Here’s the one productivity tip with the largest impact you’ll ever learn, used by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Disney CEO Robert Iger, General Motors’ CEO Dan Akerson along with dozens of other executives and other highly productive people. It isn’t sexy advice, but it works and the benefits will blow you away, making you wonder why you didn’t start earlier. That life changing advice is to get up at 5 a.m., everyday. I made this switch to a high-productivity start to my day about two months ago. It wasn’t easy to get into the habit, but the rewards have been tremendous. Most people won’t be able to do it, but that just means you can have an edge over most people if you can do it. With this guide, it isn’t really that difficult to get in this habit.
Why Wake Up At 5am?
You could ask Virgin America CEO David Cush, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz or one of the other many high-profile executives and CEOs. But you probably can’t ask them, so I’ll tell you. Working in the early hours will be your most productive hours. There won’t be the distractions of anyone in your house, no phones ringing, no texts and Twitter is pretty quiet. Some people have told me that they’re most productive at night. This may be true for some people, but for most people I don’t really think so. You just had a jam-packed day exhausting your brain and body, and I think the last thing you should be doing is sitting down working at midnight.
“When you set your mind on a problem, you might set it aside at the end of the night, but your brain will still be working on it. You’ll go to bed with those problems in your mind. One of the advantages of being a morning person is that when you wake up, your mind will be focused and you’ll have a clear idea of what to do.” – Dennis Parass, President of Handling Specialty
If you usually wake up at 7.30 a.m., you’ll have an extra 17.5 hours of time every week. Or 38 days extra in a year. If I said you had 38 days to do whatever you want, what would you do? Start a new company? Learn a new language? Train for a marathon? It’s up to you.
Another reason I love working in the morning is that when I hear the rest of my family and the world waking up, I know I’ve already done so much and they are just starting their day. It gets me pumped and even more motivated to work hard in the rest of the day.
How To Get In the Habit
While the benefits may sound great and you will want to jump right into it, consider that most resolutions fail. A study showed only 30 percent of men and 37 percent of women were able to be successful implementing them a two week resolution. Wow!
Only a third of people can make a two week resolution and fulfil it? Imagine what the stats for New Year’s resolutions are.
To me it isn’t really surprising though, the reason why most people can’t keep them is really simple. People make changes to their lifestyle that are so drastic they can’t keep them up. Going cold turkey with anything rarely works and when you’ve been getting up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. for your entire life, it won’t be any different.
So make 5 a.m. the goal, but don’t make the shift overnight. Wake up 20 mins earlier every two days. If you wake up at 7 everyday, it should take 12 days to get to the goal of 5am. For these 12 days, your body also won’t be used to the new schedule and you will start to feel tired much earlier in the day and for some people. I felt like a bit of a zombie in the evening for the first 12 days. Your body will correct itself over time, but if you would like to speed up the process there is a handy gadget.
Philips Golite – I demoed this on the Marilyn Denis Show before, and I really love this gadget. If you didn’t watch the segment, you should now, but it simply simulates natural sunlight. In Toronto during the winter the sun doesn’t come up at 5am. So I’ll use this on full brightness while I’m in the shower and brushing my teeth and getting ready etc. for a total of 30 mins every morning. While you’re just getting into the habit it really, really helps to supplement the energy you’re initially losing by getting into the new habit.
The Philips Golite costs $99.99 or $199.99 for the rechargeable portable version (Amazon has it for 141.33 right now). The portable version is great to throw in your bag for to work or flying.
What To Do At 5 a.m. to Maximizes The Benefits?
Make the first thing you do everyday physical activity. Not a full workout or even putting on your workout clothes, but just a couple situps, jumping jacks, pushups, the plank and some other strength building exercises to get your blood flowing. By working you out pump endorphins into your body, which energizes you for 15 hours.
I learnt this from Robin Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. I was getting up at 5 a.m. without doing physical activity and just wasn’t really feeling motivated to start my day since I was tired and sleepy. Even a couple minutes (that’s really all you need) gets your body going and funnels good chemicals to your brain. Read this and this for more info and scientific studies showing the benefits of how just a couple minutes of exercising can positively affect your mental state.
Plan your day by sorting through your events and your goals for the day. Figure out the 5 things you want to achieve for the day.
Every career and life demands different requires but spend the first few weeks about how you can best utilize the extra time. Irwin Simon, CEO of Hain Celestial Group checks up and deals with any issues regarding his overseas operations while they’re still working. Take advantage of the time.
Now Go Make Your Plan and Put It Into Action
Now it’s up to you to make your plan and put it into action. Most importantly, share the results with your friends. If you tell people you’re getting up early, it creates social pressure to do it and please share any experiences, success or failure with me in the comments!