4:16AM every Monday to Friday. That’s when I get up.
For those readers who work construction, the following post is unlikely to be revolutionary. It’s pretty much the norm to start early, but depending on your role and how far away from work you live, ‘early’ is a little relative.
The topic seems to comes up more often that you’d think when you’re an early riser. People are curious why you’d bother (unless you’re catching an aeroplane to jet off on an exotic holiday, then they share their frustration at having to check-in seemingly a day in advance of your flight….).
“There’s something magical about the early morning. It’s a time when the world belongs to only those few who are awake. And we walk around like kings while others remain unseen in their beds”
– Shawn Blanc
So why write a post about it?
Am I showing off? Hardly. I mean who actually cares what time another person gets up in the morning? I’m writing it because I want others to know about the amazing impact getting up early can (and will) have on your performance at work, your general well-being, and well, pretty much everything else.
Well for starters let’s look at the maths.
Let’s assume there’s 220 days a year where this is an option (365 days minus most weekends, public holidays, sick days and holiday days). Then let’s say that 90% of the time you find the mental fortitude to arise at this ungodly hour. That’s 198 days. Let’s now assume that most people get up around 6:30AM – 7:00AM. That gives an additional 2¼ – 2¾ hours per day. Say 2½ for ease of calculation. So that’s an additional 495 hours a year. Or 20.625 full 24-hour days, or 2.95 weeks.
When you do the maths, it seems crazy to me now that I didn’t start this years ago. I wish I had.
Why only weekdays? Well on weekends I do sleep in, that is until my two pint-sized alarm clocks wake me up at 6:00AM by belting into my room, placing their demonic faces unnervingly close to mine, and subsequently announcing that “it’s time to get up Dad, let’s go!” while pulling off the covers.
Traffic. There’s literally nowhere in Sydney that you can’t get to in an hour when you leave the house before 5:00AM. Try it.
If you find yourself at work before 6:00AM (and you don’t have a concrete pour on…), the amount of work you can get done before the next person arrives is simply astonishing. I find the 90 minutes of clear space before the background hullabaloo kicks off rivals the entire following 8+ hours in terms of effectiveness.
The follow on benefit is that you can still do your required hours and leave work at a reasonable hour. There used to be times in my old life where for weeks, months on end even, that I’d be at work before the sun came up, and leaving after it set. I’ll happily do whatever it takes to get the job done, but extended periods like this has becomes unsustainable, and in extreme circumstances, downright dangerous.
If you find yourself at the gym before the sun rises, the benches are empty, the weights are racked nicely, the showers aren’t funky, and early morning workouts are proven to improve your brain function, improve performance, and improve your mood.
Don’t just take my word for it. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll have heard me mention a fellow named Jocko Willink (@jockowillink) who I credit with a majority of my development growth over the last few years.
His book Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual is an amazing resource for laying out a simple (not easy!) guide to getting after it. He’s a true believer of getting up early and has some simple tips on how to get started.
Is this for everyone? Certainly not. Do I recommend simply tomorrow waking up at 4:16AM? Absolutely not. You’ll be asleep at your desk at 3:00PM, or worse, asleep behind the wheel on your drive home. If it’s something you’re keen to try (like this lady did), do it in increments.
Wind your alarm back by 15 minutes. Try that for a few days. You’re likely to just spend longer in the shower in the morning, but that little treat wears off pretty quickly. A few days later wind the alarm back another 15 minutes. Then again, and again until you find that sweet spot. Mine is 4:16AM. Why 4:16 and not 4:15? Don’t know. I’ve never been able to set alarm clocks at any of the 5 minute intervals. Probably means something.
People regularly tell me “I’m not a morning person, I’m more of a night-owl”. That’s only because you haven’t felt the exhilaration of being up while your enemies sleep. The little ‘hit’ of superiority you get when you see that every house on your street is shrouded in darkness, not a single window lit up, puts a certain little spring in your step.
Now far be it from me to suggest there’s a direct causal effect between getting up early and being successful, but there’s a long list of people infinitely more successful than I’ll ever be that get up early and get after it.
You can read all about their routines and the reasons why they get up early, but for me it comes down to three simple things:
- Getting sh!t done before work so I don’t have to do it after work. There’s now more time to spend with the family or doing my own stuff. Be it the gym, walking, reading, life admin, RFS, whatever. This makes me stronger, smarter;
- There’s so little traffic at that time of the morning, that whatever mode of transport I take, it’s fast. This makes me happier; and
- I’m 100% certain my productivity levels increase on days I hit the gym before work. This makes me faster.
Stronger, smarter, happier, faster.
Wish I’d done it years ago.
Are you an early riser? Do you wonder why and how people get up before the sun does? Post a comment below and start a conversation!