Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Health

How I Created A Habit Loop To Become A Morning Person

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

I used to wake up 30 minutes before I started work and would have to eat breakfast at my desk. Now I wake up at 6 am every morning. Here’s how I did it. 

During my last two CO-OP internships, working from home meant that my sleep schedule took a serious hit. This past month, I decided to get my life together and fix that before I start my next placement in September. I didn’t want to wake up too late and rush just to get ready every day; I wanted to be that girl who woke up early, had her little morning routine figured out, and genuinely felt good about herself every day because she prioritized her well-being. This is where the habit loop came in. Coined by Charles Duhigg in his book, “The Power of Habit”, it involves a cue, an action, and a reward. I knew I needed to get up early to have enough time to get ready for work, so I set myself a bedtime for 10 pm – that was when I had to be in bed, lights out, almost falling asleep – so I could get my eight hours before waking up at 6:30 am. That would allow me to do my whole morning routine at my own pace – which included going for a walk and having breakfast at my dining room table – so I could sit down at my desk by 9am, ready to start my workday without feeling rushed. 

As a friendly reminder, you don’t need to follow this exact schedule if that doesn’t rock your boat. This just happens to be what works for me and what makes me feel good personally, so I stick with it. 

Having a successful early morning starts with your night routine, so that was where my cue started. My personal mantra is “If I go to bed happy, I’ll wake up happy.”, and nothing makes me happier than curling up in bed with a good book after doing my nightly skincare routine and putting on my comfy pajamas that look like an Adam Sandler fit, with my window open and my Dyson fan on. However, one of my biggest struggles was being disciplined enough to put my phone down at night and get ready for bed. My cue was using the downtime setting on my phone to lock all my social media apps at 7:30 each night. I set it for this time specifically because I wanted to be in bed by 9pm every night to read and write in my journal, so this would give me enough time to get ready for bed. 

So every night at 7:30, my action/thought process after that cue was, “Okay, no more TikTok tonight, time to get ready for bed.” and I would head to my bathroom to shower, brush my teeth, and do my skincare routine. Now it was seriously tempting to just click that “Ignore Time Limit For Today” option and just continue scrolling to my heart’s content all night, so I had to give myself a reward. I did this by finding things to look forward to in my night routine. Like I said before, getting to put on my pajamas and reading a book that I really enjoyed were things that brought me joy. I didn’t have much time to read during the day, so it was exciting to curl up in bed every night and pick up where I left off because I wanted to see what would happen next. 

The other thing that helped me was creating a monthly habit tracker in Notion, but this can also be done with an app or even simply a pen and paper. I created a table with a column to show the habit of lights out by 10pm every night with a corresponding checkbox next to each day of the month. At the bottom, there was an option to calculate the percentage of boxes that were checked. It was basically like creating a game for myself, with the goal to reach 100% on all the boxes by the end of the month. Talk about a reward, right?

It was also important that I set up my environment for success. Every night when my downtime would start, I put my phone to charge on the opposite side of my room, away from my bed, so I could avoid the temptation of ignoring my screen limit and keep scrolling once I was in bed. This also forced me to physically get up out of bed to turn my alarm off in the morning, which made it so much harder to press snooze since I didn’t want to keep getting up every ten minutes to turn it off. Other cues I set up in my environment were turning off the overhead light in my bedroom early on in the evening and closing the curtains to block out the light, since the sunset was not until after 8:30pm most nights. There’s definitely some neuroscience behind this, but simply put, making my environment darker made it easier for my brain to register that the day was ending and it was time to go to sleep. 

Over the course of a few weeks, I slowly started setting my alarm to go off 15 minutes earlier. I knew I would have an easier time sticking to my routine if I made small, incremental changes. In three weeks, I went from waking up at 6:30 to waking up at 6am. 

After I established a consistent sleep schedule, it became much easier to incorporate other habits through habit stacking and using the same concept of the habit loop because I had a consistent routine that I could rely on. Once I started waking up early, that left me more time in the morning to go on a walk, work out, and have a calm breakfast rather than rushing to eat at my desk during my morning meeting. Putting my phone on the other end of the room also made it easier to avoid using my phone in the morning so I could do all my tasks in peace. After a while, I completely lost the urge to grab my phone and open social media first thing in the morning. I’ve only been consistent with my routine for the past three weeks and I’ve already started seeing the benefits of it. I have more energy throughout the day to do what I want to do and I’m able to be productive because I can stay focused for longer periods of time, which will be huge when my placement starts. 

It just goes to show that habits are built one small step at a time. Now I’m at a point where my morning and night routine just feel like second nature to me, and I find myself craving the feeling it gives me rather than wanting to stay up late. 

Nina Popovic is a fourth-year student majoring in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, and minoring in Communications at the University of Ottawa.