You can wake up first thing in the morning with excitement. You can hear that alarm, get up, and your mind is already sharp. But in order to do so, you need to do a few things first. This article will show you how.
Put Your Alarm Across The Room
This is environment design. You need to set up the situation to make the desired result happen. It’s also a forcing function — the fact that the alarm is across the room or in some different room literally forces you out of bed to turn it off.
I know there’s a lot of talk about circadian rhythms and not disrupting sleep cycles — but I don’t buy it. Instead, I buy the fact that you can wake up and get energized if you want to and believe you need to. And if you sleep over seven hours per night, you’re doing great.
Re-Set Your Routine Based On Your Current Goals
Every routine gets stale overtime. The point of a routine is to trigger a flow state so you can create massive progress. However, what got you here won’t get you there. Just because one routine or “process” helped you in the past doesn’t mean it will help you now.
For example, I recently started running first thing in the morning. For over three years, I woke up, drove to the gym, journaled outside the gym while my pre-workout set in, worked out, then wrote articles. That routine helped me go from broke grad student to professional author and successful entrepreneur. But that routine and the effects of it don’t resonate with who I am now, or who I want to become in the future. What got me here won’t get me there.
Have Very Specific Goals
If you don’t have specific goals, you are unlikely to turn your alarm clock into a positive emotional trigger. In fact, without clear goals, you will have a hard time creating motivation, happiness, hope, or a flow state. You need very specific and time-bound goals.
Psychologists are now coming to believe that “consciousness” is really about projecting or imagining different “futures.” Human beings are drawn toward the future. But if you don’t take ownership over your own future, then you can’t have motivation or confidence. Owning your future, and watching yourself create the life you want is how you build confidence. It’s how you find joy in life. It’s how you change your external world to match your internal desires.
Gamify Your Goals
Gamification is a psychological tool to create motivation. You gamify something by “turning it into a game.” All high-performers turn their craft into a game. The best marketing companies turn their campaigns into games. You see this when there are special rewards for doing various things.
Given that my current goal is getting into marathon shape and getting from 176 pounds to 165 pounds, I’ve gamified it. I told my kids that if I get down to 165 pounds by January 1st, that I’ll give each of them $100. Initially, I was going to “owe” them $100 if I didn’t hit my goal, but it didn’t make sense for them to be rooting against me. If I don’t hit the goal, I’ve got to buy my wife something she’d never get for herself up to $600.
Gamification means you’ve turned it into a game. You’ve turned it into a “quest.” Games and quests have different levels and challenges. There is a finish-line. My finish line is the Marathon I’ve already signed up and paid for.
Games aren’t hidden, but public. You’re not hiding anything. I use the Strava app every day to track and report my progress. If you’re not tracking and reporting your progress daily, then you don’t have real goals. Real goals require real accountability. If you’re serious about something, you’ll want all of the accountability and support you can get. You’ll embed several “forcing functions” to ensure you succeed, because you’re not Superman. You can self-sabotage. So rather than being inconsistent, you’ve designed your environment and situation to ensure you succeed.
Set Yourself Up The Night Before
It takes me 17 minutes to wake up, get myself ready, hydrate, and start running if I haven’t set myself up the night before. It takes four minutes from the moment my alarm goes off to me running if I have set myself up the night before.
Setting yourself up the night before does many important things psychologically. It tells yourself you’re serious about this and committed. It creates positive anticipation, which is a powerful psychological trigger. It also removes decision fatigue, because when your alarm goes-off, you’ve already made the decision the night before.
In my case — all I have to do when I’ve set myself up is walk to the closet, throw on the clothes that are already set-out, grab the drink that is right next to the clothes, and throw on the headphones right next to the drink, and go. Boom, boom, boom. This process of getting up, following-through, and immediately getting going builds the confidence and deepens the flow-state.
The Faster You Start Your First Activity, The Better
The philosopher Cato said, “He who hesitates is lost.” If you wake up first thing in the morning and drag around a little bit, your brain will remain fuzzy longer than it needs to.
How you spend the first few moments of your morning sends a powerful signal to your subconscious about how the rest of the day will go. If you wake up and immediately get going on a task, your brain will activate very quickly.
The longer it takes to get started on your first task, the harder it will be to get into flow. Wake up and get started on whatever first activity is most important for your own morning routine.
Change Your Environment
Changing your environment heightens your mental awareness and triggers flow. Going outside or into a different rooms wakes you up. You can also design triggers for entering various environments.
Have Weekly Goals
Try to squeeze as much juice out of each week as you can. Creating productive weeks will change your life. You do this by designing your week and your days to be successful.
Rate your days 0/10 to 10/10. In order to get a 10/10, you don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to have started and ended strong. You need to have avoided your most common self-sabotage. You need to have completed or made progress on your most important goals. And definitely, been present in the key areas of your life.
Power Moves (Bonus)
When you orient your life toward your desired future self, and when you set your mornings up for success — you’ll start to immediately get clarity for what needs to improve in your life.
Since I started running in the morning, I’ve already made some important changes I’ve been procrastinating. For example, there were two business decisions I’ve been letting sit on the back-burner. Leaving things unfinished on the “back-burner” is how you dull your mind and kill your confidence. Being in a state of proactive and powerful decision is how you create results.
This week, I sent two texts I’ve been procrastinating that will save me almost $30,000! I was scared to send those texts. But once I sent them, it was like I overcame a personal mountain. My standards are improving. I’m overcoming bad habits. I’m committing to the identity of my future self.
You can do the same. What are some powerful moves you could make that you’ve been scared of? What’s been on the “back-burner”?
Turn your alarm clock into a trigger. That trigger can immediately create feelings of excitement. You can wake up excited. You can wake up with energy. You can wake up set-up for success. Within five minutes, you can already be doing something amazing with your day.
Wake up and get going. This is how you create a highly productive and powerful day.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Cheddar, Big Think, and many others. He is a regular contributor to Inc. and Psychology Today and from 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer, in the world, on Medium.com. He and his wife Lauren adopted three children through the foster system in February 2018 and, one month later, Lauren became pregnant with twins, who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando.
Image courtesy of Anastasiya Vragova.