By Leo Babauta

One of the things I’ve loved about the habit of waking early is that it has led to other good habits.

Waking earlier has created the time for other habits that I do in the morning, and these tend to be my most important habits. It’s like found time — even if you’re really just shifting it from the evening, when you might be tired and just wanting to watch TV.

I should note that some people do well in the evenings, and so for them, they probably don’t need to try waking earlier.

Waking earlier is also a great way to enjoy some quiet time before work, or before your family wakes up if you have kids. It’s how I get my best work done.

Today I’d like to cover a few topics to get you started, if you want to wake earlier:

We’ll have a few more articles on this topic in the coming week or two — this is just an introduction. Also note: there are Action Steps at the end of the article!

Changing your sleeping pattern

Unfortunately, waking up earlier is not as easy as setting an alarm to whatever time you like. Sleep patterns are difficult to change, so if you try waking up at 6 a.m. when you normally get up at 9:30 a.m., you won’t enjoy it and you’ll suffer for awhile and then probably crash because you’re too tired. That’s not a fun habit change, and it’s not the best way to make sure you stick to it.

What has worked for me is gradual change. Just 10 minutes earlier every 3-7 days, though you can do 15-20 if you don’t think you’ll have a hard time. If you do 10 minutes a week, after a couple months you’ll be nearly an hour and a half earlier than you are now. Remember, this is a long-term change, not just an overnight fix. This program is about lasting changes that you can stick to.

Evening routines

For me, the hardest obstacle to waking early is when I don’t sleep early enough. If I go to sleep late, then waking early means I don’t have enough sleep. That’s not sustainable, and sooner or later I’m going to crash.

So the key is establishing a good morning routine so that I can sleep on time and get enough sleep to wake early. And as I said above, changing very gradually (10 minutes at a time) is the way to make the shift.

We’ll talk more about this later, but establishing an evening routine is really the habit you want to form this month. Something like: a reminder on your phone at a certain time to start your routine, wash up, get things ready for the morning, brush your teeth, say goodnight to your family, get in bed and read (without your phone or computer or a TV). You might also think of something to do in the morning that you’re looking forward to, and get things ready for the morning.

This is a great way to unwind and get your mind and body ready for sleep.

Setting up for success

The most important thing you can do to make this change a success, besides gradual change, is making a big commitment. Commit to your spouse, to your friends, to people on Facebook and Twitter. Or join an accountability group and commit to them. And report on your habit each morning.

Other tips:

ACTION STEPS: Set up alarms for the morning and evening, for just 10 minutes earlier than normal. Start crafting an evening routine, and one or more things you can do as soon as you wake up.