Make Time to Write, Part 5: Fake Being a Morning Person in Five Easy Steps.

Ugh, morning people.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, they’re zealots of predawn quiet, of early daylight productivity, of eating actual breakfast and sunrises and chirping birds. Not once in my life has anyone called me a morning person.

I like lolling around in bed until 10am on the weekends (and on the weekdays too; who am I kidding?) and the majesty of sunrises has always been lost on me. I prefer the majesty that comes with not getting  up until I absolutely have to, instead.



But when I began devoting more effort to writing, I realized I had absolutely no time to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish at my current levels of epic laziness. Unfortunately, things had to change; now, I’m awake and moving around (even if my eyes are still glued shut) at 5am. It’s not always pretty, and I’m still not what you’d call a chirpy go-getter, but I’m getting a LOT more done. Here are some quick and relatively painless ways to tweak your day so you can at least pretend to be a morning person.

This? Is also too complicated.

This? Is also too complicated.

If you’re a coffee drinker, get a good, fast, simple coffee-maker. 
I cannot stress the importance of simplicity in a coffeemaker, especially when you require caffeine in the morning to have actual thoughts. My coffeemaker is the easiest thing around: there’s a place to put the brew basket, and an On button. That’s it. And it’s glorious.

Don’t get so excited about trying to wake up earlier that you treat yourself to a latte maker or a new, shiny espresso machine. Who wants to fiddle with the dials and the milk at 5am?

When you’re planning your morning routine, always start with something you love, then move on to the stuff you have to do.
Don’t expect to roll out of bed, into your shoes, and onto the elliptical. That’s the surest route to making that elliptical a big, heavy clothes hanger. Instead, set yourself up for success by starting with something delicious (and simple), then move successively upward in difficulty.

If it’s not already obvious, I love coffee. I love listening to the gurgle of the brewer, the aroma of it in the coffee bag (I don’t keep it in the fridge because I’m not that dedicated) and finally, the shot of clarity I get upon drinking it. When my alarm goes off at 4:45am, these effortless and lovely sensory experiences are what get me out of bed, down the stairs and into the kitchen. Once I’m drinking my coffee, I open my laptop, and begin to write. Once I’ve written for a time (around an hour) I shut my laptop and hit the treadmill for an hour. Once I’m done, I shower and go to work. Bonus: By the time I’m in the car, I’m awake, alert, and (usually) in a pretty good mood.

Work backwards. 
My target was at least two hours of productive time in the morning before I had to get ready for work, but going straight from a 7:15am wake-up time to a 4:45am wake-up time, New Year’s Resolution-style, is really, really hard. And ratcheting up the difficulty level pointlessly means you’re going to, at best, be grumpy about it and, at worst, swear you’re never going to do it again, and that’s bad.

Instead, work backwards. I started by setting my alarm at 6:30am—enough time to put on my running shoes and fit in a quick jog. Then, after a while, I set my alarm at 6:15am, which was enough time for me to put on a pot of coffee before my run. You get the idea.

Be (very, very) patient. 
It took me months at each phase to establish my morning routine, and probably a year from where I was to start, to now, where I fake being a morning person relatively easily. Set your alarm at 6:30am and for the first month or so, you’ll hit Snooze about half the time. But you’ll get better.

Eventually you’ll wonder what else you could do if you started waking up at 6:15am, and you’ll try that. And to your disappointment, you’ll start hitting Snooze again. But it’s a process, and months will go by. You’ll adjust, and turn the clock back yet again. Just know there will be mornings when you’ll hit the Snooze button. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it just means you might have to put the alarm across the room instead of next to your bed.

Never gonna give you up.

Never gonna give you up.

Make the morning time the only time when you’ll do something.
For a variety of reasons, I only run in the early mornings. Besides coffee, this thought is what helps drag me out of bed. If I don’t get up now, I won’t get to burn calories now, which means I can’t have that cheesecake later. Leave yourself no second chances during the day—that’s how you take your morning routine from something that’s nice to do, to something you simply have to do.

Else, no cheesecake. And that makes me sad.

Make a Living Writing Link Party.

