Yes, you can be productive if you don’t wake up at 4 am

A Morning Routine for People Who Don’t Want to Wake Up Early

“Get up at 4 in the morning and get a cold shower!” It’s classic productivity advice that I feel like I hear every day from one source or another — whether it’s on YouTube, social media, a blog, or mainstream news websites.

It seems like everyone’s on the “waking up early” train for years. They want to make you believe that the earlier you wake up, the more successful you are.

I get the idea. But the time you wake up isn’t what matters. It’s what you do during the first hour you wake up that makes the difference! Having a morning routine is something that truly can change your life, regardless of what time you want to get out of bed.

I’ll share a morning ritual that works for everyone, even if you don’t like to wake up at 4 am. But before we talk about what I do in the morning, let’s talk about sleep.

How we feel in the morning largely depends on our sleep quality. But how do you know if you’ve had enough quality sleep? You probably read somewhere that we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Others sleep 4 hours and feel fine.

Our bodies’ needs differ from one another. It’s important to know the optimal sleeping pattern for you. You can do that by monitoring your sleep pattern for a period.

I’ve learned that I feel most energized when I get 8.30 hours of sleep. When I sleep around 7 hours, I’m tired all day. So those averages are pretty useless. You need to be specific. If you find it difficult to remember when you actually went to sleep, you can try apps on smartwatches and other devices that keep track of sleep.

It’s really important to know your “number.” You can create your schedule around the amount of hours you sleep.

Now, let’s get to the steps for creating a relaxing, and yet energizing, morning ritual.

Step 1: Prep your morning the night before

When we make time at night to plan our next day, we wake up with a sense of clarity. It feels really good to wake up knowing exactly what you want to do.

Simply think about what you want to do the next day, personally and professionally. You can then put it on your calendar.

This exercise does two things: First, it forces you to be selective. When we look at our day, we quickly realize we can’t put everything on our calendar. And second, it helps you to create more order.

There’s a difference between saying, “I’ll probably workout tomorrow,” and saying, “I’m working out at 12 pm.”

One is open-ended and the other is final. Guess which one we actually follow through on? It doesn’t take much time to plan the next day, but it has a huge return.

Step 2: Consume less — practice gratitude instead

I have a friend whose morning routine involved an hour or two of watching YouTube videos on her phone. “Sure, watching videos may not be productive. But they really make me feel good in the morning,” she said.

I can relate to that since there’s so much interesting content on YouTube. And we get shots of dopamine every time we get a notification or see something novel. So your phone physically makes you feel good in the same way candy does.

However tempting it is to consume content in the morning, this habit can turn into a rabbit hole. When you start consuming, it’s tempting to keep consuming all day long. You won’t create anything yourself. And before you know it, you’re living a passive life.

So what activity can make us feel good and productive in the morning? To me, that’s practicing gratitude. This doesn’t even have to involve journaling (though I highly recommend that).

You can simply ask yourself, “What are the three top things I’m grateful for today?” And you can say your answers out loud or visualize them in your mind. This exercise may sound cheesy and has been talked about millions of times — but that’s because it works.

Step 3: Get out of bed!

This is the funniest one to me because it’s so obvious. Let’s be real, when you wake up, how long do you stay in bed?

I used to stay in bed an extra 30 to 60 minutes after I woke up. I would grab my phone and play with it. What a great way to waste time! And afterwards, you always feel bad for just lying in bed and doing nothing. Here are science-backed ways we can wake ourselves up better:

Hydrate — our body can get dehydrated during a good, long sleep. So drink some water when you wake up.

Get some sun — being exposed to sunlight signals our body to wake up. Light regulates our circadian rhythm. If you can’t use the sun because of the weather or you live in an area not easily reached by sunlight, you can use your house lights instead.

Do light exercises — Yoga, push-ups, jumping-jacks, walks, and so forth. Anything that warms your body up. And then you can do some stretching after warming up. (Don’t do it before).

Keep your devices in another room — By keeping your phone in another room, you’ll have more incentive to get out of bed. We’re all curious to see what type of notifications we got overnight.

I’m not really a cold shower guy, but I know it works for a lot of people. The key is to do something that physically forces you out of bed and into wakefulness.

Step 4: Review the day

This is the shortest step since I’ve planned my day the previous night. And I usually set just 3 — 4 tasks for the day. And when I wake up, I go over these tasks again.

Since I don’t use to-do lists, I write these tasks in my journal or on a post-it in addition to putting it on my calendar. I make sure I keep it on my desk or take the post-it with me where I go. It’s important to remind myself of what I want to get done that day.

And because I don’t pick too many things, I want to give those tasks my full focus. Lost focus encourages procrastination. And I prefer to stay on top of my priorities all day long.

This practice forces me to create more. By creating more, you will take charge of your life.

Develop a routine that works best for you

The thing about routines and habits is that they’re most effective when they’re tailor-fit to our personality, needs, and lifestyle. As you can see, mine is simple and doesn’t require a lot of steps. That works for me because I can easily stick to my routine.

For some people, especially those who work night or rotating shifts, a morning routine may look different. But the goal is the same: We all want to feel good when we wake up so we can be more productive throughout the day.

One of my team members, Karl, just had a baby and his family situation significantly impacts his sleep and mornings. I asked him how he manages to stay energized and productive. And he says he monitors his baby’s sleep pattern and adapts to the baby’s sleeping times.

When he knows what to expect, he can be more relaxed and have better sleep at night. He also keeps doing his morning workouts to stay fit.

It’s all about being adaptable to your situation. If you can’t stick to your usual morning routines because of certain circumstances, simply adjust the routine so it makes you feel better and more productive.