There’s a reason so many CEOs are morning people: It’s just easier to get more done in a day when you get started before everyone else. The problem? Lots of people don’t consider themselves early risers. While it’s true that research recently showed that whether you’re a morning person or night owl may be partially genetic, it’s also true that the morning has certain advantages, especially for those in the business world who may be dealing with people in various time zones and are constantly searching for more hours in their day. Though plenty of successful people consider themselves night owls, waking up earlier is a tried-and-true strategy for those hoping to maximize their time and increase their productivity.
Why Getting Up Early Is Worth It
1. It Allows for Time to Look at The Big Picture
When you’re totally focused on your to-do list, it can be tough to set aside even a few minutes to think about overarching career objectives and strategies. “I use early morning time to consider long-term business goals and identify key things that I can do during the day that link in with them,” says Chris Speed, Managing Director at Passion Digital. “Regardless of one’s line of work, it’s very easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and not work strategically,” he adds. Setting aside time at the very beginning of the day, before your energy is depleted by tasks that require your immediate attention, ensures you’ll get time to focus on what’s truly most important to you work-wise.
2. It Can Help You Get Ahead
Regardless of what time you’re supposed to get to work, being there early tends to look good—even if it’s just on a surface level. “The truth is that people who get a head start finish first or tend to make more progress in their careers than their peers,” explains Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. “Your early morning efforts will rarely go unnoticed.” Cohen also points out that senior management often takes note when someone is putting in extra effort, which can be the little push they need to take an interest in your career.
3. It Carves Out Hours for Passion Projects
Some people are lucky enough to be incredibly passionate about their full-time jobs, but if you have a side hustle, professional certification, or graduate degree application that you’d really like to devote more time to, those early morning hours are some of the best for making that happen. “I am the founder of two startups, the first of which I started when I was still in full-time employment,” says Steph Taylor, founder of Wildbloom Creative. “I was working late in the evenings, so my only option was to get up early to work on my new business before heading off to work.” It can be challenging to focus on getting more work done in the evening after being in the office all day, so getting it done first thing in the morning means you’ll be able to give it your full attention.
How to Make It Happen
1. Create a List of What You Want to Get Done
Finding the motivation to change up your sleep schedule isn’t always easy, but laying out some concrete incentives for yourself is a great way to get the process started. “Keep a list of the things you could get done if you only had more time,” suggests Nancy Halpern, Principal at KNH Associates. These could include anything from exercising to reading for pleasure. “Then, start doing the things on your list when you get up earlier,” she says. Once you start checking things off your list feeling the benefits, like the endorphins from your new exercise routine or the fact that you’ve actually finished a book for the first time in years, you’ll start to look forward to getting out of bed.
2. Get Strict About Your Bedtime
When you wake up is undeniably linked to when you go to bed, so one of the easiest ways to start getting up earlier is to change your overall schedule. “When I have my lights out by 11pm, a 6am rising time is no problem,” says Danielle Kunkle, Vice President at Boomer Benefits. “I’ve got a clearer head when I get to work because I’ve been awake longer and I’m ultimately more productive,” she adds. As for how to get yourself to sleep when you’re used to staying up late, a major piece of the puzzle is powering down your tech at least 45 minutes before you want to be asleep. “Spend those last 40 minutes doing something calming,” Kunkle recommends. “For me, that’s reading a non-work related.” For others it could be taking a bath, writing in a journal, or spending some quality time with your significant other.
3. Have Something to Look Forward To
It’s all about the rewards. Instead of just putting work on your AM agenda, make sure to add in something that you actually like to do. “I tell clients who want to start getting up earlier to think of a small reward that can only come early in the morning,” says Sara Skillen, a Certified Professional Organizer and productivity coach. This could be heading to an exercise class that you never make it to in the evening, a brewing up special kind of coffee or tea, taking a sunrise walk with your dog, or practicing a few moments of mindfulness. “Acknowledging and appreciating the quiet potential of the morning by stepping outside or staring out a window for a ten minutes can help to set a positive intention that lasts the whole day,” Skillen notes.
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