Do you need to tips to make time to write? Check out Part 1: Six Ways to Actually Get Up with an Alarm, Part 2: Use Evernote to Write Anywhere, Part 3: Fit It in Around a Full-Time Life, and Part 4: Leave Yourself Hanging.

  • Marie Bailey

    This is all good advice except I don’t run, but a walk would probably wake me up. I think about it a lot. Yup, I do a lot of thinking about it 🙂

  • Sandra Tyler

    My favorite and most productive time of day is the morning. My routine is much like yours except for the treadmill. Exercising in the morning to me would be hell:)

  • nywalters

    I love you. I think. That is all.

    • Shan


  • Lani

    Yeah, I’ve actually been moving away from being a morning person because I’m now working later into the night. That being said, I love my mornings and need it to be even more productive than it is. Writing gets pushed down the list of things to do.

    • Shan

      Working late at night is the absolute worst! It steals your morning time.

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  • Rob F.

    Thank you for this, Shanan! I’ve been pushing my start time back as early as 5AM lately, and I wound up writing a blog post of my own in agreement with yours.

    • Shan

      I checked out your post – great blog! Getting up at 5am really is rewarding… or, at least, that’s what I tell myself when my eyes are still glued shut and I’m trying to find my way downstairs!

      Thanks for reading!

      • Rob F.

        LOL! We have a baby gate at the top of our steps to stop our dogs from doing their business on our rug during the night – I keep forgetting it’s open and ramming my knee into it at 5AM!

  • Williesha Morris

    Nice post. Found you via the link party. Congrats on getting to the top. 🙂

    • Shanan

      Hi, Williesha! Glad you liked it, and thanks for reading!

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  • Janel Gradowski

    My kids started school 2 weeks ago and I’m still getting used to going from 9 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. I would love to get more work done even earlier, but I’m not quite ready to make that slide back yet. 🙂 My programmable coffee maker is a life saver. Knowing my coffee is ready and waiting always propels me out of bed.

    • Shanan

      Hi Janel! Having such a radical change in routine is tough to handle, especially if you’re a fan of regularly scheduled writing time, like I am. Good luck with trying to get it all back on track; let me know what the secret formula is when you discover it!

  • Erica

    I’ve been getting up at 5:30 every morning for the last week for work (luckily in New Mexico, so it felt like 7:30 when I first started). Any tips on how to combat the overwhelming crappiness of getting up before it’s light out? Turn on all the lights in the house? Shine a flashlight into your eyes? I’ve got the coffee machine set up so all I have to do in the morning is push a button, stumble into the bathroom and get dressed, and stumble back out and my coffee’s ready, but that first step of getting out of bed when it’s still totally dark is really just a bummer.

    And I definitely don’t have time before work to do anything that I like unless I want to try getting up at 4 am – I have to leave the house at 6. Any suggestions?

    • Shan

      Getting up when it’s getting progressively darker is the absolute worst. I’m having trouble with it, too, and I think the worst thing about it overall is the bleary feeling of UGH I’M TOO TIRED TO BE CONSCIOUS RIGHT NOW. I can’t just sit up when I feel that way, so I try and wake myself up mentally first.

      My blog posts first thing in the morning, and a lot of stuff happens to my networks after I go to sleep, so as soon as I can force one eye open, I’m on my phone (specifically, on Twitter) checking cool stuff I can Favorite or RT. I move on to Gmail, or maybe Google+, and just groggily scroll through stuff until my mind starts to heat up. This usually takes around 5-10 minutes.

      So I guess my answer is kind of like what you suggested: shine a bright light in your eyes. In my case, it’s my phone display on maximum brightness.

      The other thing I do is (I’m not even joking) get up with my eyes closed and stumble around until they either open or I stub my toe on my bedframe or something. Then I’m wide awake.

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  • Diane

    I’m gradually turning in to a morning writer. Being only half awake when I plop myself at the computer with a coffee has its benefits, as my writing critic usually takes longer to wake up then my writing muse (smile). Enjoyed the post!

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  • Phineas Crumpy

    Being a morning person is tough for someone whose work starts in the evening. Morning is sleeping time. I suppose though some girls could take tips from this video.

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