I am an early riser, always have been. Even on weekends, I tend to wake early. A standard weekday for me involves waking between 4:30am to 5am. Usually, I do this without an alarm although I always set my alarm for 7am as a back-up, just in case. I rarely need it. Weekends usually see me up and about by 6am. I must admit though, I do love a good siesta on weekends.
This is a routine I have followed for years, actually for as long as I can remember. Initially, it was to keep up with the demands of a high paced consulting workload with IBM. But while those days definitely required an alarm clock to get moving, the last six years as an entrepreneur has seen an internal drive grow within me. That drive, the passion I have for the business and community we are building enables me to wake up happy, enthusiastic and raring to go. I go to sleep purposefully with the intent to get the best night’s sleep so I can to ensure I can wake up fresh. Because when I am awake, I can work on what I really love doing!
So, what are the benefits (for me) of waking early?
I am at my absolute best in the early hours of the morning. My thoughts are clear and there are no distractions. Without disturbances, I clear my emails. I review the progress of the work of my team. I catch up on news. But I primarily tend to use this time, my most productive time, for planning. I set a plan for the day. I create medium and long term plans and do plenty of research. This builds enthusiasm and energy so I can charge into the day full steam.
I often get more done in the early mornings than I do in other “peak” times of the day.
The life of an entrepreneur is challenging to say the least and having the tools and techniques to manage stress is very important. Setting aside the Time Doctor, the tool that I use when it comes to my team’s time management, one of the key factors for me in managing a heavy workload is to try and work in a manner that means that the very way I work is a tool to manage stress. Let me explain that. For example, one of a person’s primary trigger points for stress is email. Who knows what (and how much of it) will sit in that dreaded inbox when you open it at the start of your work day? From a volume and content perspective, managing email can be a stressful process. To the point where we now see many people who constantly check emails around the clock to stay on top of things. This is not sustainable and will only increase stress over time.
I can get into a lot of detail about how I manage my inbox (and yes, it is important as an entrepreneur that you have do have techniques to manage your inbox effectively), but from a “starting early” perspective, how does this help manage stress?
Firstly, clearing my inbox before the start of the day allows me to enter into my real business activities unhindered (remember, your role is not just to send and respond to emails). I make a point of entering the day with as clear an inbox as possible.
Secondly, answering emails in the early hours of the morning usually means I am working when my peers are not. This reduces the likelihood of getting involved in back and forth emails, you know, those email “conversations”. Answering when others are not around usually means I can give a more considered response and hopefully get one in reply if required.
Thirdly, responding in the early hours usually means that any emails I have received that have an “emotional” element to them, and yes we all receive them, can be managed without emotion. For example, I am sure that you have been the recipient of an angry email from a client, staff member or co-worker before. Replying straight away, regardless of the response is usually counter-productive as you are likely to just be promoting the conflict. For me, if I see an email in my inbox early in the morning that is negative or angry, I can (if I choose to) carefully respond knowing the recipient is unlikely to be online and has probably had the chance to calm down since sending it. It takes the emotion and heat out of the situation.
The Head Start
The productivity section above is really about my own personal productivity – my ability to perform at higher level early in the morning. But there is also a flipside to this. Starting early gives me a chance to be highly productive when a lot of others are not. We all work in competitive industries and for me, starting early and operating in a highly productive manner when my competitors are not gives me an incredible edge.
Workplace demands are considerable at this point in time. More people are working longer hours just to maintain the status quo. Longer hours are the norm at the moment and until real workplace cultural reform kicks in, we are likely to see these sorts of working hours continue (side note: I really hope that these changes occur and is something we are really passionate about at my company, VE People.
Starting early allows me to maintain the working hours I need whilst still having time for the really important things – family, friends, hobbies and interests. By maximising my time and productivity, I still have the time to spend with what matters most.
I am interested to hear from my readers about whether you wake early, and if you do, what are the benefits for you? Comment below and tell us what you think.