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Night Owl? These 7 Strategies Can Help You Start Your Mornings Off Right

Staying organized and sticking to a schedule have helped Kelli Ordonia kick the habit of staying up late into the night. Meal prep is one of the many tasks that she does the night before to ease her mind and make her mornings go smoothly. Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder


How many alarms do you set to wake up in the morning?

If you said one or two, then you’re doing better than me. Try four separate alarms, and that’s not counting how many times I hit the snooze button. The constant sound of the iPhone marimba jingle at 6:15 a.m. (and usually 6:25 and so on…) is the price I pay for being a night owl.

When others start to wind down in the evening, I get a rush of energy. That’s my time to fold laundry, catch up on podcasts and try to make sense of the timeline hopping going on in “Westworld.”

If I could set my own schedule, I’d stay up until 1 a.m. and wake up around 9 a.m. Unfortunately, the business world doesn’t operate like that. Mornings come hard and fast, leaving me discombobulated as I try to extract as much sleep as I can before rushing out the door to get to work.

Does that sound like you? I tracked down some fellow night owls who shared these seven tips and tricks on how they get up and jump-start their mornings.

Stick to the Plan

Kelli Ordonia, who works as an internal operations supervisor in the residential construction industry, has never been able to go to bed until tomorrow has already started. Years of staying up late reading books, surfing the web and getting chores done have hardwired her to stay up past midnight.

A good morning starts the night before, and Ordonia sticks to a plan to make it happen.

In college, she discovered a Tumblr post that included a checklist on how to make mornings run smoothly, with to-dos to complete before going to bed. She prepares her lunch, lays out her clothes and puts her keys in the same spot.

“I go through it step-by-step in my head and I think, ‘What can I do ahead of time? Can I lay it out so it’ll be easy for me?’” says Ordonia, 28, from Winter Park, Florida. “It also helps me power down before bed.”

Get a Little Help From Your Four-Legged Friends

Night owl Michael Mann plays with his two dogs, Reagan and Theodore. Mann has sought the pups' help in getting him up in the morning. Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

For Michael Mann, an enterprise telecommunications account sales manager and life-long night owl, a cell phone alarm isn’t enough to get his morning started. That’s why he gets a little help from his four-legged friends.

When Mann’s alarm goes off, his pet pit bull Reagan licks his face, and his Italian Greyhound Theodore barks until Mann gets out of bed. And if he dares to hit the snooze button, Reagan sits on him until he’s up.

Back in college, Mann would sometimes stay up until  4 a.m. — “because, you know, it was college.” He wanted to find a way to have Reagan help him get up in the morning. So Mann started immediately walking the dog from his room to her bowl to feed her as soon as his alarm went off. After about a month, Reagan got with the program and started helping her owner get going.

“If my alarm goes off, [my dogs] know it’s food time,” says Mann, 24, who lives in Tampa, Florida. “It helps me get up because to feed them, I can’t hit snooze. I have to get on my feet.”  

Create Your Own Sunrise

As a night owl who runs her own business, Sacha Brant has the freedom to work when she feels most creative. Brant, the founder and CEO of SassyLasses.com, works late into the night building websites for growing businesses. She likes the schedule — until a client needs her early in the morning.

When Brant has to wake up before dawn to collaborate with clients several time zones ahead, she greets the day with a personal sunrise.

Brant finds sound alarms jarring, leaving her grouchy. So, she kicked her buzzing alarm clock to the curb and bought a light alarm clock. These devices are designed to mimic a sunrise by gradually illuminating over the course of a half-hour before you need to get up.

“So if I have to get up at o-dark-thirty and I really, really don't want to, I will set the [light] alarm,” says Brant, 33, from Kitimat, British Columbia. “By the time it's getting up to full strength, I'm awake, and I feel like I woke up naturally.”

“Hulk Smash” Some Water

If Sarah Snyder were a superhero, her one weakness would be “brain fog,” that groggy feeling that causes a lack of focus that can linger throughout the morning.

Battling brain fog makes it harder for 36-year-old Snyder of Austin, Texas, to run her public relations company, Powerful Approach. She obliterates brain fog by gulping from a cup featuring her favorite superhero — The Incredible Hulk.

Snyder chugs 32 ounces of water from her Hulk cup each morning after brushing her teeth. Twenty ounces is not enough, she says, and anything more than 32 is too much.

“It helps clear my brain, helps get me going and helps jump-start the day,” Snyder says. “It kind of shocks you awake a little bit, so that has been super helpful to me.”

Simplify Your Wardrobe

Ordonia lays out her outfit for the next day. Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

One of the most significant time-wasters when getting ready for work is deciding what to wear. Even if you lay out your clothes the night before, it still takes time finding all the pieces that make up your ensemble. Ordonia figured out that the best way to speed up her routine was to simplify her options.

“I’ve essentially made a uniform for myself,” she says. Each night, she chooses one of her “six or seven” company polo shirts. (She does her makeup the same way each morning, too.)  Never having to spend time choosing what to wear helps get her out the door on time.

The Power of Positive Thinking

More than six months ago, Snyder decided to try something different with her evening and morning routines. Instead of going to bed dreading to wake up, she started to consider the positives of her upcoming day.

Each night, she uses an app to record herself saying personal affirmations. She also reads from a gratitude list. In the morning, Snyder re-reads the list and listens to her affirmations — all so she can look forward to the exciting day ahead.

She recites phrases like “Today has many wonderful things I can accomplish” and “I’m a positive person.” The practice has yielded results.

“A lot of times I'll text my friends in the morning and they've noticed that I'm more cheerful and energetic,” she says. “I have noticed that it’s significantly easier for me to come straight in [in] the morning and get my work done.”

If All Else Fails, Use Hot Sauce

Mann relaxes with his wife Kelsey Jones and his dogs Reagan and Theodore before going to bed. Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

If light alarms, pets and affirmations don’t work, Brant suggests spicing up your morning. She says drinking hot sauce is one of those “in-a-pinch” strategies that will get you moving — most likely running to the sink for some water.

“If your mouth is on fire, do you think you could go back to sleep?” Brant says. “No, nobody can.”

Her husband is a hot sauce fiend who has several bottles filled with exotic liquids made from peppers ranking high on the Scoville scale.

“I don't want to start with the hot sauce if I don't have to,” she says, “but if my lazy buns don't want to get up and get going, well — happy hot sauce day.”

Matt Reinstetle is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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