“The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day,” said Henry Ward Beecher

Mornings can be rough, especially if you’re not the type of person who jumps out of bed ready to take on the day.

But it feels great to be up early almost every day, especially when you know you’ll put those early morning hours to good use.

You’ll be able to exercise, shower, meditate, eat a healthy breakfast, read some inspiring material, and invest an hour in your passion project — all before 8 am.

And you know that the habit of starting each day this way brings out the best in you.

Maintaining this habit is easy for you. It now feels normal and natural to be alert and active at this time.

If this scenario closely matches your current daily reality, you can stop reading now. But if it sounds like pure fantasy, then read on…

Aristotle once said, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”

What you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day.

I am a huge fan of early morning hours. I’m a habitual early riser. I do my best writings in the mornings.

I love the idea of having a solid morning routine to ease me into a clear-minded, active, and productive day.

According to psychologist Ron Friedman, the first three hours of your day are your most precious for maximized productivity.

Morning routines are great. No one likes being thrust into the day in a stressed, frazzled state of mind. You want a calm, deliberate morning that mentally prepares you for everything you have to do that day.

“Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days — which inevitably create a successful life — in the same way that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life,” says Hal Elrod, author of “The Miracle Morning.

It pays to get a strong start to each day while feeling alert, awake, and motivated. Waking up early puts you firmly in control of each day.

Early risers have the competitive advantage over everyone else. They consistently begin their day with focus, clarity, and action.

Your morning routine can automatically set the routine of habits that famous, successful people use.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, told The Guardian that he was “not a big sleeper” and wakes up at 5 a.m. or 5:15 a.m. every day to workout, read, tinker with AOL’s products, and answer emails.

According to a New York Times profile, General Motors CEO Mary Barra was regularly at the office by 6 a.m., and that was before she even became CEO.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt told Fortune that he gets up at 5:30 in the morning every day for a cardio workout, during which he reads the papers and watches CNBC.

With the right strategy, your early mornings can be as productive as everyone else who makes the most of their mornings.

You can be an early riser. It’s hard to find a pattern that works for you but it’s not impossible.

Chances are that you already have a well-established wake-up ritual, but it may not be the one you want.

1. Create a pre-sleep ritual

Your evening ritual determines the success of your morning routine.

The last few things you do before bed tend to have a significant impact on your mood and energy level the next day, as they often determine how well and how much you sleep.

The time before you go to bed is an ideal time to prepare yourself for the morning. Bedtime rituals can make or break your morning routine.

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault ends his evenings by writing down three things he wants to accomplish the next day.

Find a relaxing activity just before bed. Reading helps. Puzzles can also calm you. Whatever the activity, try to avoid a TV or phone screen too close to bedtime. They emit a blue light, which suppresses melatonin (a hormone made by a small gland in the brain).

Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles.

Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours.

Your body has its own internal clock that controls your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. Don’t suppress it. Help yourself to sleep better.

Vivian Giang suggests that you declare your bedroom a “device-free zone” and leave all tablets, smartphones, and other computer-related devices elsewhere.

Don’t eat late. If your body is still digesting food when you’re trying to get to sleep, you’ll have a tougher time falling asleep and wake up feeling worse off than if you just stayed hungry.

Once you get your evening routine down and get used to going to bed at a certain time, you should be able to get up earlier as a result.

2. Experiment and find your own unique routine

This is the most important principle of all. If your current method of getting up each morning doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t work, try something else.

As you experiment, seek improvement, not perfection.

What works for Elon Musk may not work for you.

Find minor tweaks that work a little bit better, and repeat. Aim for small gains, not big returns. Changing your body’s sleep rhythm is hard.

It’s important to make slow progress without huge costs to your health. Be patient in developing this skill. There’s no rush.

There will be an adaptation period if you’re shifting your wake-up time, so give it time whilst your body adjust to the new routine.

If you’re fighting overwhelming fatigue or if getting up early seems virtually impossible, cut back a few minutes each morning, not hours.

If your alarm goes off at 8 am at the moment, try 7.45am, not 6 am.

And then 7.30am after a couple of days.

Start slowly, by waking just 15–30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.

It will take some time to adjust, but the effects on your energy will be minimal, plus it’s the most enjoyable and it has a lower chance of failure.

Think about what you could do with that extra time. Even an extra 30 minutes per day is enough to exercise daily, read a book or two each month, meditate daily, or start a passion project that could become your life’s work.

Start slowly until your body adjusts to the new routine.

By starting small you focus on making the behavior automatic before you worry about making the behavior big enough that it produces a useful outcome.

I experimented with a few different things in the past and figured out what worked for me. You should do the same. Soon you’ll know what things work for you, and you’ll enjoy starting your day.

Practice makes permanent.

One way to make mornings easier is to give yourself something to look forward to when you get up. Plan your morning the night before.

You can also reward your positive morning’s habits. It’s a great motivator. Give yourself a happy reason to wake and you’ll be less inclined to roll over and sleep.

Benjamin Franklin’s meticulous “scheme” consisted of waking up at 5 a.m. and asking himself, “What good shall I do this day? And at the end of the night, Franklin asked himself, “What good have I done today?”

According to Laura Vanderkam in her book, “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” “The best morning rituals are activities that don’t have to happen and certainly don’t have to happen at a specific hour. These are activities that require internal motivation.”

Early morning alertness is a great habit to develop, and it will serve you well for decades.

Your daily morning routine is the foundation for your life. If you start off each day with an arbitrary script, then you’re going to get random results.

Mastering your mornings will set the tone for your entire day. Once you’ve experienced how good it feels, you’ll never want to go back.

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly. It’s my FREE weekly digest of the best posts around the web about life, productivity, becoming the best version of yourself, and my best post of the week. Subscribe here. Join 20,000+ readers.

Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com