When you’re feverishly navigating the late hours of the night, wholly committed to the task at hand, burning the midnight oil is a badge of honor. But what oil lamp — or, more likely, luminescent light bulb — compares to the glow of the rising sun?
As an entrepreneur, your late nights aren’t just unsustainable (believe me — you will crash and burn, eventually). In fact, they’re entirely misguided if lasting success is the goal.
Crack of dawn success
This morning, while you hit the snooze button to stave off your exhaustion from working late into the night, some big-time entrepreneurial players were already hard at work. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and PIMCO co-founder Bill Gross greeted the day at 4:30 a.m. Jack Dorsey slept in a bit but made it up in time for his morning meditation at 5:30 a.m.
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Behind every successful entrepreneur, there is an amazing, repeatable crack-of-dawn routine. My days always start at 4 a.m. I love the world at this time. My phone isn’t buzzing, email notifications aren’t pinging, and I get a second to take in every aspect of life.
It’s a part of my day I wouldn’t trade for anything. This window of time affords me absolute privacy and tranquility and prepares me for the inevitable trials and tribulations that I will face throughout the day.
Wake up early, work happy
Plus, your motivation is at its most optimal level early in the day. While it may seem like the beckon of your bed and blanket seems to sap any force of will from your mind, our cortisol levels actually gradually rise after we wake up in the morning and peak around 8 a.m., giving us an extra boost of brain power.
Your entrepreneurial instinct should be kicking in right now. With increased willpower, a quiet setting, and the health benefits that follow, your mornings are your best untapped resource for increased productivity.
Here’s how to capitalize on those wee hours:
1. Get your bearings.
In the hustle and bustle of normal business hours, it can be hard to understand what tasks take precedence over others. Your pre-7 a.m. spot in the schedule is optimal for planning because you’re seemingly free of distractions.
Once you attend to your personal morning routine, start looking ahead to the day, and list everything you have on your plate. Now, determine which tasks are must-dos and which can wait a bit.
It sounds simple, but every day is an adventure. Going out into the world with nothing but your smartphone, a full inbox, and a sense of urgency is no way to go. With a plan in place, you can set a course and get a head start on it.
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2. Get the conversation moving.
A full inbox is typically a crime of time constraints. When the emails start to pile up, you’ll be mired in a veritable quagmire of inquiries.
If you start utilizing your early mornings as a time to communicate, you’ll find that your responses are much more thoughtful. Those hasty, thrown-together emails typed from your smartphone will be replaced with cogent, in-depth, helpful correspondence.
In fact, apply the prioritization from above to your communication. I find it most effective to first respond to the most pressing matters that you feel will directly affect your day.
Addressing big correspondence early frees you up for the smaller chats later on — you may find that your team has far more to offer when you have more time to listen.
3. Take notes.
I have found that jotting down notes is the best form of self-reflection. It allows me to take my many thoughts and put them down somewhere that I can see.
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Once I see them, I have a much easier time putting things into perspective. I’m much more prepared to see the big picture of my decisions and utilize my resources.
Making your tasks visible holds you accountable to them later on. Document something as simple as reminding yourself to take a deep breath or as prudent as calling a client at a certain time to avoid some conflict or ritual on his end.
At its core, entrepreneurship is all about satisfying ambitions through careful and actionable planning. The early mornings are the greatest canvas on which to paint the picture of that day.
By rising early, you’re setting the tone and course for a day of success. You owe it to yourself to make sure the path hasn’t been hastily scribbled on your way out the door.
This article has been edited and condensed.
David Schwartz is the founder and president of The Water Scrooge, which offers patented, maintenance-free water conservation solutions to homeowners and landlords. A native of Israel, David was inspired by the Israelis’ water conservation techniques and realized that U.S. markets lacked a tamper-proof conservation device for residential showers. His solution saves landlords an average of $500 per unit per year on water costs and has been installed in more than 40,000 apartments to date. Connect with @TheWaterScrooge on Twitter.
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