Waking up early to study, especially at 4 am, is no easy task. `it is even more difficult if you are used to sleeping late at night. However, it is not impossible at all to change your sleeping habits. After all, they say that the most successful people start their day around this time. So, here is what you need to do.

The biggest thing I can say is do NOT solely focus on how long you study for. There’s a reason ‘work smart not hard’ is a cliche. If you make your studying more efficient you can get more done in less time.

Studying. TV suggests this free audio book which helps you improve your speed reading and memory. You can listen to it while you sleep and it has thousands of great reviews behind it: [Memory Hack] Twice the Results in Half the Time

That alone should be a game changer for most peoples studying.

Focus on the benefits

Waking up early allows me to start my day in a very relaxed and intentional way. I had proven that to myself the few times that I had tried it but I wasn’t fully convinced so I started to do lots of research to come up with as many benefits as possible.

In a 2008 study, Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered that early risers are more proactive. He found that morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them.

A 2012 study found that waking up early could be the distinguishing habit that makes older adults happier than younger adults.

Happier, more productive and better at dealing with problems? I’ll take it!

Quiet the Morning Demons

I used to wake up and lie in bed thinking about the day to come ahead. The first thought that came to my mind was always ‘You’re late!’

It wouldn’t matter if I was actually late or not. I almost never was. But that’s how my mind wants me to think. I could be on vacation and my mind would tell me I was late. It would start going…

You have so much to do today, you’re never going to get it all done.

You have a big meeting today start stressing about that!

You are never going to get everything done that you need to. Don’t even bother.

You should really be worried about that thing…

… and keep going. On and on. On and on.

Start Slow

Full disclosure: I didn’t take this particular piece of advice. I decided to jump right into the deep end and begin waking up at 5am. This ultimately wound up working but it also caused me to be a zombie for a couple of weeks. But with people that I work with, I have seen a better rate of success when they have eased into it.

The idea here is to make waking up early a part of your day that you don’t absolutely hate and that will be sustainable. So if you normally wake up each day at 7am but your goal is to start waking up at 5am each morning, then you work up to that target time with a schedule like this:

Week 1: Wake up each morning at 5: 30am

Week 2: Wake up each morning at 5: 00am

Week 3: Wake up each morning at 4: 30am

Week 4: Wake up each morning at 4: 00am (GOAL!)

Doing it this way is manageable and you’re not dramatically altering your schedule and your building on small wins each week.

Prepare the Night Before

Waking up early is uncomfortable at first and your mind is going to look for any excuses to make it more uncomfortable. You’re going to want to minimize this as much as possible.

By preparing the night before for the coming morning, you can dramatically increase your chances of success.

Lay out your clothes

Put your alarm clock/phone across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off

Have your coffee/tea ready to go

Know what you are going to do

Simple things that can make a big difference.

Have a Plan

You want to have something to look forward to in the morning. Something that is going to make you want to get out of bed.

When I go to sleep at night, I know exactly what I am going to be doing for the first hour of every morning (meditation, morning pages, affirmations and a gratitude list). The goal is to get a healthy routine that puts your mind in optimal shape for the rest of the day. And then to have this routine become a habit that is burned into your subconscious so that it’s not a struggle.

It’s all in your mind

I bet this kid has no problems waking up…

If you tell yourself that you are going to get enough sleep regardless of what time you are going to bed and truly believe that, you will help to program your subconscious mind to believe that.

Before we go to sleep at night, our minds can get into these vicious loops.

Never Hit Snooze

Hitting the snooze button in the morning doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying, ‘I hate getting up in the morning so I do it over and over and over again.’

Dimitri Martin, Comedian

The snooze button is a healthy sleep routine’s biggest enemies. Once you understand that, you can eradicate it from your life.

If hitting the snooze button is the first action you take every morning, you are effectively starting with procrastination and telling your subconscious mind that they don’t even have the self-discipline to get out of bed in the morning.

Don’t Start Your Morning With Junk

And I’m not talking about food. When I ask people what’s the first thing they do when they wake up, the vast majority say ‘Check my email and social media.’ Don’t do this.

Email and social media consumption first thing in the morning starts your day off with other people’s lives and priorities. You want to use your mornings to focus on you.

Caffeine is Your Friend

Before and after coffee, my friend Kevin started waking up early and decided that he was going to do it completely naturally so he quit drinking coffee. This is akin to someone who never works out and then decides they are going to run a marathon the next day.

It didn’t work out for Kevin. He was miserable after a couple of days and decided to give up on waking up early and went back to drinking coffee.

Personally, I had to drink a ton of coffee when I first started waking up early. I’ve been able to cut it back dramatically but it’s what I needed to readjust my internal clock early on. Nowadays I really don’t need any caffeine.

Don’t Be Afraid to Tweak

Once you’ve worked up to your optimal time to wake up (and only you can be the one to determine this, not your friends or some blog post) it’s time to start getting the most out of your ‘extra’ time. I have one simple suggestion for you…

Do things that are going to put you in a better ‘state’.

A better state of mind, body and soul.

Listen to your body

I got sick about four months after I first started waking up at 5am. Really sick. But I was so all or nothing that I just kept waking up at 5am and I could barely even function. I think it wound up prolonging my sickness and it’s something that I could have avoided.

If you’re sick. If you are super jet-lagged. Or if you just really, really need sleep. Sleep in. Listen to your body.

One word of warning, don’t use this too often and don’t use this until after waking up early has become an established habit for you (typically anywhere from 21 to 60 days).

What About Weekends?

I used to wake up at 5am everyday of the week (including Saturday, Sunday and even holidays). This was helpful for establishing the habit but it also had some negative effects on me as I began to resent having to go to sleep earlier and started to get very worn down if I didn’t (if I went out on a Friday night and didn’t go to sleep until 2am and then woke up at 5am).

In the last 6 months, I adjusted my schedule so that I gave myself more flexibility on the weekends. I typically just set my alarm so that I get 7 hours of sleep (so if I go to sleep at 12am on Friday, I will wake up at 7am on Saturday). I then follow the rest of my morning routine the same way and still have a good start to each day.

Source: The Secrets to Waking Up Early (Even if You ‘Hate’ Mornings)

The biggest thing I can say is do NOT solely focus on how long you study for. There’s a reason ‘work smart not hard’ is a cliche. If you make your studying more efficient you can get more done in less time.

Studying. TV suggests this free audio book which helps you improve your speed reading and memory. You can listen to it while you sleep and it has thousands of great reviews behind it: [Memory Hack] Twice the Results in Half the Time

That alone should be a game changer for most peoples studying.

This answer originally appeared on this Quora question on Studying.

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