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Words By Tara Wagner

17 Tips to Wake Up Earlier (From a Fellow Night Owl)

Woman's hand reaching over and turning off the alarm clock

Woman sitting in bed stretching

This blog is for all the grown women out there who feel like they should know how to wake up early by now and, like I was, is looking for advice from someone who:

A) doesn’t start by saying, “I love mornings,”
B) has close to 4 decades experience sleeping in so she knows the struggle is real
C) has been waking up early for more than a few weeks, so she’s talking from some real experience.

I am not a morning person, and yet I’ve been getting up by 6:00 AM for over a year. I’m going to share the 17 tips – Yes, it took me all 17 of them because that’s how much of a morning person I am not – to shift my schedule from 10:00, even 11:00, all the way to 6:00 AM and slowly getting earlier and earlier. So if you’re a fellow night owl, let’s dive in.

17 Tips to Wake Up Earlier (AS A NIGHT OWL) & Be More Productive Click To Tweet

Before I jump into these tips to help us wake up earlier, let me just state for the record that I do not think you have to be a morning person in order to be successful. I was earning multiple six figures before I started to shift my schedule to an early morning schedule.

It’s less important what time you wake up or what time you go to bed as it is what you’re doing with the hours in between.

It's less important what time you wake up or what time you go to bed as it is what you're doing with the hours in between. Click To Tweet

However, if, like me, you’re realizing that your goals would be better served right now by getting up earlier in the morning, let’s go through these 17 tips that have really helped me to shift my schedule so that I could better align with my goals.

I do want to quickly say that some of these tips are going to fly in the face of a lot of the advice that’s out there. Some of them never seem to get talked about, but all of them were pieces of the puzzle that really helped me to shift my schedule. So it’s not necessarily going to be the same pieces to your puzzle, but hopefully they’ll serve as some inspiration and not hard and fast rules.


My first tip to wake up earlier is a really strong reason.

I needed to shift this from a should, like, “I should get up early in the morning,” to a want, something that I actually wanted to do. And until I had a strong reason, that just was not going to happen for me.

Unless I’m highly motivated for something, should’s are never going to actually get me to do something or keep me doing something.

For me, that “should” was getting really clear on where I wanted to go with my business and what that would require from me. Personally, that requires a lot of self-care so that I can be in a really healthy place to be able to serve others from that healthy place.

The only way that I could really do that was to shift my schedule earlier so that I could create multiple hours just for myself in the morning to really feed myself, body, mind, and spirit, before I started getting into the reactive parts of my day where I’m kind of pouring out into other people or I’m juggling a lot of things.

(I’m actually going to do a video next week on my whole productive morning routine. So if you are interested in behind-the-scenes looks like that, I will be sharing that next week, so be sure to subscribe on YouTube.)

I talk about this a lot in my coaching, and in my Instagram, and in different videos that I do. Your WHY must be bigger than all of your WHY NOT’s. And if you’re a night owl, the why not, the warm – comfy bed that you don’t want to get out of – that’s really big for a lot of us. My why, my vision, my goals really had to be something that I was highly passionate about so that when I was facing that decision first thing in the morning to swing my feet out of bed and I was asking myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I getting out of bed?” I actually had an answer that motivated me to want to get up. 

Your WHY must be bigger than all of your WHY NOT's (Tara Wagner) Click To Tweet

TIP #2 – Mastering my Self-Talk

The second tip to wake up earlier is all about mastering my self-talk.

Here’s the thing, I started to tell myself a different story about mornings. I didn’t start saying that “I’m a morning person”, because that would be a bold-faced lie, but I did start telling myself “I’m the type of person that gets up in the morning for very good reasons”.

I can still be a night owl and honor my internal clock and be a person that chooses to go to bed early and get up early. But as long as I kept saying “I’m too tired, I’m not a morning person, I hate mornings“, those types of things were just making it harder and harder. So I just shifted my self-talk to “even though I’m tired, I can still get up in the morning because I’m that badass. I can handle this.

TIP #3 – Realistic Expectations

My 3rd tip is having realistic expectations.

I did not expect myself to be able to nail this overnight. I didn’t expect myself to do this perfectly every morning. I just focused on moving the needle. So even if I was getting up two minutes earlier, that was a win that day.

