early riser successful people

Why Do Successful People Wake Up Early?

If you spend enough time on LinkedIn, read Inc. or follow “Addicted to Success” style Twitter accounts, you’ll come across articles where so-n-so of XYZ corp gets up at 4 A.M. every day and attributes this to their success and productivity.

I started to notice some of my best days are when I wake up early for some reason. It could be a weird noise late at night, my daughter crying during the night, whatever it is – if I don’t go back to sleep, I’ll start working.

And it’s amazeballs how much stuff I can knock out before 8 A.M. It’s great. The only teeny issue is I start to feel tired around 10 A.M. I’ll actually take a nap if it’s bad enough. Power nap it out of me and I’m good to go the rest of the day.

The other thing that can happen, but way less often these days, is if I can get some work done after my kids go to sleep, sometimes I can have a good run for a few hours. To the point where I have to force myself to get to bed. However, I’ve noticed that after I turned 40, this is way harder for me to do. Once I put the kids down – which can be exhausting in itself, I’m usually out for the count.

What’s weird is I kinda HATE the middle of the day. Especially from 1 PM to 3:30 PM. My brother calls it the “Witching Hour” (apparently we both suffer from this). Maybe it’s because I went to go eat lunch and now there’s no blood in my brain. Or all the day’s “to-dos” are nagging at me. But once 4 PM rolls around I’m usually out of that funk for whatever reason.

This entire topic reminds me of something my Thermodynamics professor said years ago:

“Entropy is at the lowest state early in the morning.”

– Professor Samuelsen, UC Irvine

(This dude came up with the octane number. 🙂 )

Samuelsen was an early riser. And even decades ago, in the 1990s 🙂 , he noticed that most of the day’s distractions weren’t at 4 A.M. They were more prevalent at midday. So, like any good engineer, I thought it might be a good idea to graph this phenomenon.

work day distraction level vs. hour

This is an approximation for most people’s work day. You may say that your noontime actually gets less distracting. For me, it doesn’t because then I start thinking about what I want for lunch, which is yet another distraction. Plus I’m checking my email at lunch, reading Twitter, it’s bad.

Turns out the middle of the day is probably the worst time of the day to get the most stuff done for a lot of people. By 10 AM you’ve got:

  • Meetings
  • Text messages
  • Phone notifications
  • Emails! New emails! More emails coming in!
  • Other people can rearrange your day for you..

At the edges of your day, you have the least amount of distraction and probably the most productivity.

productivity level vs.hour of the day

This sucks.

The time you have set aside to actually get work done, is the worst duration to actually get work done.

So, you either have to accept this reality and work DURING NON-WORKING HOURS – which a lot of people will say is preposterous – a gross violation of workers rights 🙂 – but people do it anyway- OR You design your working hours to work for you.

Easier said than done depending on what line of work you’re in..

Some thoughts:

  • Set a time (or times) during a day to check and respond to email.
  • Turn off all phone notifications and your ringer if you can.
  • Schedule your work. Duh, shouldn’t your work get priority?
  • Tell your boss on certain days you want to work at home or in a more conducive part of the office.
  • Get noise-canceling headphones. Sound is an enemy of your productivity. You know why podcasts are so effective? Because your ears in conjunction with your brain hear and record everything. You can’t really escape it. There’s no banner blindness when it comes to podcasts & radio ads. If you want superior concentration – turn off your ears.
  • Make careful decisions about what you eat and drink. Heavy food slows you down. Too much caffeine might hurt your attention span. Booze may also have adverse effects.

So why do successful people wake up early?

I think it’s simply because, before 8 AM, there are no distractions. Everyone in their local network is still asleep and they can get sh*t done. And perhaps, most importantly, they’re fresh. They have a full tank of energy with no distractions which means the early hours will produce the best results and the highest chance of success for the day.

Waiting until 10 PM to get stuff done is dangerous. Chances are your energy will be spent. You might not be able to focus very well, and worse, you may make bad decisions.

That’s my bet.

Of course, not everyone is wired the same. I’m sure there are some uber successful people that get their best work done in the wee hours of the night. The trick is to know yourself!

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