I finally found the secret to waking up early

Now that I am finally writing again, I’m so excited to tell you what’s been happening. And I have all these pictures I took, thinking, this will be good for the blog. But then I didn’t write anything.

You can’t get stuff done if you don’t plan an exact time of day you’re going to do it. So I planned to wake up and write before the boys get up.`

When the boys were little I’d try this and they’d use their child radar to wake up the second I was awake. So I gave up writing in the morning. And anyway, I decided it can’t be true be that people who wake up early are higher performers because caretakers of little kids wake up early for years and it kills their career.

But now my kids are older. So I tried again.

And it turns out my son wakes up extra early every day, so he can have time alone before I start bugging him about making sure he a to-do list to meet goals for his day. And to play video games.

It was sobering to watch him. First of all, I realized how important alone time is for him. He’s willing to get up hours before everyone else in order to get it. I also learned that he needs a break from me harping on the idea of always having goals and working toward them.

I wish I had something I was so excited to do that I’d wake up early for. I read a study from Northwestern that shows that people who go outside early have a lower BMI. If anything would get me to wake up early, surely it would be losing weight.

But it just felt like all the other stuff you need to do to be thin: It all takes self-discipline. And besides, staying up late shopping online is so easy. I am not making this up. We are more irresponsible as the day wears on, which means surely everyone is doing their most ill-advised shopping at night. And when I do that, it’s even harder to wake up early.

There is nothing making me wake up. And when I don’t wake up, my younger son doesn’t wake up. And we had to tell the cello teacher that a 10am lesson is hard for us to make. And really, that is incompetent. And I don’t want my son to have a childhood like mine where he doesn’t have normal sleeping hours.

So I told him he has to get up. He’s old enough to wake himself up.

But he doesn’t do that. And I am not even awake to yell at him that he’s not awake.

Sometimes, when we really have to be somewhere the next morning, I stay up all night. Which not only ensures we get there in time, but also, sleep deprivation is a natural anti-depressant, and I feel it: I get tons done between 3am and 5am. It’s my sweet spot when I’m sleep deprived.

I tried to convince myself people do not need to wake up early. I reminded myself how much I hate productivity gurus and their early-morning hours. But I’m still frustrated with myself. I need to feel like I must wake up at a certain time or I’m in trouble. I think that’s how my older son wakes up. He gets no alone time if he doesn’t wake up an hour earlier. That’s urgency for him.

I need urgency.

Then I coached someone who told me she hired someone to come to her apartment and wake her up every day at 6am. Research says it takes 66 days to establish a habit, so she hired the person for two months. She gave the person a key, and she had the person bring a hot coffee as well. She ended up needing them for longer than two months, but it worked.

And that sounds great. And just as I was gearing up to do that I realized that I could just schedule coaching sessions every day at 7am. I’d wake up to do the coaching session.

I have scheduled early sessions before, but usually it’s because people request it. Now that could be my go-to coaching time. But how to line up so many people in a row to talk at 7am?

Then I had an idea. I have said for the last ten years that I’d never discount coaching sessions because it’s the road to hell. Or a slippery slope. Or whatever the expression is to connote disaster. But now I’m discounting coaching sessions because I need help waking up.

So to help me build my new routine, I’m going to offer coaching sessions for $150 each. The fee is usually $350. You can book a session for either 7am Eastern or 10pm Eastern. And this way I will use coaching sessions to establish a waking up routine and a going to bed routine. And you can use the coaching session to figure out your best next steps, or rewrite your resume, or start meeting your goals.

And if you don’t book the session for $150 in the next week, don’t ask me for the reduced fee later. Because by then I will be master of my sleep schedule and coaching sessions will be back to $350. Forever. To get the discount again y0u will have to wait until I’m 85 years old and inflation has made $350 only worth $150.

To get a coaching session pay $150 via this link

Then email me whether you want a morning or evening time and when in the next month you can do it. This offer is only good for one week.

72 replies
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hm. I didn’t think of multiple sessions. Almost everyone gets what they need in a single coachig session with me. And I don’t hear from them until they have a new problem. But as long as you use the sessions during my 66 days, you can buy as many sessions as you want.


  1. E
    E says:

    Studies have also shown that teenagers/growing kids need to sleep in in the morning. Please take that into account with your other son. (Also – those who tend to be night owls also tend to be more creative…) Both sides have their pluses/minuses. Listening to your body seems to be the best bet here.

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Your posts always spark a whole bunch of thoughts.

    1. I, too, am very productive in the insomnia-fueled pre-dawn hours. Around 2 am is when I decide that if I’m not going to sleep anyway, I might as well do stuff. I’ve written the guts of more blog posts than I can count in the wee hours. And back when I lived alone, if you came to my house and it was spotless it was a sign that I wasn’t sleeping. Now I live with my wife and her two youngest children and I’m not going to wake them up by running the vac at 3 am.

