Want to Thrive at Work? Learn to Wake Up Earlier

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Article by Cecilia Meis

It’s one of the most surefire ways to improve productivity, yet many of us simply can’t force ourselves to start the day sooner. The benefits are undeniable: A 2019 study jointly conducted by universities in the UK and Australia found that participants who woke up earlier reported decreased feelings of stress and depression and increased levels of physical and cognitive energy.

Now, this isn’t about waking up at 4 a.m. or forcing night owls to become morning larks. Waking up earlier looks different for everyone, but its rewards are universal:

• You gift yourself alone time that free of work or personal distractions. That time is sacred and can set the tone for the rest of the day.
• You earn the valuable mental-muscle-building skills of discipline, consistency, and positive habit-building.
• You take charge of the day instead of starting it off with a half-asleep swat at the snooze button.

As with most new habits worth creating, you can’t expect immediate success. Start small: If you’re not a natural early riser, begin with 15-minute increments. Slowly, you’ll build up to waking up an hour (or more) earlier every morning. Try these tips, and tweak the process until it feels right for you:

  1. Adjust your evening routine. Good sleep starts with winding down. Swap TV time for a meditative sleep story and a cup of herbal tea. Leave your phone in the living room to avoid distractions.
  2. Create a non-negotiable wake-up time. No snoozing, no hesitation. When the alarm goes off, your feet hit the floor. Even a moment’s hesitation can give you enough time to talk yourself out of getting up.
  3. Don’t deprive yourself. Waking up earlier isn’t a punishment; it’s a gift to yourself. If you’re struggling to fall asleep early enough to get the recommended amount of sleep, make time for midday naps.

We also check in with a couple of entrepreneurs to get their tips on waking up earlier. Here’s what they had to say:

Jenny Chang, Founder of Vowlá, ROCKINEVENTS, and Jenny Chang

I used to wake up just on time or upon the first client or executive phone call. I’d gulp down a cup of water, and no one could tell. It was the anxiety and rush driving my improvised success, but my energy didn’t match my desired outcome.

Waking up at the magic hour — 5:30 a.m. for me — is the most advantageous habit I’ve created as an entrepreneur. I feel most in control when I start each day as service to myself versus service to others. At night, I find myself performing evening habits to conclude my day as consciously as I’ve started it.

If I’m not waking up to create the blueprint for my success, no one else will — so I might as well start now.

Shashank Gupta, Executive Producer of Nazranaa

Mornings are the best time to find some quiet and stillness in which to compose your thoughts. I used to wake up at 8:30 a.m. and be on my phone for 30 minutes before work. Now, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and practice yoga and meditation. Waking up early allows me to stay consistent with my habits, which helps me better handle stressful situations.

I recommend forgetting the concept of a break, holiday, or weekend. The concept of a break is detrimental to forming habits. When trying to form a habit, there is no Saturday or Sunday. You have to be consistent with it seven days a week, 365 days a year. If I ever have a long night, I still wake up at 5:30 a.m. I might take a nap during the day, but I won’t skip my wake-up time. It’s essential to my day.

Versions of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com and in the May/June 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Cecilia Meis is a full-time writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas. Besides SUCCESS, her work has appeared in Time Out Dallas, Rewire, Healthline, and others. Outside of work, she plays beach volleyball; attempts home cooking; and is ardently working toward making her cat, Nola, Insta-famous.

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