Remember that New Year’s resolution you made, uh, a few weeks ago? Ya know the one about ‘becoming a morning person.’ How’s it going? If you’re yawning as you read this, or even scrolling through late at night, don’t worry. There are some ways to become an early riser, but it does take time, patience, discipline and practice. And while, sure, it isn’t for everyone, some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs rave about the value of rare productivity in the wee hours of the A.M.
If you’ve always wanted to be part of the crew that watches the sunrise, you’re in luck. We have some killer strategies from executives who rise as early as 3 am, every damn morning. Here, their words of wisdom.
“Give it a week”
Who: Nate Checketts, co-founder, and CEO of Rhone
His alarm clock is set to: 4:30 a.m.
Why it works for him: “I have three boys who are incredibly energetic, and I love to be there with them. I have found a planned out morning helps me knock out key tasks and grounds me in the day. If I wake up after the world has woken up, I feel like I am reacting instead of acting and that the day is owning me instead of me owning the day.”
How to become a morning person: “Most burn out on becoming morning people because they can’t get to bed on time, but there are so many tools to help with this. For one week, say ‘no’ to late-night events, TV, sports, etc. Then, before bed each night, plan your next morning and how you’ll spend your time. During this week, wake up earlier than normal and at the end, ask yourself if you got more done and if you feel better.”
“Find your why”
Who: Kate Huyett, chief marketing officer for Bombas
Her alarm clock is set to: 6 a.m.
Why it works for her: “My family still can’t quite believe I’ve turned into a morning person – I was famous for being able to be awake and out the door in about 15 minutes for most of my life. At some point in my late 20s, I realized that starting the day in a rush made the rest of the day feel more stressful than if I took my time. The morning pages especially have been an absolutely critical tool for deepening my self-awareness and professional effectiveness, and they just don’t work as well later in the day.”
How to become a morning person: “The biggest thing for me was that I had a real ‘why’ behind becoming more of a morning person: I wanted my days to be less stressful. That helped me take a less stressful approach to the transition vs trying to jam a huge morning routine in starting at 5 am the first day. I worked towards an earlier wake-up time gradually over a few months. I’ll say that the process is more of a marathon than a sprint. You can play with the routine over time and see what works best for you. Another thing to remember is that if you miss a day or need to sleep in, don’t panic. Stay focused on why you are doing it and use that as the lens to think through how the morning could unfold.”
“Find something you love to do in the morning.”
Who: Barby K. Siegel CEO of Zeno Group
Her alarm clock is set to: 3:45 a.m.
Why it works for her: “I love the quiet of the early morning. It provides a calm, serene and slow entry into the day that begins with some of my favorite activities: drinking coffee, reading and watching the news, and lifting weights in the gym. As cliché as it sounds, it is my time.”
How to become a morning person: “If you have a passion for yoga, make that part of your morning routine. If you love to cook, make that the centerpiece of the morning. Or use the early morning to catch up on other tasks that give you pleasure — straighten out a drawer, send an email to a friend with whom you want to re-connect and so on. Research your next vacation. Use the early morning as special and sacred time that is truly for you – mind, body, and spirit. Keep the early morning free of the daily chaos.”
“Don’t just do it because everyone tells you to do it.”
Who: Abhi Lokesh, CEO, and co-founder of Fracture
His alarm clock is set to: 4:50 a.m.
Why it works for him: “I find myself pretty mentally drained after work, and it’s difficult to work out in such a fatigued state. All I want to do is go home and relax. Inversely, when I work out first thing in the morning, I find myself energized for the rest of the day. I started putting the puzzle pieces together and realized that working out in the morning is the perfect way to kickstart my body’s engine.”
How to become a morning person: “Don’t try and be a morning person just because it sounds cool or because famous people do it. Take the time to truly listen to what your mind and body are telling you and personalize the routine that truly benefits you. When attempting a new routine, maintain a journal and jot down notes about how you’re feeling throughout the day. Identify when you might start to feel drowsy or tired or when you have the most mental clarity and focus and think about which of your actions may have impacted that.”
“Go to sleep earlier”
Who: Meagen Eisenberg, CMO of TripActions
Her alarm clock is set to: 4:30 a.m.
Why it works for her: “I love mornings. With three young girls and three French bulldogs, we have a noisy house. The mornings are quiet, mostly about me, and productive and it gets me ready to take on the day. I can look at the schedule and the entirety of the day and make sure all my meetings are set, confirmed and I am prepared.”