    2. I’d like to say that I get up early (5 am) for alone time before everyone else is up, but I did it when I lived alone, too. I am not a morning person at all, but there’s also something specially peaceful about the dawn hours. I like to experience them. I’m super slow to get going in the morning. So rising early, making coffee and a little breakfast, and reading some blog posts and online comic strips is a great way for me to get my mind started. And then I write or process photos (which both take about the same amount of brain energy for me) until it’s time to go to work.

    3. I can’t imagine retiring. I like to work too much. But if I ever do, I will sleep until 7 every day and then spend the first three hours of my day at my computer writing.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Night owl here. I am usually still up at 4 am when your posts go out. The first couple of times I thought maybe you were up too, but then realized that they were scheduled.

      A couple of weeks ago I stopped at the Zville exit on my way from Madison to Chicago and waved to you. I used to wave towards the farm at Penelope, but then she moved. :D

  3. David INTP
    David INTP says:

    Is the take-home here that you’re so undisciplined to get going in the morning that you need us to pay you to help you do it?

    Wow. I’m going to try that line of thinking with my boss today. I’ll report back in next week and you can tell me how to look for a job.

  4. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    If you have the luxury of setting your own schedule, why wouldn’t you work within your own circadian rhythms? That said, REM timing (waking up at the end of a 90 min REM cycle), regular energy healing, and daily meditation has made it easy for me to rise between 4 and 6 am with no alarm feeling rested even if I only have 3 hours of sleep. Teenagers have different body clocks – my ideal sleep schedule was 4am-4pm during my most intense growth phases. Let him sleep. I’m excited for my coaching call!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think about this question all the time. I do let the kids sleep in, but I also want them to fit in with the world around them.

      Its hard to cmtantly handle reprimands from adults who unintentionally (I think) undermine my decisions. They have asked my kids things like, “If you spend so much time practicing how do younhave a normal childhood?” or “How are you learning math?” or “Why aren’t you at home doing school if you’re homeschooled” and now “When will you be old enough to hamdle getting up with an alarm clock?”

      To be honest Inget sick of it. And people are really really judgy about a family that sleeps til 11am. And when we get up in the morning affects how my kids’ tutors/teachers treat them.

      I have thought of telling the kids to lie, but if I tell the kids to lie about how we live, the implication is we are doing something wrong. So, in am effort to fit in and get good responses from the adults in my kids’ lives, I am aiming for the kids to wake up at 8am.


      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Early riser here. More often than not and my preference is to go to bed early and wake up early. It’s what works for me. However, everybody is different and should be responsible to set schedules that work best for them.
        My Dad was an early riser – 4:30 – 5 A.M. so I take after him. I remember being in bed and smelling the breakfast he was making including coffee. That smell and knowing he was awake inspired me to get out of bed. Now it’s just part of my daily routine.
        You’re still getting a lot of lame questions about homeschooling. That behavior isn’t going to go away. If the questions seem out of line or too intrusive, you could point out for example that your sons are not learning math, they’re practicing it. The stuff they already learned at home. Give them something to think about.
        I remember you used to have polls on this blog. An interesting poll question would be when people wake or when they feel most productive during the day.

  5. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    I’m one of those people who likes to stay up late and sleep in late. I get up and get to work by 8 a.m. during the week, but on the weekends it’s not unusual for me to wake up at 11:30 a.m. and I love it :-) My husband is the same way.

  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    What kind of dog is that in the pictures. I have one who looks like that. He’s a toy fox terrier and italian greyhound mix.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    There is a lot of chemistry (biochemistry) involved in sleep-wake.

    The 3 men sharing the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine this year did work on circadian rhythms. They worked on genes, which work (generally speaking) is pretty much useless for understanding one’s own personal problems. In this case, sleep patterns.


    Some of the substances involved at the biochemistry end of things, that are now known, are for example, melatonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), adenosine. Probably others.

    Not a straightforward issue. And trying to wrench yourself into a different “clock” setting may work eventually, but will it hold? What was the experience of the person you talked about — was she able to maintain?

  8. MichaelG
    MichaelG says:

    My problem is that time of day means nothing to my body. So I tend to just stay up 18 hours, then sleep for 7, and my hours cycle around the clock. I’m currently trying (again) to stop doing that, since it is kind of annoying. But I’ve been this way for decades, so I have little hope.

  9. me
    me says:

    “There is nothing making me wake up.”

    I’d love to have a coach help me figure out what the hell I want to do now that I’m retired, but I’d first need to have some inkling of what I want to do.

    Damn that whole chicken/egg thing.

    P.S. Love that youre posting so often lately(!): keep it up. Seems I need your words more than ever these days ….

