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Never hit snooze

  • December 11, 2022
Melissa Urban in a bright yellow sweater holding up a copy of her book, The Book of Boundaries, and smiling at the camera.

I first started going to the gym regularly in 2000, when I was fresh out of rehab for my drug addiction. I knew if I wanted to create an exercise routine, I’d have to do it before the rest of the day got in the way or wore me out, so I began getting up around 5:00 AM to hit the gym before my workday started.

At the time, I was the furthest thing from a morning person. (As you might imagine, being a drug addict had me keeping strange hours, and if I was up at 5 AM, it’s because I hadn’t yet been to bed.) To create this habit, I had to become a morning person, and in that effort, I made one rule for myself. A rule I still follow today. A rule that has become one of my keystone habits, the first domino in a cascade of other healthy habit dominoes. A rule that just might change everything for you, too:

Never hit snooze.

How it started

Back in 2000, I’d set my alarm for 5:08 AM (or 5:04 AM—always an off time, so it felt more deliberate and urgent), and when my alarm would go off, I’d swing my feet out of bed and get up. No matter how groggy I was, no matter how cozy my bed felt, no matter the devil on my shoulder saying, “You can sleep another 15 minutes. What will it hurt?”

I never, not once, not ever, hit snooze. And it turns out, this strategy was accidentally genius.

First (and I didn’t know this then), habit research shows black and white rules are easier for the brain to follow. Never hitting snooze requires less executive function, and less willpower than sometimes hitting snooze. Imagine I had told myself, “Hit snooze less.” Every morning, I’d have to use my willpower to determine how much “less” was. Less than what? If I hit it three times yesterday but only twice today, is that still “less?” What if I promised myself not to hit it at all tomorrow?

That’s a lot of work, and I wasn’t even out of bed yet. Instead, I just said NEVER.

Second, never hitting snooze had an unexpected cascade effect on other habits. I immediately learned that if I didn’t have my gym clothes out the night before, I’d have to stumble around in the dark (trying not to wake my boyfriend) to find them all in the morning. So I began laying them out in the spare bedroom the night before. Having them at the ready, right down to my underwear, made it effortless to get dressed for the gym, which made it easier to stay consistent with the habit. (That “getting the clothes ready” trick is also based in habit research, it turns out.)

Given this commitment, I also started start making myself lunch the night before. It made sense, with my gym routine, that I should also start eating healthier, breaking my lunchtime habit of ordering pizza or sandwich delivery. So I began packing a simple lunch in the evenings too, which helped me eat more whole foods and save money.

I also figured out that 5 AM is awfully early if I’m still going to bed at 11 PM (or later)—the first two weeks of this new habit, I dragged myself through every damn day. But by committing to never hitting snooze on gym days, my nighttime routine organically changed. I started watching less TV, using that time to prep lunch for the next day or read a book. I began going to bed earlier, noticing that a 9:30 PM bedtime left me feeling much more rested when the alarm went off. And it was easy to say no to a cocktail at Tuesday night happy hour, knowing that 5 AM wake-up call was in my future.

This one small shift set off a cascade of new, healthy habits, all of which worked together to solidify this new image of me as a healthy gym-goer and a morning person.

How it’s going

Faster than you might imagine, this no-snooze 5 AM thing was simply a habit—one I truly enjoyed, and that set the tone for the rest of my day with a positive cascade of self-empowerment and endorphins. Today, I almost never use an alarm—I wake up around 6:30 AM no matter what, every single morning. But on days when I do need one (for early morning media or a flight), I still follow the no-snooze rule, and it still makes me feel like a productivity badass.

If you rely on an alarm in the morning, I invite you to commit to a month of no-snooze. ZERO. Not once, not even on the weekend. Set the clock for your desired wake-up time, and make your feet hit the floor as soon as it goes off. Allow yourself an immediate win for the day—you made yourself a promise, and you kept it. Glory in the extra 9, 18, 27 minutes that buys you, and do what you want with that time—journal, move your body, or start prepping for the day in a more relaxed fashion. Notice how this one small habit makes you feel about yourself.

Do you find yourself looking for other ways to keep small promises to yourself? Do you accept this proof that you are a healthy person with healthy habits? How does that self-affirmation carry over into how you show up in the world? It’s about the alarm, but as with most things, it’s about so much more than just the snooze button.

Then report back please, as I always want to know how these little self-experiments I’ve created for myself work for other people. (The Whole30 ended up working out pretty well… maybe this will too.)

XO MU

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