Today I am writing about the benefits of early rising.
It’s 5 am. I get up most days at this time. Does that mean I have an advantage today and everyday over those who are still in their slumbers and who will rock up to work at 9 grumbling ‘don’t talk to me until I have had my coffee’? let’s explore both ends of the burning candle.
I actually wasn’t always such an early riser. In my younger years a pressing deadline would have me load up on caffeine and work until the wee small hours of the morning, but I have not done that for many years because I found that all-nighting didn’t work for me. That’s not to say I don’t work late but when it comes to about 10 in the evening, I know that for optimal functioning I need to get to bed for a good night’s sleep and an early rise.
Now I know it is not for everyone. Night owls will tell you that they feel more creative and entrepreneurial at night and that has been supported by research suggesting that ‘evening people’ have some advantages including being more creative, smarter, social and even have a better sense of humour than those of us who get up with the birds. But, for the most part the night owls will be out of sync with the typical corporate schedule.
You will have heard the Benjamin Franklin saying “Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It’s more than an adage though and, there is science to prove it. Studies have found that:
• People who go to bed late are more likely to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts whilst a good night’s sleep assists people to improve their problem solving.
• People who get out of bed early have tended to be the one who got better grades in school, which get them into better colleges, which then lead to better job opportunities. They’re proactive and countless studies have linked this trait with better job performance and career success.
• Early-risers tended to be more persistent, cooperative, agreeable and conscientious – obviously characteristics which make people more likable, disciplined, appreciative, and eager to learn
• Getting plenty of sleep strengthens your immune system and keeps you energized enough so that you can exercise. Morning people tend to be healthier and happier as well as having lower body mass indexes.
• Early risers don’t procrastinate as much as people who stay up later.
And of course, the number one reason for anyone who is as shallow as me...
• A good night’s sleep makes you look better. A study conducted in Sweden found that those who appeared tired are also more likely to be perceived as unhealthy and less attractive!
There is a new book on the bestseller self-development shelf called ‘The 5am Club’ written by Robin Sharma (for those into success literature, motivation and spiritual subjects, you may know the author from the book ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’). I have been pipped at the post if my intention was to write a bestseller about my early morning routine and how I think it serves me. In this book he proposes, as I would have, that you should wake up every day at 5 am if you want to feel more energized and productive. Loads of successful people know this: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple starts his morning at 3.45am. Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck wakes at 4am and Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Indra Nooyi also all rise at the crack of dawn. I am psychologically bolstered knowing the company I keep but it’s not new stuff - Mozart, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ernest Hemingway are examples in history of people who all felt the benefits of getting up early.
So how does it work? Well firstly, let me tell you what it isn’t and that is jumping out of bed and cranking furiously on the emails to get a jump on your workmates and competitors. Sharma proposes a detailed routine which he claims has helped billionaires, superstar athletes and other successful people. He calls it his 20/20/20 formula, separating the first waking hour up into 20-minute modules to make up what he calls a “Victory Hour.”
So here is how it breaks down: The first 20 minutes of your day are for sweaty exercise. There are reasons why perspiring and getting your heart rate up early in the morning are so good for you. What in effect happens is that you increase your feel-good dopamine and serotonin levels and kick-start your metabolism while lowering your levels of cortisol, which is essentially a stress hormone. So far, so good.
While the exercise piece is a pretty specific and, in Sharma’s terms, a ‘non-negotiable’, piece of the 5 am puzzle, the reflection portion allows more creativity for you to do what is most comfortable for you. The next 20-minute block is all about being quieter, and during this time you meditate, fill in your journal, pray, plan your day, contemplate etc. This is about aligning your mind, heart and soul for the day ahead which will inevitably throw all sorts of challenges and stress at you. This period is also about showing gratitude and tuning into happiness and the research is very clear on how much a daily discipline of gratitude affects happiness and overall well being. For this reason, one part that Sharma insists should be included in your second 20 minutes is journaling. Writing down your goals, plans, commitments, and the things for which you are grateful and will shape your day more positively.
The final 20 minutes allow for even more personal design and customisation. Called the “Grow” period. This time is allotted for you to learn anything (for me it is French) but for you it will be whatever it is you feel like. It can be watching a Ted Talk, reading about success in business, The 5am Club, articles, podcasts etc. ...it’s about stimulating your brain and improving your intellectual capabilities.
My colleague asked me the other day ‘do you ever hit the snooze button?’. I’d have loved to say never, but I am not perfect. Sometimes I admit to doing the 20/20/20/20 routine and that’s for the extra little lie-in allowance!
So sue me!