Nate Wienert

Developer, Designer. Creator of 2u.fm, GameGum & obtvse.

Remove your alarm safety-net & fix your sleep

A few months ago I made a small change to how I set my alarm clock that has given me a huge boost in productivity. I didn’t realize how much benefit it’s brought me until a brief conversation I had with a co-worker today.

His story is common. He told me how he used to keep extra weight off by waking up a little early and doing crunches. I asked him why he didn’t anymore and his response was “I don’t have time. I snooze my alarm until I absolutely have to get up […]”.

I used to do this to. I work at 9am every day and would try and get into the office by 8:45 at the latest. For me, I have a range of times I can get up by in order to do this:

  1. 7:45AM - “Early”. Check some morning email, take a long shower, eat a quick breakfast.
  2. 8:00AM - My ideal time. Enough for a quick shower and the essential morning routines.
  3. 8:10AM - I’ll miss 8:45, but won’t be “late” to work.

Now, I used to set my alarm clock for 7:25 AM. That was my goal, to be a “early riser”. But every day I’d snooze it, and snooze it, and I’d say I would only get up by 8 AM maybe 80% of the time. The other times I’d wake up later. Sometimes I’d even accidentally hit “Dismiss” instead of “Snooze” and miss the whole morning!

A few months ago I decided to try a little experiment. I changed my alarms to go off one at 8:00 AM and one at 8:05 AM. I wanted no room for error; either I got up for my alarm, or I was late. The other thing I did was to disable the snooze. My theory was that knowing I had to get up would help with my consistency.

And, it worked. Every morning when my alarm sound, I had no choice. Like my mom in middle school throwing open my bedroom windows and bellowing to me to “GEEEET UPPP”, I was absolutely forced into getting up (without all the pain of bright lights shining in my eyes).

But it also had other unintended positive effects. It enforced consistency. I wasn’t getting up at 7:25 or 7:35 or 7:45 or whenever the hell I could muster it.. I was getting up at 8 or 8:05 every single day.

I have more energy. I’m getting an extra 30 minutes of sound sleep every day that I was snoozing through before.

And here’s another big insight. Instead of checking my alarm clock when I woke up every day I found myself just turning it off and getting up. It didn’t matter the time anymore, when it goes off, it’s time to be up!

Since then I’ve tweaked my routine. I changed to just one alarm at exactly 8. Before I’d occasionally get up at the 8:05 one, but once again, by removing that safety net I was being even more consistent.

After a couple months of doing this I’ve not gone ahead and moved my alarm to 7:45 AM. What’s awesome is because I have a habit of not checking my alarm clock, I don’t even think about it. To me, it’s not 7:45, it’s time to get the fuck up. No different than it was before. And I’ve yet to wake up late!

I get up every single time, at the same time, and now I even enjoy a more comfortable morning routine!