  10. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    So wrong. Sleep deprivation is a very temporary anti depressant and we’re talking up all night. Every study shows less sleep equals fatter and sadder ESP for people with imbalance. I’m bipolar and need 9 hrs not to bite anyone’s head up. Long time ago read that bipolar need more sleep and enjoy hot showers. That’s me!!!

  11. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    I am a night shopaholic but honestly creativity comes out at night. Every creative person I know thrives late at night. Let’s take a poll!

  12. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Bluntly: given that you mentioned in this very post that humans are most productive in the morning and prone to a drop-off later in the day, would an evening call with you be less effective than the morning call? (7am is actually 4am out here in the lefty states).

  13. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I’ve started waking up earlier the last three weeks and I feel so much better. I used to sleep till 9 or 10 but now I’m up around 7 and it totally affects my mood for the better.

    I hope the early coaching calls works for you!! And people should really sign up for that great price!!!

    Missed you and your writing.

  14. Gary Brown
    Gary Brown says:

    I’ve always liked your blogs — entertaining, informative, really makes the reader think… And this time I’m super impressed with the way this post evolves from a fun and interesting survey of ways to wake up early into a marketing pitch — awesome!

  15. Mysentiments
    Mysentiments says:

    I could never wake up early by choice. 11am is late for a weekday. You miss so much of the business hour day. And light. I get up 11am sat sun Bc I must catch up on sleep. Get up 830 weekdays and my kids get chaufffered to school even though they could walk. Our school starts relatively late so I’m lucky. Once I’m up I can’t fall back so many days it’s 5-6 hrs. I am so freaking productive in the wee hours. I don’t think people are uniform. I once read our ancestors did not go to bed at dark like we think and just conk out till dawn . They were constantly woken by threats. Penelope do what is best for you. Tune out the naysayers. Get up early get up late. Your kids no ones business but yours and dad honey

  16. Mysentiments
    Mysentiments says:

    I’m new here but if $150 hour is your discount rate and people pay you $350 an hour to talk you’re my new idol

  17. Mysentiments
    Mysentiments says:

    I’m a wee sad though you should want to make friends too for free! You seem like you’d be super cool to hang with. What exactly do you do for fun?

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      LOL. How long have you been around this blog? She works for fun. Making money is how she has fun. If people aren’t willing to participate in that with her in some way, they’re probably not cut out to be her friend.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Thank you for understanding me!
        But also, this is really classic ENTJ behavior. And most people don’t come into contact with ENTJs, precisely because ENTJs only want to make money and don’t care about anything else. Understanding what drives people and why they do what they do makes each of us better in our own lives.

        And actually, it’s a reason I love coaching – I learn so much about people who I would not normally come into contact with.


  18. Mysentiments
    Mysentiments says:

    I have your problem but on weekends with events. People seem to think I’m weird for not wanting to get up early sat or sun. My kids want to sleep till noon. They’re awful sleepers and stay up till 11;30pm no matter when they go in. It’s almost 1 and I’m not the least bit Tired. I try to force myself to get 6 hours. Any less and I’m a cranky monster.

    • Andrea
      Andrea says:

      From what I’ve gathered, really LISTENING and then calmly cutting through your own layers of why-stuff-isn’t-getting-done and showing you your roadblocks. You might need to come up with solutions that work for you.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Being honest, ok? The people who are closest to you know what your problems are and what you should be doing. But they are scared they’ll hurt your feelings. They don’t want to disappoint you.

      I am not scared of that. And also, I can see you very quickly because I see patterns in people. My gift is seeing the patterns very quickly and not caring if I hurt your feelings with the truth.


  19. Cecelia
    Cecelia says:

    Here’s my trick. Drink a ton before bed. It wakes me at like 7:30. I’m serious. Then I splash super cold water on my face and walk a little. Impossible to go back after that. Also open blinds. We get light signals to get up. I’ve been up between 530 and 8 most of my adult life. 530 was awful it was often still very dark. Leaving blinds open can help. They also have these natural light alarm clocks but I’ve never used one. I sleep w blinds open. The light also helps wake me

  20. May
    May says:

    “Because by then I will be master of my sleep schedule and coaching sessions will be back to $350. Forever. To get the discount again y0u will have to wait until I’m 85 years old and inflation has made $350 only worth $150.”

    Penelope, I love you. I think you’re so funny!

    I decided to give up on the normal sleep schedule life and stuck to a job that works with MY sleep wants.. nightshift work. I know it’s researched as “bad for your health” though, so I wonder if this is really a good idea longterm even if it works well in every other way (the decrease in social interactions is a plus).

    I am also INTJ with the aspergs so I definitely understand your son’s intense need for alone time. This is why I chose to work the nightshift. I also instantly became a happier and more consistent worker when I changed locations and was around less coworkers.

