The day begins when you go to bed. If success is trackable, then look no further than the night before. To wake up early, you have to set the stage for success by purposefully designing a bedtime ritual for yourself.
In my case, this involves a few things every single night:
1. No tech. I try my HARDEST to ban screens (TV, computer, phone) 60-90 minutes before bed. The blue light will affects your melatonin production and sleep patterns/quality
2. Physical ritual. I tell my body it's time to go to bed by doing some stretching/deep breathing/meditation about 30 minutes before bed. When I've had a particularly tough day, I may also take a melatonin. It'll knock you OUT!
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3. Track it! I track my sleep with a Fitbit so that I can objectively see how much rest I'm getting and remain in my "sweet spot," which is 6.5-7 hrs per night. If you aren't using a Fitbit to track your sleep, you should be. They also come with an awesome silent alarm that wakes you up without making a sound!
These three things alone make it way easier for you to slip into and stay sleep for the whole night, giving you more time in REM and allowing you to wake up rested/refreshed.
Now this is the hard part...you ready?
I challenge you to get in bed at LEAST a full hour earlier than you're used to. For me, that means I'm in bed about 9:30.
Most people try to "brute force" waking up early, when the key was really to get to bed at the correct time, with a routine in place.
With all that in place, you can wake up at least one to two hours earlier than before and get way more done in your day, with the added bonus of the clarity and focus that comes from a full night's rest and deeper sleep.
The benefits to waking up earlier than you're used to are enormous...and over time, as they compound, you will see the results begin to multiply like crazy. It's truly a surreal feeling to get more done before 8 am than most people do all day.
What I do.
Typically, I get up at 4:30 am (on the first alarm, no snooze) and like to do the following before 8 am:
.30 minutes of writing/creative work.
30 minutes of reading/learning (I'm really into audiobooks on Audible right now — makes the consumption easier).
10-30 minutes of focused meditation (I recommend the Headspace app).
Physical activity (a quick bike ride, jog, gym or jiu jitsu).
About 60 minutes of work (client stuff, website stuff, product stuff).
The goal is to do all the "heavy lifting" that requires willpower first thing in the AM, so the rest of the day can be spent responding to the inevitable calls from others.
Over time, day after day, this will lead to having much more peaceful workdays that are levels of magnitude more productive than you could have possible imagined!