How to become a morning person: “If you want to be a morning person, you have to get to bed on the early side. I often fall asleep putting my girls to bed if I don’t have something I need to work on, usually around 9 p.m. I don’t watch TV — unless it is on an airplane or the news while working out in the morning. And I limit caffeine after 4 p.m.”
“Control your day, instead of it controlling you”
Who: Michael Romer, managing partner at Romer Debbas LLP
His alarm clock is set to: 5:15 a.m.
Why it works for him: “My daily routine forced me to be a morning person. Eventually, it just becomes who you are. I have found that days are more efficient and less stressful when I am up early and ahead of the curve. Managing my time better was one of the biggest lessons that I needed to learn. Simply put, you don’t have to log as many hours on work-related matters if you focus on efficiency.”
How to become a morning person: “In the beginning, caffeine will be your best and most trusted friend. The easiest way to control your day and not let the day control you is to wake up earlier each and every day. Also, and most importantly, it is crucial that you focus on time efficiency on the business front and maximizing time with the ones you love and/or what you love to do.”
“Consider how much better you would perform at work”
Who: Karyn Abrahamson, CMO at Essentia Water
Her alarm clock is set to: 5 a.m.
Why it works for her: “It’s important to check my work email first thing in case there’s anything I immediately need to respond to or jump on the phone for. The benefit of being an early riser is that I’m able to stretch out my day to accomplish more both professionally and personally. If I start my workday early, it’s more likely that I’ll have time to be present with my family in the evening. Cooking dinner, catching up with my husband and stepson, and afterward watching sports or the latest and greatest on Netflix is my time to unplug and recharge.”
How to become a morning person: “What is your role and job responsibilities in your company, what do you need to accomplish on a day-to-day basis and how do you need to work with other team members or customers? There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach with how and when to work, so it’s really based on your role. Personally, the roles I’ve held in marketing have required me to be an early riser, so I’ve structured my schedule around that to accommodate the time I need at work, the time I need with my family and then what I need for myself. Recognize first and foremost what works best for your work style preferences, and then to seek out and pursue opportunities that fit that specifically. The last situation you want to find yourself in is a role that requires you to come in early or work late when that doesn’t align to your working goals and allow you to make your biggest impact.”
“Find your rhythm”
Who: Doug Rassi, CEO and co-founder of POLYWOOD
His alarm clock is set to: 3 a.m.
Why it works for him: “I’m the father of six children over a span of 23 years. The hours of 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. are the only time it is quiet in my house.”
How to become a morning person: “For 20 years now I routinely wake up at 3 a.m. Initially, it wasn’t by choice and I was worried that I wouldn’t get the proper sleep to function optimally for the day. But rather than reaching for sleep aids I decided to just go with it. It has turned out to be a rich time of day that I spend praying, meditating, contemplating dreams, reading and writing along with supercritical thinking. After an hour or two, I ask my body if we’re up for the day and go on to make coffee and breakfast or sleep for another hour or two. Our lives have rhythms and seasons. Find yours. It might not be what you expect.”
“Preparation is key”
Who: Shadi Bakour, CEO of PATHWATER
Her alarm clock is set to: 6 a.m.
Why it works for her: “Running a business is demanding and you must do everything in your power to make it succeed. By getting up early, I can go to sleep each night knowing I did everything I could. The hustle is real. Waking up early is an amazing feeling! The euphoria that comes from getting up early is the only reason you need to be a morning person.”
How to become a morning person: “Prepare yourself the night before, and set out whatever you want to do. If you want to go for a run, put out your running shoes. If you want to meditate, put a white candle on your table and a lighter next to it. If you want to eat a healthy breakfast, then plan accordingly. Put your alarm far away from the bed, forcing you to get up to turn it off. Once you get up to turn off your alarm -— you’re at the next stage — and can go straight into your morning routine.”
“Sleep has to be your #1 priority.”
Who: Sara Cullen, CEO and founder of Daily Gem
Her alarm clock is set to: 5:30 a.m.
Why it works for her: “Building a company means that more often than not your day is filled with reacting to fires — or what I call surprises — across a variety of departments from finance and accounting to press, operations, and marketing. The mornings are my only quiet time to tackle high priority problems and to think big picture. It’s also my opportunity to reorganize priorities and refresh the mind so I can be totally present by the time my team gets into the office.”
How to become a morning person: “Being a morning person doesn’t work if you’re up until sunrise or not getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Do something for yourself every morning that you look forward to waking up to – whether that is a bite of something nutritious, a cup of coffee, or just putting on a great song to dance to. Once you have that cue in place, then create a routine around it that does something meaningful for your day. For me, moving my body first thing like running or yoga is the best way to get my mind moving and sweep away all the cobwebs from the day before.”