    How will this have to change when I have kids though? Hmm..

  21. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    Some ideas:
    I get more done if cut my goals for the day by half.

    Someone told me a good way to wake up is to put an alarm clock in a tin basin, and then put it outside your brother’s door.

    Sometimes I put my clock far away so that I have to walk. I think instead of a snooze alarm folks could just put a second clock by the door.

    What worked when I was young was setting my alarm for the very, very last minute so that I would lie awake with an instant go-no go decision. If I rolled over with no-go then I could sleep blessedly with no further guilt to get up. That was when I didn’t have to go to work, but had other projects.

  22. Hendo
    Hendo says:

    I think it’s good to try to model getting up at different times of day for your kids. My parents are very early early birds: my dad grew up on farms, my mum lived by the beach and went fishing and swimming a lot. So they trained my brother and I to go to bed early and to wake early. It suited them for their schedule and for our school – for the six years of high school we had to catch a bus to the next town, there was only one bus and it was an hour round trip. (I still have anxiety dreams about missing the bus, I never once missed it in reality.)

    However, this has meant that as an adult I CANNOT sleep in. And I can’t function in the fun world of staying up late and dancing (I do a lot of dancing) and watching tv at night and parties etc. I can’t. I can nap – I think that’s a genetic thing too – my mum sleeps poorly and naps, and so do I. So if I want to do something fun at night, I have to nap in the afternoon.

    It also doesn’t really work for being an office worker (although who does it work for really, no one). I wake up super early even if I’m exhausted because I was trained to wake with the sun… but I can’t really get to work early. So I’m awake but then I’m exhausted by 1pm. Dumb.

    Anyway. I think it is great to not judge your kids for their natural sleep pattern (or yourself), but I also think it is a very good idea to help them learn how to wake up early. Because I really wish my parents had relaxed their sleep schedule occasionally to allow me to stay up late and sleep in late. Realistically they’re going to go to uni or have jobs where they will have to get up in the mornings… even a person who picks a late night job (say sound tech) will still have early morning things to do sometimes (catching a flight, driving interstate).

  23. jessica
    jessica says:

    Since having kids, as most, my world changed. My personal and sleeping goals’ shifted to be up before the kids. Sleep is very important and I started to prioritize it. Normally we all wake up around the same time- 630-7am. Of course that means when they go to bed consistently around 8-9, that I’m exhausted and to bed right after. In fact, it’s so ingrained now, I’ve noticed that if I do some late shopping I can feel my body start to fall asleep while I’m out. It took a while to adjust from being a late sleeper, but definitely possible! My days are much better, as well.

  24. Charlene
    Charlene says:

    I understand how generous a discount this is but the cost is still about two days work for me; so if you could chuck me a holding email or something,it would greatly reduce my anxiety. Many thanks Charlene ENFJ (but you knew that right)

  25. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thank you for the offer. I can relate to Charlene because a $150 coaching call is worth 5 days of work for me, and there seems to be no money back guarantee.

  26. Emma
    Emma says:

    Making a Plan and sticking to it is very important, Everyone is built different, some of us are Morning people, a lot of people are Night owls,
    I think you offering your coaching sessions at a lower fee, is wonderful.
    You have set a plan, I wish you luck!

  27. Arjan
    Arjan says:

    As one Aspie to the other: Maybe think a litte bit outside the box of time :-)? It is 1 pm (13:00) in the Netherlands when it is 7 am (07:00) in New York, though this variates a litte due to “summer daylight saving time”.

    My point being: there are a lot of native speakers and/or other persons with a good grasp of English as a second language in Europe and beyond, who are wide awake when it is 7 am in the USA. So why limit yourselve to the US?
    Although I must admit that both $350 or $150 are way to steep for me (Asperger, married with children but without a job).

  28. Love Shayari
    Love Shayari says:

    Being an HR and a startup blogger, I also found the same hurdles and finally maintained discipline to reach at 5 am daily even on weekends. Believe me, this 5am addicted pattern changed my life…weight loss…control BMI.. discipline enough..and can feel 24hours of truly inspiring everyday…which others can’t…this is life. thanks to find my mirror image.

  29. saleem property
    saleem property says:

    Nice article. Sleeping early and wake up at expected time is nothing less than art. i personally suffered from late night sleeping in past years. Now just a full stop to thoughts takes me to a deep sleep..

  30. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Your body/brain doesn’t want to wake up early. So don’t. Why not quit fighting your natural rhythm? You’re prob more productive at a different time – not mornings. You can afford to follow your natural rhythm. You’re lucky.

  31. Azeem Khan
    Azeem Khan says:

    In order to stay busy on must adopt such habits and waking up early boost you up and make your immune system work properly.
    You are doing a great job by posting this article and boosting different people to wake up early in the morning.

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