How to Keep Waking up Early as the Days Are Getting Shorter

Don’t change the routine. Emphasise the good stuff.

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Photo by author

As someone who wakes up at 6am every weekday, I can already feel and see the days getting shorter. I used to wake up with the sunrise, stretch in the first rays of light of the morning, on the terrace. Still a few weeks ago, the sun would shine in the kitchen while making my first cup of coffee. Then I’d go to the living room, start working, and look out the window once in a while, at nature slowly waking up.

Those days are over, at least for this year. I still wake up at 6am, but much before sunrise. When I go out to stretch on the terrace, it’s cold, dark, and often humid. When I make my first cup of coffee in the kitchen, I have to turn on the light otherwise I can’t see anything.

Winters are challenging for people who like to wake up early. They make the whole thing less fun, less pleasant. Not just mentally, but also physically. The body would much rather stay in bed when there’s no natural light to wake up to, that’s a natural reaction.

In this article, I want to talk about the few ways I use to be able to keep waking up early consistently during the winter. It’s not rocket science, but it’s worth sharing.

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Philips Wake-Up Light

Get a Philips Wake-Up Light

I got a Philips Wake-Up Light almost 3 years ago, and it’s been a huge game changer for my mornings. It simulates the sunrise by going from low intensity to full bright light in 30 minutes. I usually wake up around the 50% brightness mark, which is actually before my alarm clock goes off.

This light also helps to avoid the feeling of grogginess in the morning. Your eyes won’t hurt when you need to turn on the light in the living room, they will already be used to it. At $50, I cannot recommend this light enough (no affiliate links in this article).

Layer up

It’s not winter yet, but it will get here soon. At least where I live, it already gets much chillier in the morning. The second thing I do in the morning, right after turning the water kettle on, is to go out on the terrace to stretch and do a few push ups for 10 minutes. If I don’t layer up, I’m too cold.

In the morning, your body needs to regulate its internal temperature, no matter the external temperature. Even if you stay indoors, you might find it more comfortable to wear a thick jacket and pants in the morning.

Hydrate and eat something

Hydrating is always good to do first thing in the morning no matter the time of the year, but it’s even more important during the colder period. It helps to avoid the feeling of grogginess which is often more present when it’s cold outside. Eating and drinking help activate your metabolism.

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Create coziness

A very important point. One of the main reasons I love early mornings is because they’re calm, quiet, and cozy. The coziness level depends on each and everyone’s environment. For me, it’s really important to create that environment. It contributes to my motivation.

How do you create a cozy morning environment? With a clean space, a good couch, a nice lighting, your favourite coffee cup, a feeling of warmth…

  • I clean the living room in the evening to make sure I wake up to a clean space the next day.
  • I have soft lights set up at strategic points in the living room, to avoid hurting my eyes in the morning and to create that cozy feeling.
  • I have my Maneki-neko and my Buddha set up on a shelf next to the couch. I also have my yoga mat ready next to the couch.
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My favorite cozy spot (not work spot). Notice the Buddha and Maneki-neko on the shelf.

Creating coziness is super important in general, but even more so in the morning. I like mornings anywhere, anytime. But on a normal weekday, I wake up early in order to tackle my most important work right away, and coziness helps a ton with that. When you feel good, you perform well.

For more on creating a cozy environment during the cold and dark days, you can read about the Danish concept of Hygge.

Change as little as possible

It’s really tempting to wake up a little later when it’s cold and dark outside. Or to not go out on the terrace to stretch after I turned the water kettle on, because it’s cold and humid. But I found that there’s no use in changing a system that works, especially when it comes to my morning routine.

It’s not about changing the routine. It’s about making the whole routine more pleasant as a whole. A good lighting setup will help compensate for the morning darkness. A cozy sweater will help you fight the cold. My buddha and Maneki-neko remind me to be grateful every morning. It’s about enhancing the small things that make you feel good.

There you have it. If you have to remember one thing from this article, I would say it’s the Philips Wake-Up Light. Everybody has their own morning routine, but we all feel more or less groggy when we wake up. This light really helps with reducing that feeling.

Again, for me it’s not about changing the routine, it’s about making it more enjoyable. So go ahead and create your perfect morning environment. Brace for the winter, make the most out of it, and before you know it, Spring will be upon us.

Thanks a lot for reading! I interviewed 50 productivity experts and made a 150+ page guide out of the project. This is road-tested advice from real people who get things done. Get it for free here.

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