I really just acknowledged that I was going to have slipups, that I wasn’t going to spring out of bed with a smile on my face, and that I was never really going to love getting up early in the morning even though I was going to choose it because I would feel thankful for it later on in the day. This allowed me to not feel frustrated or discouraged when things weren’t going perfect. It really just allowed me to keep my perfectionist in check.


The 4th tip to wake up earlier is do it in increments.

I did not try to go from 10 or 11 in the morning to 6 AM overnight. That would be really unrealistic. I tried to just move forward a little bit at a time. If that was a few minutes, fine. If it was 15 or 30 minutes, cool. I really didn’t set a time limit, like “the first week I’m going to wake up 15 minutes early. The next week I’m going to wake up 30 minutes earlier.

I really focused on just slowly trying to get up earlier so it kind of happened in kind of fits and spurts. Sometimes it would just be 15 minutes earlier. And then I had times where I would just shift an entire hour earlier.

The most important thing for me was that I didn’t want sleep deficits. I didn’t want to miss out on sleep one morning and then have to try to make it up the next day because that is what really got me off track in the past when I try to just start getting up earlier, be tired all day, go to bed early, try to get up early again.

You’re already in a sleep deficit if you’ve missed three hours of your normal schedule, even trying to go to bed earlier… never really happens. You have to make up those extra 3 hours. So now instead of eight hours, you need 11 hours, and that’s just not going to be realistic for most people’s schedules.

But moving it forward just a little bit at a time, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, this allowed me to not really have a major sleep deficit. It was easier for me to go to bed just a little bit earlier instead of a lot a bit earlier. It just helped me to make that shift slowly over time. It did take some time. It’s been about a year that I’ve been doing this, so it really took me probably a good nine months to get to the point where I was at 6:00 AM.


Number 5 is utilizing time zone changes to your advantage.

Nobody ever really talks about utilizing jet lag. Obviously this isn’t going to work for everybody. But if you know that you’ve got a trip coming up where you’re going from … I think you need to be going east to make it work and going back west. That’s going to be a really good time to be able to try to shift your schedule.

Because if you’re waking up, let’s say, 8 AM Central Time and you’re going to 9 AM Eastern Time, if you try to keep waking up at 8 AM Eastern Time, then when you get home, you’re actually going to be at 7 AM Central Time.

I was able to do that a few times, and that really helped to shift the schedule. It wasn’t always permanent, but it did help to move those habits.

There was one time when I actually flew to Europe and came back. Obviously that’s a huge time zone change, but what really helped me there was just the jet lag in general. It helped me to go to bed really early the evening that we came back, get a lot of sleep, but still wake up really early in the morning. That really shifted things and got me going.


Tip number 6 is my dogs. Really, you don’t have to have dogs, but any sort of accountability.

My husband getting up earlier also helped me as I got closer to his wake-up time. Him waking up naturally started to wake me up, where before I was in deep sleep when he was waking up, so I didn’t really notice him getting up at all. Now that the dogs are used to getting up a little bit earlier, we’ve also got that accountability because they’ll start to make noise, and want to rustle, and get out of their bat caves a little earlier so we can let them outside.

If you don’t have a partner sleeping next to you, if you don’t have pets that you can get into a schedule with you, find a friend that you can make a phone call with. Every morning at whatever time you’re going to call each other up for a quick five-minute pep talk or something like that. That sort of accountability really does help a lot when we can utilize it. 


Tip number 7 to wake up ealier is light, light, and more light.

I mean this in a couple of ways.

In the evening times, I started eliminating any sort of blue lights. So television, we don’t watch at all from Sunday through Friday because I’m waking up early on those next mornings and I don’t want any blue light whatsoever.

My phones go on a yellow setting so that that’s not impacting me. I actually am trying to get off of my phone completely by 6:30 or 7:00 so that I don’t have any blue light coming into my eyes. This allows me to kind of get more into a natural rhythm with the sun. If you know anything about circadian cycles, you know this is really important.

The other thing that I do is in the morning I try to use light as soon as possible. I hate this tip.

I’m not going to lie. I hate when my husband turns on the bathroom in the morning. But it’s just one of those things that as soon as you can start getting light into your eyes, it’s going to help you to start waking up because that’s the way that our brains are wired from caveman days, moving with the sun. It just when you can work with your biology, all the better.

