Scott H Young

Steal an Extra Hour With a Morning Ritual


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I just finished a 30 Day Trial to set up the habit of using a morning ritual. After using the habit for over a month I’ve been able to gain an extra hour each day. Because using a morning ritual has also given me greater control over how my time is spent, I’ve been able to squeeze out an extra hour and thirty minutes of useful time every day.

What is a Morning Ritual?

How often do you hear your alarm, silence it with the snooze button once or twice and drag yourself to make that first pot of coffee? The idea behind a morning ritual is to take the pain out of waking up by making it automatic. A well-designed morning ritual also offers you extra time in the quieter hours of the morning to devote to something important.

My morning ritual was fairly simple:

  1. Wake up at 5:30 each morning.
  2. Do a few push-ups to shake off any remaining grogginess.
  3. Read for 90 minutes.

A couple of the benefits I’ve noticed from using this ritual for the past month:

  • Easier to wake up. For you night-owls, it may seem hard to believe that waking up earlier would be easier than staying in bed. But if you can wake up at the same time consistently it takes a lot of the pain out of deciding to get up or sleep in.
  • Increased strength. Improving how many pushups I could do wasn’t the motivation for starting this habit, but when I started I did around 45 pushups each morning and now I do 55-60 (the most I’ve ever done is 100). My benchpress also went up from 165 to 185 lbs.
  • Read more books. Adding the extra ninety minutes of reading time puts me back on schedule to read about 60-70 books each year. With all my in-class reading, assignments and work, my rate was slipping. It’s nice to bring back the literary gluttony.
  • An extra hour each day. My wake-up time went from 7:00 to 5:30 or 1.5 hours earlier, but my sleeping time only went back about 30 minutes. This means an extra hour awake each day.

This isn’t actually the first time I’ve set up a morning ritual. Over a year ago I set up the habit of waking up at 5:30 and starting each morning with a half-hour jog. That habit didn’t last too long as I started to face the Canadian winters, but it was still a useful experiment.

How to Set Up Your Own Morning Ritual

Here are a few suggestions for how you can set up your own morning ritual to get an extra hour out of the day and invest it somewhere useful:

  1. Pick a Wake-Up Time. I decided to go with 5:30. Depending on your schedule and social calendar, you might want to go with an earlier or later time. I find that waking up earlier tends to afford more quiet hours, but if you live by yourself this might not be a big issue.
  2. Pick Your Investment. With this morning ritual I wanted to invest the gained time in reading. I’m a big fan of consuming ideas as a way to hack reality. Other good investments for your morning ritual include:
    • Exercise – Jog, hit the gym or stretch to start your day.
    • Projects – Get some work done on your novel, website or building the next killer app.
    • Study – Learn something new, build skills or practice an ability.
  3. Set a 30 Day Trial. The core element in changing habits for myself has always been the 30 Day Trial. This great tool, first proposed by Steve Pavlina, forces you to focus on the hardest part of changing behaviors–getting through the initial conditioning phase.
  4. Get Moving. The hardest part of waking up early is getting over that initial grogginess where you might easily drift back to sleep. My solution was to do a few pushups right after waking up. By getting yourself moving you can boost your heart rate, making it easier to keep from falling back to sleep.
  5. Procrastinate the Unimportant. Aside from putting on clothes and using the washroom, my morning ritual started immediately after I woke up. Don’t delay your ritual by eating breakfast, answering e-mail or having a shower.
  6. Write it Down. As always, I find writing down any habits I take on to be helpful in making them stick. If you don’t write down exactly when you’ll wake up and what you’ll do when you wake up it’s easy to go back on your commitment.
  7. Stay Consistent. Stick to your wake-up time or investment plan for the whole thirty days. If you skip a day or two throughout the trial you sabotage your efforts in making the habit stick. When I did this that meant a very early start to my Christmas morning and New Years Day.
  8. Work on Something You Care About. This should be so obvious it doesn’t need mentioning, but it’s easy to setup a habit because you feel you should rather than you really want to. Studying because you feel you need to rather than reading more books about subjects that fascinate you. Pick an investment that you’ll be really happy about waking up an hour earlier to work on.

