It’s 6:25am, on a Thursday. I just finished making coffee and doing a quick round of journaling. I pulled out my laptop, and I am now starting to write the article you’re about to read.
With the pandemic, most of the people lucky enough to keep their job had to switch to a remote framework. I’m one of those people. I go to the office once or twice a week if I have important meetings, but other than that everything is done from home.
When you don’t have to go to the office everyday, there are a lot of things you don’t have to do anymore in the morning, and that makes you save a lot of time. You don’t have to get ready to go to work, to put on nice clothes, to prepare your lunchbox, to walk to the bus stop… Many people like to use that extra time to sleep.
The topic of wake-up time has come up once in a while at the office, and every time people learn I wake up at 6am every weekday, their first question is always the same. Why would you do that to yourself, when you work 90% of the time from the comfort of your own home? In this article, I want to answer that question.
6 to 12 is my peak time
Mornings are the time of the day I’m the most efficient, organised, alert. I’m in my prime state in the morning, at least mentally (when I exercise I do it in the afternoon). I strongly believe mornings are the best time of the day to get things done, for a lot of people. It took me a while to find that peak time, but I’ll get to that later. Every morning on weekdays, this is my routine:
- 6:00 → Wake up, get out of bed, turn the water kettle on.
- 6:05 — 6:20 → Go out on the terrace, stretch for 10 mins. Then make coffee, a little something to eat, and get to work.
- 6:20 — 7:45 → Write for the blog.
After that, I usually have a full breakfast, shower, get dressed, and start working on my 9–5 job.
I like to work first thing in the morning
I said a little earlier it took me a while to find my peak time. The truth is, it took me 2 books, and 50 interviews.
First, the books: Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, and The One Thing by Gary Keller. They’re both about focusing on one thing and only one, dedicating a big chunk of your time to it, and preferably tackling it first thing in the morning. Why? Because once it’s done, it’s out of the way. Having your number one priority of the day out of the way by 9am or 11am feels amazing. It means you get to spend the rest of the day not having to worry about this thing, and that’s a game changer.
I asked people
I interviewed dozens of top medium authors and productivity experts in my project 50 People Who Do. I started these interviews a year ago, and the more people I interviewed, the more apparent it became that:
- One, a lot of those folks were waking up early, or even really early. 60% of the people I asked wake up before or at 6am. A lot of them wake up at 5am.
- Two, these people are not waking up early to sit in the couch and scroll on Instagram: they wake up early to get some work done, because it’s easier to work this way.
It triggers self-discipline
It’s so simple to rotate on your side lying down, then sit up in your bed, put your feet on the floor, and get up. But if it’s that easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? Because it’s not. When you manage to commit to work first thing in the morning, and at an early time, it channels self-discipline throughout the rest of your day. I usually take things slower in the afternoon, or after 11. But regardless, I know that if I’m able to wake up at 6am everyday, fire up my laptop and start writing a 2000-word piece, I can definitely deal with more problems later during the day, and it will seem easier.
I owe it to my accountability buddy
Months ago, I tried waking up at 5am for a week, and I did this challenge with my accountability buddy. One of the key elements of this challenge was to send each other a picture of our watch before 5:10am everyday, no matter what.
We both succeeded because the power of accountability is huge. When you have someone to report to, when you need to be accountable to that person and you don’t want to tell them you failed, you’re a lot more likely to succeed. How much more? Science says up to 95%.
Every morning, I’d wake up and I didn’t want to let my friend down. I also didn’t want to lose the challenge and send my picture too late. So I’d wake up and text him right away.
After the challenge, we both agreed 5am was a little too early for the both of us. Ever since that day, we keep sending each other a picture of our watch every morning, before 6:10am. It’s really motivating and makes the whole thing more fun too.
Here are this morning’s watch pictures:
It’s so calm and quiet
I truly love mornings. They’re so calm, quiet, peaceful. I write in the living room, on the dining table, with my coffee next to me. Sometimes I pause and take a look around me. The Maneki-neko’s arm is swinging. The steam from my coffee is undulating. The small lights near the couch are comforting. It feels so nice and cozy.
I also love the morning air and sometimes go out for a quick walk after my first work session, around 7:45. I love mornings in cold weather, warm weather, anywhere. I love mornings downtown, with the buzz of the day slowly starting. I love mornings in nature, with the sun slowly rising. I love rainy mornings, windy mornings, gloomy, sunny…
So, so much more time
When I did the 5am challenge with my friend, I realised it gave me a lot of time, even more than I needed. I was done writing by 6:45 instead of 7:45. It literally felt like I had gotten so much done, and most people were still sleeping.
For me, 6am is the perfect sweet spot between morning efficiency and still getting enough sleep. If you try it for yourself to start tackling your biggest task in the morning right away, you might surprise yourself and finish earlier than you thought. You won’t believe how much extra time you get by waking up just one hour earlier.
Is there such a thing as morning people?
I was recently being interviewed on Sergey Faldin’s podcast, and towards the end of the session he asked me exactly this question. I’m not writing this piece to convince anyone to wake up early if they don’t feel like it. I’m writing this piece because I hope it will motivate the people who are hesitating whether or not to start waking up early. Or maybe it will inspire people who didn’t consider that option before, but might now realise it’s their only option to get things done. My message to these people is to definitely try, go for it, and see the results for yourself. I also write this piece for myself, because it keeps me motivated. It reminds me how much I love mornings.
Now, do I believe there’s such a thing as early birds and night owls? To a certain extent, yes. Science says so, and I believe in science. I also know a few people who do very bad in the morning, even if they try very hard. But do I believe people can’t change? Absolutely not. An evening person can become a morning person if she/he tries hard enough, just like a morning person can become an evening person. The second option sounds a lot less familiar than the first one, almost useless. That’s because our world is made for early risers. You don’t often hear about a morning person wishing they could stay up longer, and wake up later.
At the end of the day (pun intended), what matters is this: to find your peak time, the time at which you’re in an optimal mental state and perform your best. For a lot of people, it’s in the first half of the day, whether they’re aware of it or not. For me, it’s in the first hours of the morning, and that’s why I love early mornings.
It is now 7:32am. I will go have breakfast, get dressed and shower. Maybe I’ll have a bit more coffee too. And tomorrow morning, at 6am, I’ll do it all over again.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the day ahead.
I interviewed 50 productivity experts and made a 150+ page guide out of the project. This is road-tested advice from real people who get things done. Get it for free here.