Now, a little bonus tip here. If you can start shifting your schedule in the summertime versus the wintertime, that’s going to be helpful, too, because the sun’s going to be coming up earlier, so you can leave your blinds open to help you wake up in the morning. You can do something like that to start getting the sunlight hitting your eyes as soon as possible. I did start this last summer, and that really made a big difference in me being able to create the habit before winter came around and I wanted to start hibernating again.

I have not tried one of the light alarms. I’m really tempted to. If you have ever tried those, drop me a comment below. Let me know what you think of them or a favorite brand. I’ve been looking around, but I’m not really sure which one is best. But, this is something that I’m really considering.

These work just like the sunrises, so it goes from a really warm red to a bright white slowly over a period of usually 15 or 20 minutes. I’m really fascinated by these, and I think they can be a really, really cool use of light to just help you to wake up gradually without using a really annoying alarm clock. Because I don’t know about you guys, I hate using an alarm in the morning.


Tip number 8 actually is all about the day before. Now, there’s two parts to this, one is prep, and one is a routine.

With prep, the night before, I’m making sure that my morning environment is set up in a way that’s going to help me to get up earlier. This might be having water by the bed or knowing what I’m going to wear the next day depending on what’s happening the next morning.

Routine is not just about having a bedtime routine for me. I really figured out that I need to get the end of my workday routine figured out, my dinner routine figured out so that I’m shutting off work by a certain time, eating dinner by a certain time, and that’s allowing me to start unwinding and then getting ready for bed by a certain time.

If I didn’t start doing this, like really paying attention to this around 4:00, this was really impacting what time I was going to bed, so I was too tired and then having a really hard time getting up in the morning.

Instead of just a nighttime routine, I would actually look at your entire evening, even late afternoon routine.


Tip number 9 to wake up earlier is sleep hygiene, which is really just a fancy way of saying getting a better night’s sleep.

I finally let my husband keep the room very cold. I use a really heavy blanket because it makes me feel nice and toasty, and I sleep so well. I also use a variety of essential oils to help me to fall asleep.

Then, one thing that I found was that, like I was mentioning before, I really need to eat at a certain time. But the reason for that is that if I’m too full, I have a hard time sleeping. If I’m too hungry, I’m going to have a hard time staying asleep. But if I have the Goldilocks amount of food before I go to sleep, including some protein, it keeps my blood sugar levels balanced so that I stay asleep all throughout the night.

By the way, I have a blog on essential oils for sleep if you’re curious about which ones I use. I’ll link it up above and down below in the description.

Tip #10 – Functional Medicine

Tip number 10 is functional medicine.

Nobody ever talks about this. But if you’re having a hard time sleeping or a hard time waking up, this could actually be due to a lot of health issues. I found a really great functional medicine doctor who helped me to look at the whole picture and really found that there were some issues with my thyroid, with my hormones, with my digestive health that were all kind of playing into the struggle that I had around sleep.

Through addressing those, through changing up my diet, eliminating alcohol, changing up my supplements, starting to work on just healing all of those issues, I saw a huge difference in the amount of sleep that I needed every night. I saw a big difference in how groggy I was waking up in the morning because I was sleeping better all throughout the night. Then, I just saw a big difference in my energy levels because of all of that as well.

We even actually talked about doing a sleep study at one point. I still might do that because I really came to find out that a lot of what I thought was my night owl tendencies for the past 37 years is actually hormones, and stress, and different health things going on in my body.

So if this is something you’re struggling with, please find a functional medicine doctor. They are amazing. They are known for really getting to the root cause of something and helping you to figure out what’s going on.

That literally has been one of the biggest helps in this entire process for me.


Number 11 for me is the use of songs, not alarms.

There is a reason why I have Katy Perry’s Rise as my wake-up song, partially because it’s ironic, but then it’s a song about overcoming adversity and opposition, which is a lot like what my mornings feel like. 😂


Tip number 12 for waking up earlier is no phone by the bed.

I have it plugged in in the bathroom now. This has been really good for me. I also use do not disturb in the morning so I see no notifications when I wake up because I will be too tempted to just lay in bed, checking everything, going through emails, going through social.

Moving this into the bathroom with the Do Not Disturb so I see nothing but the alarm going off, by the time I’m up and moving in there, I can make a conscious decision then to just turn the alarm off and go on to the rest of my morning routine.

