If you've read any generic self development advice, you've definitely come across this one idea: wake up early. Wake up early and all your problems will be solved, right?
In fact, I agree with this. I agree, completely.
If there's any action that can facilitate the other pieces of your life falling into place, this one is it. It's the backbone.
This isn't a game where you get to choose your own keystone habit, to see what works for you, to express your individuality. If you are human, you exist 24 hours per day. You need about 8 hours of sleep. Doesn't matter what bird you are or what you think your biological clock is whispering to you. This is it. This is the one habit you should have.
The reason is simple. Time is the only scarce currency you have. If you play the game right, there are 16 hours in a day (yes, excluding sleep). If you play it wrong and buffer your days with fudge time, there are 12 hours in a day.
Most people who seek the self improvement pill struggle with waking up early consistently. The human mind can be weak, and it's going to crave what it wants. Even if we know the solution to all our problems is in our hands, it's tough to commit to the process.
The solution is to stop beating yourself over this idea of waking up early. The simplest solution to waking up early is not to wake up early. It's to go to bed. If you're sleep deprived and you have a standard level willpower to wake up early, yeah, of course your mind is going to be screwed up if you wake up sleep deprived. I will say that it is possible to sustain 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night. Plenty of parents and college students do it. However, it is definitely not optimal.
If you're going to wake up at 5:00am, you should go to bed by 9:00pm. If you want to wake up at 6:00am, you should go to bed by 10:00pm. In fact, "should" is not a strong enough word. You need to go to bed. Just go to bed. When you choose to go to bed, you are in control. Going to bed is a choice.
Sometimes your obligations take precedent. Sometimes socialization takes precedent. That is fine. Sometimes you have to live in the moment. Human connection is one of the most valuable things in life, after all. Just acknowledge that you are eating into the next day. Self development isn't just about maximizing time, but pursuing things that are valuable to you in that time.
But honestly, my gosh. If you're trying to wake up early, there's one keystone habit you should have, and it's to go to bed.