How to be an Early Riser
Years ago, my morning routine would involve getting up for Fajr prayers on the third siren sounded by my mum, stumbling out of bed and tripping over fallen blankets, and walking like a zombie to the toilet. Then I’d do my prayers while still being half asleep and dive right back into bed, even as the sky had long transitioned from black to blue.
“Five minutes, five minutes,” I’d croak to my mum, my head buried deep in the crevices of the pillow, my fingers gesturing the number. She would stand at the door, hands on hips, and roll her eyes while warning me that it would be my fault if I was late for school.
In contrast, today I am writing this at 5am in the morning, and have actually been up since 4am. I’m wide awake, my mind busy yet clear, and I’m all set for the day!
In the first article of the two-part series on Good Mornings, I shared the benefits of being a morning person – the why of things. Today, I will be sharing how you can evolve from being a morning-zombie to a morning-cookie in 5 simple steps:
Step 1. Go to bed early
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes even I kid myself by aiming to wake up at 4am when I only head to bed at 1am. The earlier you head to bed, the higher the chances are that you will wake up.
A simple rule I hold when I started training myself is to calculate the average amount of hours I sleep a day, and to try move the clock back accordingly such that I maintain the number. For instance, if I sleep an average of 6 hours a day and I intend to wake up by 4am, I’d simply count backwards and find that I have to sleep at 10pm instead of the usual 12am.
Step 2. Train yourself by waking up a little earlier & sleeping shorter each day
Having said so, it is unrealistic to expect yourself to change your sleeping schedule overnight as your body is used to what you have been doing for years. Instead of forcing yourself to change overnight, simply move your sleeping schedule backwards for around fifteen minutes every few days – i.e. from 12am – 6am → 11:45pm – 5:45am → 11:30pm – 5:30am … 10pm → 4am.
Additionally, sleeping is important, but how much sleep we need depends on the individual. I generally need around 5 hours of sleep a day, and having any amount lesser than this would equate to failure to wake up at the intended time, or falling asleep in classes throughout the day.
Step 3. Take your wudhu’ before sleeping, and make the intention of waking up early
A close friend shared that she had no need for alarm clocks, because every single night biidhnillah, she wakes up at the time she had made intention for the night before “Why get alarm clocks to wake you when you can have Allah swt wake you instead?”, she asked.
Every night before she goes to bed, she takes the wudhu’, and make the intention that she wants to wake up at a specific time the next morning so that she can pray Tahajjud. And every single morning, for her, she would be awaken at the time she specified.
(Side note: This doesn’t work all the time for me due to my mountain of sins. As such I always use an alarm clock as a back-up waking device set 15 minutes after the time I intend to wake up.)
Step 4. Make your intention of waking purposeful and important
One of the most powerful motivations to wake up earlier is to plan the extra time you have in the morning to do something that is important to you personally. Not school work, not job-work, not housework. But the stuff that is important to you for your growth, something that you can and will look forward to.
For me, mornings are the only time I am able to write in my journal and for my personal site and letters to readers, and to tinker with my personal fun side-projects. As such, I get excited about waking up every morning because I get to do things that I can’t otherwise find time to do for the rest of the day.
Step 5. Be aware of what works and what doesn’t
When training to be an early riser, look at yourself as both the conductor and subject of an experiment, where you are trying out different means and ways to achieve your goal. When in an experiment, the conductor should be aware of the different circumstances that lead to the subject acting in a certain way, and take note of what works and what doesn’t. The conductor then keeps a logbook to monitor his techniques and systems.
Hence, do the same for yourself. On the days you do manage to wake up earlier, take note of all the actions you did, and jot it down. On the days you didn’t manage to achieve your goal, again take note of all the actions you did (or didn’t), and note it down as well. With all these information, you’d then be able to adjust your sleeping habits accordingly!
Some of the things I found out about myself is that I need at least 5 hours of sleep a day and that I need to place my laptop open on my desk the night before so that when I wake up and see it, I get reminded of the fact that if I wake up, I get to write (yay!).
Bonus: Get someone to make du’a for you to wake up
Around a month or so ago, I found myself waking up at 330am, 45 minutes earlier than the time I always do. I got out of bed and propped myself in front of the laptop to start journaling. Suddenly, I had a nagging feeling to go on Facebook, where I was greeted by my friend AD who screamed, “Oh Allah! I was just making du’a that Allah wakes you up because I need to talk to you badly!”
Lesson learned: If all else fails, get your friend to make du’a to wake you up. It works! :)
As with every change in life, the crucial factor in spearheading that change would be our intentions. If our intentions for waking earlier are solid and we put in the effort (like the steps above) to make it happen, insyaAllah He will assist and make it easy for us. After all, when we sleep, we essentially die, and it is Him swt who puts life back into us each morning.
May Allah swt give us the gift of morning blessings and place barakah in all that we do!