I always hated getting up early. Maybe you can relate. I’m a night owl at my core. I do my best work at night—at least, that’s what I always told myself because there was no way I was getting up before the sun did.

But at the beginning of 2014, I had this thought: “If it all starts with writing, why don’t I start my day with writing?” I decided to just try it. I decided to set my alarm for 6:00 AM and write as the very first thing I did.

The night before, I took a moment to write out my topics for the next day. I did this for a couple of reasons:

  1. You always end up wasting a ton of time trying to figure out what to write about.
  2. Your brain will process your topics for you while you sleep.

When you wake up in the morning, you’re coming off of the charge of sleep. Not only do you have fresh energy in a physical sense, but if you made the effort to write down your topics the night before, your subconscious has already been mulling over your topic.

Now, when I say you have fresh energy, I don’t mean you’re going to feel incredible the moment you get out of bed. The first 15 minutes are going to feel pretty groggy. No one likes leaving a warm bed in the morning. It’s comfortable. It’s cozy. But I don’t wake up early because I enjoy it. I wake up early because I like who I am when I do.

I actually started out trying to write in the morning just to prove to myself that it wasn’t any different. I wanted to prove to myself that I was just as effective as a night owl. Of course, what ended up happening is I was twice as productive when I wrote first thing in the morning.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about results. I don’t like getting up early, but I can’t argue with the results. I like being successful more than I like being right.

I decided to start doing my most important work at the point in my day where I was most productive: the morning. At first, I hated it. It’s not fun shifting your sleep schedule and waking up at 6:00 AM. But I encourage you to try it. Try it and log your output. See how much you are able to write after a week of waking up early and compare that to what you were doing before.

A productive morning routine starts the night before. If you want to wake up early, you have to start thinking about when you go to sleep.

You may be saying, “I really want to wake up early, but it’s so hard in the morning because I’m tired.” You’re tired because you went to bed late, and you went to bed late because you got your work done late and all of that is because you slept in because you worked late the day before! You’ve trapped yourself and your productivity is taking a hit.

At some point, you have to change something—and it’s not something you change at 6:00 AM. It’s not just setting your alarm for 6:00 AM, it’s preparing the night before. The hardest part of making the shift for me was stopping my work when there was more work to be done. Read that again, I think you can relate. When you have more work to do, you feel like you can’t stop. That never ends. If you buy into that narrative, you’re just going to cement the pattern.

You have to stop and say, “There’s more work to do, but I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m going to wake up early, I’m going to get it done, and I’m going to get ahead of this thing.” I stopped and I went to bed earlier when I wasn’t tired. It took me a little while to fall asleep. The next night, I went to bed early again. It still took me a little while to fall asleep, but not as long. Gradually, you start to develop a pattern. Gradually you start to adjust.

Preparing the night before might look like minimizing screen time, stopping work sooner, spending time with your family earlier, setting a reasonable bed time, or starting that nighttime wind-down routine sooner. It can be a simple thing.

Write down the top three things you want to accomplish tomorrow, then wake up and do them.

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