A Non-Morning Person’s Guide to Being a Morning Person

Recently I started reading my daughter a classic Dr. Seuss book titled “I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today!” The young boy in this story is clearly supposed to be getting ready for school, but instead is in bed, sleeping. This bold young man — full of passion and courage — repeatedly tells his parents that he is not getting up, no matter what they do.

So, like any good parent would, his mother invites the neighbors over to make a racket with pots and pans. When the boy is unfazed by this, they invite the local TV news station to interview him, prompting a full write-up on the front page of the newspaper. The boy remains in his bed, so the mother hires a marching band to play by his window, and even invites the United States Marines to assist in waking the child (this has apparently become an issue of national security). Despite their best efforts, they are still unsuccessful in motivating this sleepy young boy.

Finally, like any good parent would, the mother gives up, lets her son stay in bed, offers his breakfast to a police officer, and the story abruptly ends.

Clearly this “Doctor” Seuss is passing on a terrible message to our world’s youth, but I do have to admit: I resonate with the protagonist in this famed fable. Waking up in the morning is the absolute worst. I am not a morning person, and just about every morning, I have to give myself a pretty major pep talk to get rollin’ on my morning routine.

To make matters worse, I don’t drink coffee. If the “best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup”? Shoot — bring in the Marines. I’m not getting up, either!

Recently I’ve taken on a few additional “side hustles.” I enjoy the work, and the extra income is helpful. However, as I wrote last time, no matter what we do, we are all limited to 24 hours each day. As I’ve added these new tasks to my plate, I’m also very cautious about taking too much time away from my wife and daughter.

And, you know, sleep.

In order to make my way through my daily to-do list, I’ve realized I just might have to start getting up earlier. In fact, that’s what I’ve done. This past week I’ve been getting up an hour earlier than I typically do so I can chip away at projects and get caught up on emails.

It hasn’t been pretty.

I can’t say I’m enjoying this new little ritual, but I do admit it’s helping. I’m able to crank through projects, (barely) stay awake the rest of the day, and still have time for my family.

If you’re in a similar situation where mornings are among your top enemies, let’s get through this together. Here are a few tips I’ve discovered that make it slightly easier to roll out of bed a little earlier.

Find Motivation.

I never would have started this grand experiment unless I had to. I’ve always sort of wanted to be a morning person, primarily because it seems most really successful people are. Some of these folks seem to literally jump out of bed with smiles on their faces, ready to run a mile and read the newspaper and knock out expense reports and trade a few stocks or whatever those successful types do.

While I always sort of wanted to do this, that sort of wasn’t strong enough to make me actually do it. I’ve tried waking up early for a workout before, but just flat-out failed because my motivation wasn’t strong enough. My desire for sleep at 6:00 a.m. outweighed my desire for bulging biceps.

However, my desire to spend time with my wife and daughter does outweigh my desire for a couple snoozes when the iPhone starts chirping. When I realized I need those morning hours to work so I can be freer in the evenings, all of a sudden it made it a little easier to get up the first (or second) time the alarm went off. If you truly want to get up earlier but face similar struggles, you’re going to need something to motivate you, so find it and remember it.

Find Energy.

Along with that extra motivation, I found I also needed an extra kick of energy. If you’re a coffee person, go nuts with whatever grande-caramel-latte-frappuccino-cold-brew-pour-over-hazelnut-K-cup situation you need to get you going. If that’s not your gig (it sounds exhausting to me), grab a soda or some OJ or whatever beverage is your go-to.

Find something you really enjoy for breakfast that you can whip up quickly while you’re still rubbing the sleep goop out of your eyes. You likely can’t do this every morning, but every once in a while bring your laptop to a coffee shop or bagel place and reward yourself for this new-found hour you’ve discovered.

As I’m getting ready for bed and setting my alarm for the next morning, sometimes I find that I actually look forward to eating a really good breakfast while I crank out that side project. Breakfast burritos and asiago bagels make it just a tad easier to get rollin’ when it’s still super dark outside.

Find Something Fun.

Recently my cousin made me a new desk for my home office. It’s a beautiful custom L-shape standing desk made with hickory butcher block, matte-finish wood.

If that means nothing to you, just trust me: It’s awesome.

Once I got my office all set up, I found I was so excited to find an excuse to use it. I’d walk in, see the desk and instantly feel an extra push to get started because look how cool this thing is!

With these new projects in mind, I also realized I might need some help staying organized. I’m usually a pretty digital guy, but I decided having an actual wall calendar might help me stay in check with my deadlines. After looking around online, I found this really slick dry erase calendar from Jon Acuff. Along with it hopefully being helpful, I find myself looking forward to using it. It looks so beautiful and cool, it’s making deadlines seem just a little fun.

I realize not everyone is as nerdy as I am, but I even get a tiny bit of excitement from a nice new pen, fancy notebook or new app to try. If you’re not a supernerd inspired by trendy office supplies (what’s wrong with you?), chances are you can find something that will give you an extra dose of excitement for your work. Obviously we can’t buy desks and calendars every day, but maybe you find a magazine or website or YouTube channel you start your day with that gets you on the right track. Find anything big or small that adds a splash of fun to your morning, especially for the first few days and weeks when you’re going to need some help.

Give It a Try.

I’m making progress on this whole thing, but it’s definitely still a struggle. I’ll likely never wake up like Joey from “Friends,” but as much as I hate to admit it, the early morning really is a great time to get ahead and make progress on your goals.

Besides, as the famous line from Lamentations reminds us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lam 3:22-23a). The sleepy cynic in me wants to say that His mercies are also new every mid-afternoon and evening, but the point remains. Every day brings new challenges to conquer, opportunities to explore and reminders of God’s grace and goodness. Remember your motivation, grab some coffee and that fancy new pen, and give it a shot.

If you don’t, your mom just might give your breakfast to a policeman and rally the rowdy neighbors to get you out of bed. And that just sounds embarrassing.

About the Author

Matt Ehresman
Matt Ehresman

Matt Ehresman works as the creative media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kan. He loves using video, images, words and sounds to help people think about things that matter. He is a graduate of Sterling College and Regent University and an expert on all things Mountain Dew and superheroes. He is the proud husband of Tillie and occasionally frustrated owner of Jarvis (their mini Aussie).