10 benefits of waking up early (and 6 ways to do so)

Top performers know that getting out of bed at dawn—or sooner—breeds success. Avoiding traffic and reflecting on our place in the cosmos are just a couple of benefits.

Author’s note: I originally posted about how to wake up early back in 2011. It’s been such a popular post ever since, I figured it’s time to update it with new stats, new ideas and new reasons why you need to wake up early. Also, I’ve discovered that the majority of people who, like me, are Faster Than Normal are also early risers.

I’m a super-early riser—like ridiculously early, around 3:30 a.m.

If you do some homework, you’ll find that many successful CEOs are, as well. It’s simply ingrained into us: If we want to be successful, we have to be working when others are not. To do that, we embrace the early: We wake up early, and we’re better for it.

It’s like the classic running quote: “Somewhere, right now, someone is training while you are not. When you race him, he will win.”

I get up early, because I believe it’s worth it. I think that if you give it a try for more than a day, you will, too. Here’s some benefits you can get from doing it, as well as how to do it.

Top 10 reasons to get up early every day:

10. You’ll learn more. You can browse seven websites (news, news, gossip, financial, gossip, sports, weather) without being interrupted by a single email. You’ll be better informed for your entire day.

9. This early, it really is all about you. You get a few minutes (or more) of pure “you” time. For me, it’s waking up, drinking a cup of coffee and either getting to the gym or getting my day ready. While I’m doing that, I can pet NASA the wonder cat, and not in just a “scratch behind the ears once because I’m late” way. I can sit with him as I drink my first cup of coffee and enjoy the calming effect that a pet has on me. My daughter is still sleeping; I own the world. I have no doubt this helps set my mood for the day. Finally, on days when my daughter is at my apartment, I can hop on my bike trainer for an hour or two in my bedroom, long before she wakes up. Who says you can’t find the time for a workout when you have a young kid?

8. We’re not as big as we think we are. I can watch the sunrise. We take certain things for granted—light, air, clouds, etc. Get up one morning to watch the sky turn from dark to light. It’s amazing. It changes your entire perspective from how big we are to how small we are when you realize that we’re nothing in the universe, just star-stuff on a much, much bigger plane. That affects how you think, and it changes for the better how you look at things.

7. You’re automatically early. Getting up even a half hour early eliminates the “rush” that comes with leaving the house in the morning. Get up early, and you’ll be calmer. You remember everything you need to take. You walk out without being stressed. This leads to a calmer day. Also, studies have shown that being on time is one thing that good leaders master. Want to be on time? Get up earlier.

6. Eat. Getting up early lets you have breakfast, which really is the most important meal of the day. Before you go to sleep, set out a bowl, a spoon and a pot. When you wake up, pour some whole-grain oats and water into said pot and turn on the flame. Make your coffee, and pet your cat or watch your sunrise. The oats will be done in 10 minutes. Add some fruit or whatever you like; I’m a fan of just a touch of butter and some salt. Eat your oats, and feel the sustained energy kicking into your system. Have two hard-boiled egg whites for protein as a side dish (one if you don’t exercise). Don’t eat carbs? Make it all about the eggs: An omelet with cheese and spinach takes about five minutes to make, once you get the routine down.

5. Speaking of exercise… When I was training for my Ironman competition, there were days I had to do 100-mile bike rides. Most people get up at 6 and are biking by 6:30. The problem is, that means most people are in the park or on the roads at the same time. I got up at 3 a.m., and was in Central Park by 3:30 a.m. I got to ride for three hours, by myself, with no distractions. I owned Central Park for three hours. Getting up early and exercising, whether at the gym or by yourself, puts you in a small yet powerful group. Get up, get it done, and get on with your day. You know you’re not going to the gym after work, and now you don’t have to. One additional suggestion: If you’re exercising early, do it in places where you won’t get ticketed for doing it.

4. Easier commute. I don’t have a commute, but when I was in high school my parents and I would ride together into the city, and we were always on the road by 6:20 a.m. At 6:20 a.m., we’d be in Manhattan in 10 minutes. If we left even 20 minutes later, at 6:40, the trip would take an hour. Get up early, get to the office, and your commute is done before traffic goes to hell. Easiest commute ever.