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27 Responses to “Steal an Extra Hour With a Morning Ritual”

  1. Kabir says:

    So you’d get all these things done and then get ready for a morning class? Is that enough time?, what time do you go to sleep? You’d have to go to sleep around 11:30 for a good 6 hours of sleep. Just wondering if that gives you enough time to get all your studying and work done.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I do this too. It’s allowed me to keep my house clean and have a nice leisurely breakfast. The thing that helped me the most in implementing it was going to bed nice and early. As a morning person, that was a tradeoff that worked really well for me.

  3. Mike says:

    Hi Scott….

    Do you have problems with morning grogginess or sleep inertia? Whenever I wake-up, no matter the time, I have a terrible time coming around. I have been wanting to turn my habits toward earlier awakening but fear the sleep inertia will only get worse. I know everyone is different, but what’s your experience? You mentioned the push-ups, but what about coffee? I hate getting addicted to a cup of coffee to bring myself around, but my doctor says billions have used it through the ages and some studies show it can be beneficial in some ways. So many things are contradictory. Would love to hear your thoughts on my slow motion, in a fog awakening.

    Mike in OKC

  4. kaley says:

    is that why your eyes are so sunken in and tired-looking?

  5. Ann M. says:

    I agreed with almost everything here except for the bit about skipping breakfast. While I know many people who skip breakfast, or can wait until an hour after they wake up for breakfast, I am not one of them. It’s usually just about the first thing on my mind. I don’t need coffee, but I need some sort of breakfast. My schedule has changed, but I used to combine my eating breakfast with some sort of reading (fiction, nonfiction, pleasure, class, just learning, or even a decent magazine). This way I got the best of both worlds.

  6. prasanna says:

    Your articles are thoughtprovoking and ways of doing things produces applicable results.
    Though I am reading your blogs for 3 months, some of ur articles on creativity and this one made me leave a comment.
    Keep up this good work.
    Also I want to share a this:
    I started watching the TV show ( actualy a series) HOUSE.M.D and just cant stop watching it. and some of the articles get connected with that show and i m able to understand what you r saying using that.
    I like the spirit of ‘DOING whatever it takes’ and I think that is why i want to watch this again and again. I m not in USA and donno the air timings. but its available in dvds (or shared in Net ..torrents filehosters etc)
    http://www.tvrage.com/House
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_(TV_series)

  7. Scott Young says:

    With this morning ritual I normally go to sleep between 10-11. Of course, if I’m feeling particularly drained after a day I can go to bed earlier, and if I have more energy I can stay up later.

    Mike,

    Definitely know what you mean about the sleep inertia. I have suspicions it is caused partially by when you wake up in a sleep cycle (finished or unfinished cycles). Until I can fine-tune my approach there, my solution has been to do something brief but physically active right after waking up. Another suggestion is to drink water, which I’ve found helpful.

    I suffer the same initial grogginess whether I wake up at 5:30 or 9:30, so I don’t really see it as a reason to avoid doing a morning ritual trial. If you can get over the first 5-10 minutes of haziness, the rest of the day should be fine.

    -Scott

  8. […] Steal an Extra Hour With a Morning Ritual – This post reminds me of the days before I had my son. I’d wake up early in the morning and have a good 2-3 hours to myself before the everyone else woke up. I miss those days! […]

  9. […] Scott H Young » Steal an Extra Hour With a Morning Ritual must … get… up… earlier…. (tags: sleep) […]

  10. Rod says:

    Hi Scott!

    So I’m not the only one to have seen more effort to wake up early in winter than in summer :D

    I have a morning ritual also and I wake up at 6:00am

    I wish to wake up at 5:30 or earlier but I think it could be too much early in some days where I can go to sleep only at 12:00pm or later

    What do you do in this days? Do you still wake up at 5:30 or later?

    Thanks and bye!

    Rod

  11. Scott Young says:

    Rod,

    The reason I stopped my morning ritual of running early has to more to do with the sub-zero running temperatures than the waking up early.

