeleganthomeoffice

    This is perfect and timely for me.  Was just telling my husband that I need to start joining the 5 am club to be more productive.  Thank you for this!!

  • http://teacupsandbcups.com/ nicole | teacups + B cups

    True story: this morning, I pressed the snooze button on my smart phone and carried it out into the living room and fell asleep on the couch, where I pressed Snooze two more times. On the way to work, I was thinking about this very topic… and how grumpy morning people make non-morning people like me, mostly because I want to be one. Anyway, how timely! So thank you.

    This sounds very similar to a different experiment I’m in the middle of: 21 days to re-wiring your brain for happiness and success, based on a Harvard study that doesn’t try to squash the outliers (aka: happy people)  (http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_anchor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html).

    It’s fascinating how powerful the brain truly is. I am going to will myself into being a happy, morning person by the New Year (that’s 21 days, right?). Bad habits be gone!

  • Ray

    Michael,

    For me, as you said, it is all about repetition in order to change your habit. I spent over four years on Active Duty as an Army Officer and lived about 30 minutes from base. I had to be in formation by 6:30am every morning or I would be called “out of ranks” which is NOT a good thing. I absolutely had to be up at 5:15am and my body knew it. I have been out of the Army for close to three years now and I still get up at that time because I never dropped the habit.

    Ray

  • http://thisissarabrown.blogspot.in/ Sara Brown

    Hi Michael!  I posted your blog on my Facebook page and it has started quite the debate!  My one friend (in medical school) posted a link to this article – a study that shows genetics may play a role in whether one is a morning person or not:  http://mobile.theweek.com/article/index/221901/do-you-have-the-morning-person-gene

    I myself am a night hawk who desires to be more of a morning person.  I don’t have the happy feeling I get when I discipline myself to go
    to bed earlier and start my day off early. On the rare occasions that I
    force myself to go to bed early and wake up with the sun, I am
    ENERGIZED in a way that FULFILLS me far more than staying up late and
    being productive then does. I love the idea of starting my day off with God,
    in the quiet before the kids get up. And I’m pretty sure there’s a
    correlation between how you START your day and how the rest of your day
    goes. (No studies to back this up however.)

    Would love your thoughts!

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Michael, these are all time-tested tactics. Turning on the lights is extremely helpful – however, I have to be mindful of my wife. The only thing I would add, was that when I worked in morning radio, I would have to get up at 3:30am to be ready for our first newscast at 5:30am. We lost power one night and my plug-in alarm didn’t go off. Ever since I only use bedside alarm clocks that have a built-in battery back-up.

  • Brent

    The old farm kid in me wants to say… g.e.t. o.u.t. o.f. b.e.d.!

  • Jeancurley

    Sorry Mike but I cannot sit and read all your posts to know if this one was note. I find loving what you do is exciting that you never have enough hours in a day to work. When I’m motivated I’m up early where my head is clearer, my tea tastes better, the house is quiet and I’m the most productive.

  • http://www.kathink.blogspot.com/ Kathleen Jaeger

    “What I really want to communicate is you have more power than you think. You don’t have to be stuck in a rut.” That is powerful. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/karlaarcher Karla Archer

    I’m hoping these tips will help me. I’ve always wanted to be a ‘morning person’ too.

  • Themindoftwister

    Fortunately for me, I was born a morning person.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I’d add “Have a reason to get up.”

    I would not call myself a morning person by natural inclination but I’ve become one. A group of guys started playing basketball at 6:30 in the morning long before I moved to town. For some reason, they insisted on that hour and didn’t care to change it to accommodate me. Th0se guys gave me a good reason to get up early.

    After a half dozen years of playing with them, I’ve accepted the fact, if I want to play b-ball (and I do), I have to get up very early. I not only embrace that reality but now love my early morning routine.

  • Missy Griffith

    I think I would add that you need to make it consistent – with a few exceptions (ex: an occasional late movie/party). If you view Saturday/Sunday as your “sleep in” days, mentally you are telling yourself that you really are NOT a morning person – you are only forcing yourself to be one M-F – and thus must recover/recoup on the weekend what you were denied during the week. 

  • Debbie_demmers

    Have a coffee pot that you can set and the coffee is brewed when you get up!!!

  • http://collaborateworship.com/ Kade Young

    Thanks for fueling my fire.  I have been fighting this whole morning person thing for quite some time.  Truth is, I know it is something I need to do, and I have come very close at times.  

    The main roadblock for me would have to be: excuses.  When the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., its like my mind immediately gets on the excuse train and tries to talk me out of getting up.  It is interesting that there is so much resistance in this area for so many people, and I believe it is because of the positive effect that will come of the good habit.

    Thanks again for reminding me how important this is.  I am looking forward to forming the new habit.

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  • http://brianbbaker.com/about/ Brian B Baker

    The hardest part of doing this, and I’ve tried a few times, is I write until 11 p.m. or later and getting up at 6 a.m. or earlier is difficult. 

    I’m up by 7 for my day job and am able to get a few words down. But I feel most creative at night.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    A lot of the same points from when I guest posted for you earlier this year about this subject :)

  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    Putting the alarm clock on the other side of the room is a great idea – I am somehow able to turn two different alarms off, go back to sleep, and not remember any of it.  I am so much more productive in the morning – the trick is to get up!

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    I want to share this with everyone who acts like they need to “wake up” in the morning.  I (generally) wake up every morning ready to tackle the day.  I think everyone else should do this as well.  This is proof that God wants us to get up early everyday.  ;-) Thanks Michael!

  • Carla Hayden

    This a awesome article! 

  • http://www.intentionalcareer.com/ Henrieta Riesco

    It’s funny, this post finds me as I’m actually trying to be more of a morning person, so great timing :-) What I also find helpful in addition to turning all the lights on, is planning to start with something I feel really excited about. That gives me that extra push from the bed.

  • http://twitter.com/TheBraveLass Kamilla Ludwig

    Color me skeptical. I’ve been in healthcare for nearly 30 years and I NEVER felt rested and well when working on the day shift (meaning I had to get up between 5 and 5:30 am). I’ve done day shift for as long as 3years at a time and I was always miserable.

    But, I work evening shift and its great. I get home, do a few chores around the house, read a bit and then go to bed about 2-2:30 am and wake up without need of an alarm, feeling well and rested after about 7-8 hours sleep.

    So, do you have any advice for those of us who truly are not morning people?

    • King Tubbo

      I don’t have any advice, Kamilla, only a note of accord. I worked evening shifts (4:00 p.m. to midnight, 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. , 7:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.) in document production at law firms for over 20 years. Four years ago, I switched fields and jobs and suddenly found myself working days, with an 8:00 a.m. clock-in on the job. Getting up in the morning has been an ordeal; I felt much more productive, positive, and healthier working the evening shift. On the other hand, I know of people who say they can barely write their name after 10:00 p.m., so perhaps there is a bit of hard wiring involved in our preference for morning versus evening.

      That said, I like my current gig and am going to try the tips in this article to see if I can at least learn to navigate the morning without falling headfirst into my coffee.

  • http://www.chrisbranscome.com Chris Branscome

    When we returned from a two week stay in France this past September, I was a morning person for about a month, and I really enjoyed it, but now I’m back to my nocturnal ways. 

    Have you heard anything about whether or not artistic types tend to be more productive as morning people?  I compose music, and much of my composition and recording is done late at night, and I hear this from lots of other musicians.  Do you know if these statistics regarding morning people have any bearing on creativity?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I honestly don’t know. The important point is to choose the pattern that best serves you and the life you are trying to create.