Tip #13 – Make the bed

Tip number 13 is making the bed.

I got this tip from somebody else. It just helps to make it a little less tempting to crawl back into.

Tip #14 – Find the right level of activity

The 14th tip to wake up earlier was about finding the right level of activity for me.

Now, I would hear some people say, “Get up, and do some writing and some journaling.” I would just fall back asleep with that. Other people say, “Get up, and the most important thing that you can do is start to exercise to get your body moving,” but my body does not work like that in the morning. I need to get up really slowly and honor the pace that my body gets up with.

So now, I let myself wake up slowly.

I’m probably still taking about 15 to 20 minutes in bed just to allow myself to wake up slowly. Then, I get into not a slow pace, not a fast pace, but what I would consider just a steady step-by-step pace, which leads us into the next tip…

Tip #15 – My morning routine

I have a very detailed morning routine that I created based around my needs that slowly moves me from one step to the other and is mostly pretty movement based so that I’m not sitting still for too long.

The very first thing in my routine is going to the bathroom, which nobody ever thinks about that as the first step in their routine. But the reason that I did that is that I’ll never forget it. If that’s the first chain in my chain of habits in the morning, it’s always going to naturally kick in the rest of those steps.

I have always called this “hooking/hitching it to a habit”, or “habit hooking”, or “habit chains” where you’re taking one thing that you already do and you are attaching a new habit to it, and attaching a new habit to that, and on, and on, and on. If you’ve ever read the book Atomic Habits, in there, he calls it habit stacking.

It’s one of the best things that I was able to do because I started with something I would never forget, and then I added one thing to it. Then, slowly over time, I added another thing, and then I added another thing, and I allowed it to gradually build upon itself in a way that I really was able to sustain it because I wasn’t starting out with this elaborate routine.

I was just starting off with something really simple that I wouldn’t forget.

Once I had that totally nailed in, I went on to add something else. Again, my video next week is going to be a step by step through my entire morning routine. So if you have those voyeuristic tendencies like I do, be sure to come back for that one. If you’re not subscribed, hit that little button


Number 16 is to allow yourself flexible weekends. This is one of those things that flies in the face of everybody else’s advice where they say you need to keep the same cycle. I don’t agree.

When I tried to keep that cycle, my inner 12-year-old got really resentful and then I just didn’t want to wake up early at all. So now I allow myself to just wake up a little bit later on Saturdays and even a little bit later on Sundays. On Saturdays, it’s probably about an hour to an hour and a half, and on Sundays it’s probably about two hours, maybe sometimes 2 1/2.

I’ve found that this isn’t such a big shift that it throws my schedule off completely for the next day.

I’m still going to bed at roughly the same time every night, and so I’m able to keep my same routine, but in a way that’s sustainable, and that honors my body, and that gives me the flexibility that I need.

Because I’ll tell you, I am a super free spirit. I actually don’t like routines. I don’t like a really tight schedule. I want to just have all the time and freedom in the world. Even though I know that I can’t do that right now and I really need to be embracing the routine, allowing myself some flexibility allowed me to embrace it without after a couple of weeks just fighting against it and wanting to throw the whole thing out the window.


Tip number 17 for waking up earlier was setting a streak goal.

Now, this really works for me. I like challenging myself. I like setting up games to things. So when I started to wake up early, I tried to just do it as a streak.

The first thing that I did was say, “Just for today, I’m going to wake up at 6:00 AM. Let’s just see if I can get this one time.” Then, it was like, “You know what? Let’s see if I can get this five days in a row.” And then it was, “Let me see if I can get this 30 days in a row.

Now I’m going for 365 streak.

I started at the beginning of this year, and I’m freaking nailing it.

I’m really happy about that. Being able to gamify it, or challenge myself, or have something that I’m tracking really helps me to just stay on track. 

Those are the 17 tips to wake up earlier, even as a night owl. But before I wrap this up, I want to do an obligatory plug for my Self-Care in Seconds training.

If you think you don’t have time for self-care, and maybe that’s why you’re wanting to get up earlier, this will show you how to change that with five mindset shifts and dozens of ideas to start filling your cup in as little as 30 seconds.

You can learn more here or grab it by clicking the button below. 

What about you, boss lady?

What are your best tips to wake up earlier?


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Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate.
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