3. Be a power player, a market maker. Want to know who the real power players are in the business world? Try scheduling 7 a.m. breakfasts with them. I’ve been at 7 a.m. breakfasts with some of the biggest, most powerful CEOs in the world. Why? Because they know their demanding schedules won’t allow for lunches. What did Gordon Gekko say? “Lunch? Aw, come on, Marty. Lunch is for wimps.” He was right. Want to meet with the power players? Egg-white omelet and coffee at 7 a.m. at The Plaza.

2. Do something you “never have the time for.” When do you think I write a lot of these blog posts? When do you think I answer a ton of emails? Review new software? Write my book? Yup. It’s while you’re still sleeping. I wake up earlier than you. We all have the same 24 hours in a day; it’s how we use them that matters.

1. Change the world. The top reason to get up super early? Thirty minutes can change the world. Getting up early each day can make all the difference in your life. Imagine getting up early and doing just a few of the things listed above. Would you be more productive? Make more money? Reach more people? Get more deals done? I bet you would. I guarantee you: Wake up early, and that’ll happen. Ask anyone in my private entrepreneur group: They all get up ridiculously early, and they’re all ridiculously successful. It’s all connected.

Bonus: Find that one person as crazy as you. My friend David and I run together at 3 a.m. at least once a week. Why? We can do long runs together without affecting our day, because we’re done by 5:30 a.m., and knowing the other person is waiting keeps both of us honest. We don’t back out.

That was the ‘why’; here’s the ‘how’:

Top six ways to make sure you wake up early.

6. Automate. I’ve set up my entire apartment so that my lights, alarms, heat, etc., are all controlled by Amazon Echo. Thanks to Sylvania by Ledvance, my lights come on automatically, long before my alarm goes off. Waking up to light is so much better than waking up to the jolt of an alarm. Additionally, as a backup, I use the WiThings Aura light-alarm, which slowly brings up light to wake me if I happen to sleep through my entire apartment getting bright.

5. Drink. Keep a giant glass of water by the bed. As soon as the alarm goes off—before you shut it off—drink the entire glass of water. Water opens brain cells, rejuvenates your eyes, helps you come out of sleep. Drink water.

4. Feed something. Get a pet. Seriously. Feed the pet one damn time at 5 a.m., and you’ll never sleep through 5 a.m. again for the entire life of the pet. Trust me on this.

3. There is no try. Don’t think; just do. It’s amazing what we can rationalize at 5 a.m. “Oh, I’ll just sleep for an extra hour, then do the treadmill at double the speed for half the time so I can still make it into the office. You know that’s BS, you know you’re not going to, and you know there will be no working out for you today. Don’t think. Just get your ass out of bed. Think later. (Going back to step 5: Once the lights are on and you’re up, you’re up. Automate.) Wake up early, and there’s less to think about.

2. Get out. Your bed is for sleeping and sex. Once you’re awake, get your ass out of it. Go to the kitchen for your coffee. Go to the living room or your home office for your computer. (See No. 10 above.) You’ve slept; now get out of the bedroom.

1. Sleep. Hands down, the best way to wake up early: Get to sleep earlier. I know, I’m blaspheming here. How dare I waste a perfectly good night when I could go out and be a drunken idiot or go to a boring party? End result, I like going to sleep earlier, because I know what it’s going to do for me on the flip side. I still go out, but I limit it. Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you go to sleep early on a school night? There’s a reason for that. Go to sleep earlier. Countless studies have been conducted showing that lack of sleep is hurting us, causing us to lose money, hell, even making us ugly. It’s likely that not sleeping enough is the root of a lot of your problems.

Bonus: Are you even remotely overweight? Got sinus issues? Always feeling tired? They might be connected. Learn about sleep apnea, and see whether you have it. Turns out, I had terrible sleep apnea; it was raising my blood pressure.

Losing weight is the best thing you can do for it, but there’s a host of other things you might want to check out. Once I mastered the ability to wake up early, the weight started coming off, and the apnea went away.

A version of this article first appeared on Shankman.com.

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