I used to hate waking up early, until I realized it gave me the alone time I desperately needed.
I love my mornings, but it hasn’t always been this way. Throughout high school, I’d stay up late every night, reluctantly roll out of bed at 6:50, and do my best to run on three hours of sleep. During my freshman year of college, I consistently slid out of bed at 11:55 to meet my friends for lunch at noon. I was not getting up any earlier than that. You couldn’t make me.
Then, I got a roommate. My sophomore year of college was my first experience sharing a room with someone, and let me tell you, it was not a very big room.
Everything was okay for a couple of months, but as we neared the end of the first semester, I was starting to feel drained and irritated all the time. I never had time to myself to relax and recharge, and we introverts need that downtime — it’s absolutely crucial to our mental and emotional wellbeing. I knew something needed to change.
I started waking up just a bit earlier. If I woke up by 7 each day, I could be out of the room before my roommate woke up, which helped to limit my social time. I sustained this habit throughout the rest of the year, gradually becoming more and more comfortable with waking up early.
Junior year, I got a new roommate. She was one of the nicest people I’d ever met, but also one of those super-bubbly-always-asking-about-your-day extroverts. It was exhausting.
To avoid as many interrogative barrages as possible, I did what I could to wake up early and be out of the room before she woke up. This girl was a pretty early riser, which meant I was now getting up around 6 most days, but it kept me sane. As a college student, 6 a.m. is early.
In order to be asleep before she came back to the room, I also started going to bed pretty early, typically by 10 p.m. One of the hardest things about getting up early is going to bed early enough the previous night, but after a long day of school, I just couldn’t handle any small talk and slept to avoid my roommate. Harsh, but true.
Senior year finally came, and I landed a studio apartment by myself. Score! But by that time, my habit of rising early had been thoroughly solidified, and I don’t break habits very easily. That, combined with a hectic schedule — I worked part-time while aiming to graduate summa cum laude — pushed me to continue getting up early.
I’m Still Doing It — By Choice
I graduated last May, and despite being self-employed, I now get up earlier than I ever have. I live with my fiancé, who is a fellow introvert and a night owl. He’s not exactly a roommate, but we do both like our alone time.
We’ve worked out an agreement that mornings are my quiet time, and nights are his. Most mornings, I wake up around 5 a.m. As quietly as I can, I sneak out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to start my morning routine.
Because he works a later shift at a restaurant, my fiancé doesn’t wake up until 11, and we’ve agreed to stay out of each other’s way until noon. Having a schedule like this allows me to mentally prepare for the end of my quiet time.
In the evenings, I go to bed shortly after my fiancé comes home from work. This signals the start of his quiet time. For several hours each night, he gets most of our apartment to himself to relax and recharge.
Our system may sound a bit extreme, but for two quite introverted people, it works well.
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How You Can Start Getting Up Early
Maybe all of this sounds fine to you, but really, you’re still thinking, “I hate mornings. Nothing is going to get me out of bed before I absolutely have to.” I used to feel the same way, but have since realized that I just didn’t have the right approach. Here’s what I do.
Do Something You Enjoy Right After Waking Up
We associate mornings with misery because, at some point, we start to get up early only when there’s something we have to do, and often, we don’t want to do those things. When was the last time you got up early to do something other than go to work, get on a plane, or go to a dentist appointment? I’m guessing that it’s been a while.
If those are the reasons you get up early, of course, you won’t like mornings! If you want to get up early, the first thing you do each morning needs to be something that you are excited to do. Remember Christmas morning as a child? Or the night before a long-awaited vacation? All you can think about is how eager you are to get up in the morning. Use that to your advantage.
We associate mornings with productive people and getting things checked off the to-do list, but this isn’t a requirement, especially when you’re just starting. Mornings aren’t about productivity; they’re about you. Mornings give you personal time to relax and recenter before the rest of the world is awake and vying for your attention. They’re an introvert’s paradise.
Let go of the notion that you have to get up and immediately get to work. It’s okay, even encouraged, to work on personal projects in the morning, but find a way to spend those first few minutes doing something that brings you genuine joy. That may just mean drinking a nice cup of coffee on the balcony while the sun rises. Having something to do that you’re looking forward to will get you moving better than putting your alarm on the other side of the room ever could.
Go to Bed Earlier (Seriously)
Aside from starting your day with something you love, there are a few other things that make this whole early riser thing a bit easier, not the least of which is going to bed earlier. There are few things that I value more in life than getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye every night. Even if you aren’t planning to get up early, getting enough sleep makes you less likely to get sick, lowers stress, and helps you to think more clearly.
For me, getting enough high-quality sleep means having a good nighttime routine. Too often, we expect ourselves to transition from one activity to the next in an instant, without time to process the change. Be mindful of what you do before bed. Ending your day with activities that relax you, like reading or listening to music, and avoiding blue light in the evenings will improve the quality of your sleep.
Having a nighttime routine also helps to train your brain to feel sleepy at the same time each night. Maybe it’s Pavlov, or perhaps it’s the lavender lotion I just put on — either way, I’m ready for some Zs the moment I finish my evening routine.
Create an Effective Morning Routine
Equal in importance to the nighttime routine is the morning routine. It’s not going to matter how early you wake up if you can’t stay awake once you’re up. A morning routine gets your body started while your foggy brain finds its bearings. Without something to do when you wake up, you’re probably just going to head back to bed.
An effective morning routine doesn’t need to be complicated; it just needs to be intentional and set you up for a good day. As long as your routine includes hydration, something you look forward to, and a moment or two for self-reflection, you’re on the right track.
Give yourself time to transition. Getting up early is a fairly substantial, but well worth it, lifestyle shift. Gradually move back the times that you get up and go to sleep. Stick with it, and give it time to work. I didn’t become an early riser overnight (pun unintended).
Truthfully, those first few minutes out of bed will probably always be a little unpleasant. It isn’t about making those first ten minutes magically not terrible; becoming a morning person is about finding serenity and balance in the quiet hours that follow those first ten minutes — and that alone time is well worth the initial moments of discomfort.