    -Scott

  12. […] my recent article on morning rituals, I mentioned how I wake up at 5:30 each morning. A few readers asked how I deal with the initial […]

  13. […] my recent article on morning rituals, I mentioned how I wake up at 5:30 each morning. A few readers asked how I deal with the initial […]

  14. Jake says:

    Hey, I also followed Steve Pavilna’s 30 day early riser test. I did all thirty days in a row waking up at 5 am, and decided I liked the early morning so much that I would push the time back. I’m currently going to bed at 8 pm and waking up at 3 am. I get up, shower, meditate for an hour, do my morning exercise routine, do homework, and then head for school. ITS AMAZING. I have a timer set to the lights in my room, so at exactly 3 am, all my lights turn on and I wake up. Its not nearly as harsh and annoying as an alarm clock. I have very little trouble getting out of bed. I have two cardinal rules I follow: 1. NEVER hit the snooze and 2. Just stand up. Follow those and you’ll have a lot less problems. Thanks for the article!

  15. Scott Young says:

    Jake,

    Great suggestions! 3am is an incredibly early wake-up time. Any thoughts about why you’re shifting back way before morning?

  16. […] How to Set Up Your Own Morning Ritual […]

  17. […] How to Set Up Your Own Morning Ritual […]

  18. Marina says:

    The most difficult part for me would be doing that for 30 days… What do you do on weekends? Am I the only one that sleeps a lot later on weekends? I could never wake up so early after going to bed at 3 o’clock in the morning… how did you managed your social life in those 30 days?

  19. Scott Young says:

    Marina,

    Since writing the article, I’ve found a one-day off per week schedule for the 30 day trial can work as well. A weekday/weekend schedule difference would also be helpful, but you might want to push the total adaptation time to 45 days to adjust for the lack of consistency.

    -Scott

  20. […] few years ago, I wrote a few articles on waking up early and the benefits to productivity. At the time of those articles, I was rising […]

  21. […] This article I was reading, 7 Tips for Morning Alertness Without the Caffeine, describe the efforts of Scott Young to steal an extra hour each day by setting up a 30day ritual to wake up at 530am each day. Scott is by no means okay with waking up that early either, so he had to come up with plans to combat grogginess without downing buckets of caffeine. You can read the full articles Here & Here. […]

  22. Linda says:

    Would this work for “afternoon grogginess”? I’m a morning person who has no problem waking up, but my brain literally shuts down from 2-3pm every day. I will have class/work at 2pm going forward in life and I can’t afford to be slow at that time.
    This post has inspired me to experiment with a small exercise at around 2pm and see if that’ll wake me up. But in general, anyone has tips for overcoming this type of situation?

    Thanks a lot!

  23. Scott Young says:

    Linda,

    I generally find afternoon sleepiness is more dependent on your eating habits. I tend to get sleepy too, if I have a large lunch with a lot of carbohydrates (particularly simple carbs). Try changing what you eat for lunch.

    Alternatively, I know many people who swear by a 20 minute midday siesta as a cure for the same issue.

    -Scott

  24. andy says:

    Thank you Scott for those very useful hints.

  25. LevLezjawa says:

    Thanks Scott,

    I recommend Eben Pegan´s “Wake Up Productive” DVD series. You should go check it out. Its really fantastic. What i also do is pretty crazy and out there, but it really works for me. First i write down what to do, so wake up, do pushups and pullups (i have a pull up bar), after that do a 5 minute cold shower, brush&floss, start my spanish course for an hour. Second i practice the whole movement of waking up, doing pushups, going to the bathroom etc. So i set the alarm clock do all the movements (ofcourse i dont shower everytime etc but i go to the bathroom) and after doing that a couple of times, its gonna be in your system and when you wake up the next morning you dont hesitate. If people still dont understand i can explain. But great blog, i love it, keep it up!

  26. […] people do it too: Scotthyoung (someone whose writing I look forward to for inspiration almost daily) has blogged about the […]

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