Welcome to the 6 AM Challenge discovering the benefits of waking up early. I have already noted this site is one of exploration, so what better way to test practical strategies than to conduct a new life challenge to learn how to wake up early in the morning. In 2014, a big personal goal is to increase my productivity. A great place to start is to change my morning routine by waking up earlier.
Why do this as a 30 Day Challenge?
Habits can be hard to change and don’t adjust overnight. It takes time, discipline, and motivation to learn how to wake up early. Challenges set you up for success because they make you accountable and provide the tools needed to succeed.
How do I wake up early?
Here at The Keys to Optimal Living we strive to increase productivity. Let’s face it, nothing important is being done when you’re sleeping and wasting time in bed? Many people are at their best in the morning. They boast high energy levels and little distractions, but these benefits can only be taken advantage of if you are able to wake up in the morning. This challenge is for those who have trouble getting up in the morning and starting their day.
The 30 Day 6 am Challenge
Wake up at 6 a.m. and get out of bed regardless of how tired you feel for the next 30 days.
It is that simple, but will it be easy?
I have a terrible habit of hitting the snooze button because I have trouble getting up in the morning. Part of this problem stems from having trouble falling asleep at night. In search of a solution I conducted research and wrote the article: I Can’t Sleep – How to Sleep Deeply. It taught me that one of the most important elements to a great, relaxing sleep is waking up at the same time every morning.
The Benefits of Waking up Early
Better Quality Sleep – If you wake up at the same time everyday your body will adjust and not only will it be easier for you to rise in the morning, you will also feel tired at night and fall asleep faster.
Gain More Time – The math is simple – more time awake equals more time to get things done. Everyone is different, but most people need about eight hours of sleep to be properly rested. It is possible to over sleep and when you are doing this you are wasting time. This can also be said for the flip side, if you spend an hour in bed tossing and turning at night you are losing time. If the quality of your sleep improves and you are spending 30 minutes less in bed this can add up to huge amounts of time. Find out What Saving 30 Minutes a Day will mean to you!
Stop Being Late – Sleeping in leads to being rushed and being late. If you have kids they are sleeping in too and everyone’s day starts in chaos.
Less Stress – Being in a rush can be stressful. When under stress you are more likely to forget to do things or skip important morning rituals like breakfast. Even if you do nothing in this extra time but sit on the couch relaxing and drinking coffee it is worth it.
Breakfast – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How often do you skip it? Breakfast fuels your body after a night of fasting. Take the time and make a nutritious, healthy breakfast and as the great smells waft through the house the rest of your family will be bound to awake too. This meal will supply you with the energy you need for the day. I usually go with a quick and easy shake with fruit, protein powder, and a greens mix.
Quiet Time – If you live in a noisy house with kids, this could be the quiet alone time you are looking for. This is also a great time to journal. You can find my favorite journal exercises in The Five Minute Journal.
Work on Your Goals – Keys to Optimal Living is all about achieving more. This extra thirty minutes or hour in the morning could be just what you need to finally finish writing that book.
Exercise – Go to the gym, a run, or simply go for a walk. Fitness will be the next challenge for me, but as it stands I believe any exercise is better than none. A calories burned walking around the block are still extra calories.
Commute – Depending on where you live the time you leave for work can be the difference in your commute of ten minutes to an hour – I know it is for me. This may even save you some gas money. Leave earlier for work and spend that extra time in the office being productive. If you arrive at work early everyday – even if you don’t do anything – you colleagues will think you are a hard worker.
Enjoy the sunrise – When was the last time woke up and watched the sunrise. Relaxation is not wasted time. If you don’t have time to wind down at the end of the day, do it in the beginning. Try meditating, visualizations, or deep breathing. All of these will create a peaceful mind state you can take with you through the rest of the day.
How to Start the Challenge and Tips to Succeed
1. Don’t make the increment too big. The 6 am I keep mentioning fits my schedule, but work around your own agenda. Aim for thirty minutes or an hour. If waking up is really hard for you, break the challenge into increments. If you already have a problem waking up at your regular time of 7 a.m., do this for the first week and every week add an extra 15 minutes until you get the hour you are aiming for.
2. Put the Alarm Away from the Bed. Yes, this seems evil and will anger you in the morning, but you have no choice, but to get up and turn it off. Note this may not be the best idea if you sleep with your partner and have the tendency to let it ring for a long time.
3. Don’t Think About it. Your brain is going to try to get you back into bed, don’t listen to it. How often have you talked yourself out of doing something that was good for you? We are our own worst enemies.
4. Have a purpose. Above I listed some of the reasons for waking up early. Have a task to start right away when you wake be it exercise, a walk, a goal, or just a cup of coffee waiting for you. Make waking up early a reward that you look forward too.
6. Discipline, Motivation, and the Drive to Succeed. There are going to many mornings you don’t want to wake up and it would be easier to sleep a little longer. These are the mornings it is most important to find the determination to pull yourself out of bed and remember you have challenged yourself to a better life.
7. Have a Cold Shower. Still feeling groggy and can’t get the sleep out of your eyes. I guarantee a cold shower will do the trick. There are so many benefits to a cold shower it is worth its own challenge.
My Results – 30 Day 6 am Challenge
As with any challenge or routine waking up early got easier as I got used to it. The beginning was tough and there was a busy weekend that was “very hard” to get through. Knowing I had to be up at six made me reconsider staying up later to watch that extra episode of Walking Dead or have that extra drink at the pub. A weekly outing for me is working at the army every Wednesday night. I don’t get home until about 1 a.m., this had a huge impact the next morning and although my sleep did improve overall, I think eliminating this would have huge positive effects (although not an option).
The Big Issue
The Weekend – Depending on your stage in life this may or may not affect you. I stay up very late on the weekends and then always slept in to make up for the loss. This made Monday mornings unbearable. By waking up early Saturday I completely ran out of gas early on Saturday night. Sunday I went to bed early, slept great, and felt energized Monday morning.
In the end, the benefits highly outweighed the costs. I used the extra hour I got to work on this blog, so if you see the production to start going down I may have slipped back into my old sleep pattern. It has been a few weeks later (the challenge was conducted in November) and I’ve still been maintaining my early mornings. How long will it last? We are expecting a baby in March, so I’m guessing up until this date. This might throw a wrench into my sleep pattern for awhile, but I leave knowing the challenge was a success and is worth starting again when life gets back on track.
Good Luck with your own 6 a.m. Challenge!! Hope you enjoyed learning how to wake up early. I’d love to hear if you are interested in accepting the challenge and the benefits it will bring you. What are you going to do with your extra time in the morning?
“Waking up to the Morning Alarm” Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Letting in the Morning Sun” Image courtesy of FrameAngel/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Woman sleeping Deeply” Image courtesy of marin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“How to wake up early feeling refreshed” Image courtesy of marin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net