Getting up early is an extreme sport for me. I get up everyday at 4:00 AM. I never sleep in or take a day off, and truthfully, not even sure I could if I wanted to.
I’m already on my third cup of green tea (with a hint of mint) before the 5 AM club is even called to order.
Before 5 AM even comes around, I’ve already fully gotten my day going, having gotten ready, meditated, written in my journal, watched some motivational videos and began to lay out the day’s next steps.
But, I’m not special, and neither is my process. It’s just what works for me. The real question from all of this is, what works for you? What do your keys to success look like? And the question that probably stopped you from scrolling, do you have to be a morning person to be successful?
Let’s take a closer look and dive right in.
Giving the first of my day
What I love about getting up extra early is that it isn’t easy, that it sometimes kind of hurts. This lets me know I’m giving something meaningful to the cause. That isn’t to say you have to do things that are unhealthy to your mind or body for them to really count, not at all, but it is kind of like exercise. When you push yourself to grow, it should leave you a little sore, right?
More importantly, getting up as early as I do feels like I’m giving the first of my day to my goals, to my efforts and ambitions and am keeping it set apart from everything else. I’m making this part of my day special.
Please don’t read into this as me saying I’m a morning person or always have been. I think I’ve become one, that I’ve grown into it, but I didn’t always think getting up this early everyday was even a possibility. But last year, something sort of just clicked inside of me. I began to realize that I needed more time to focus on the things that helped me grow as a person, as a creative, and as whatever else I needed to be. So, I decided to start getting up early.
At first it was something like 6 AM, figuring I’d be starting my day about a half an hour after getting up. Then I began to scale back my days until I first hit 5 AM and gave myself plenty of running room to get my day really going the way I wanted it to be.
Needing more time didn’t necessarily mean that I was busy with the rest of my day either. What I needed was more time focused on the specific tasks, a time set apart for nothing else. That’s where all of this began for me. And I pushed myself to make it a habit, it wasn’t and sometimes it still isn’t the easiest thing to do.
I didn’t miss a day even after my surgery last year, or throughout the lock-down when by all rights I have nothing but time to make my days whatever I wanted. Getting up early is an offering for me, it is me telling the Universe, these things I do are important enough to give to the very first part of my day. Before anything else, this is what I’m focused on.
What works for you?
Usually when I give this advice, this is the part of the conversation where I get the “but I’m a night owl” argument.
Maybe that’s your truth, maybe that’s what works best for you. If it works, and you’re doing a nightly process, props. Work it for all it has and get the most out of it. But, here’s my challenge to you, track your results.
Why did I just ask you to track your results? Because, and here comes some tough love, I want you to be brutally honest with yourself. Are you truly more productive at night, or just making an excuse because getting up early scares the crap out of you, or you don’t think you can do that?
Nothing that I’m writing here is meant to deter you from doing what works. What I want to do instead is to inspire you to take a closer look at your routines, your habits, your day-to-day efforts to get the things you want from life. Are you being proactive or reactive?
So, you tell me you’re a night person, great! What is your process? What’s your routine? How do you get things done? There is a system to it all, right?
Track it, follow it, reflect on it and adapt according to whatever you learn from it.
Also, maybe you want to get started with a morning routine, maybe even an early morning routine, but you just read about me getting up at 4 AM and are like, “nope, not happening.”
That’s fine, do what works for you. Maybe that’s 5 AM, or 6 AM, or 7 AM. The point isn’t when you should get started, it’s that you have a process, a system, a habit, or a routine that helps you get there and that you’re honest about it. That you track it and make sure it’s working, that you adapt and change it as needed.
Which is really a great way to go into the next topic along these lines.
If you’ve paid attention to the majority of the things I’ve written by now, you’ll know I’m a big believer in progress. I believe progress beats perfection everyday, and that trying to be the best is just setting yourself up for a future limitation. Choose to constantly be better, to improve yourself, to grow and adapt in ways that push you to the next level, and the one after that.
What’s that have to do with morning start times and success? Everything.
Whatever you want from life is going to require a mixture of hard work and smart work. If you want to be successful, you have to learn to pay attention to yourself, to understand yourself and a truly deep level. Know why you’re going after the things you are, what your results are in the pursuit and always be looking for ways to adapt. Respond to the things that aren’t working and make pivots as you need to.
It’s like Rocky says:
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done (Rocky Balboa)
Stay flexible, stay observant, stay honest with yourself. Adapt as you need to, make the pivot, make the change, but no matter what, don’t stop. Keep moving forward.
Your next steps
Is getting up early a key to success? For me, it feels that way. I get more done in the quiet parts of the day, and I have plenty of time to work on myself. This is prime real estate to reflect, to write for myself, then write for the world, to track my results, to see what’s working, what needs adapting and to come up with ideas.
Maybe it’s a different time of day for you. Maybe you’re a night owl, or maybe you get up a little later than I do, but still pretty early by most accounts. The real takeaway has little to do with when you get up, when you do the work, and everything to do with getting the work done.
Whatever you want in life, no one else can do it for you. Not all of it, and not all of the time. If you want it, you have to go out and get it. For me, that means getting up earlier than everyone else and focusing on myself, then my work. And that’s the real secret to success, keep focusing on what you need to do, to accomplish, to finish next but don’t forget to focus on who you’re becoming as well. Who you become through the effort of your ambitions is what will truly carry you far, no matter when you do the work, or how much you have to adapt along the way.
Stay creative, keep your mind open, and never forget to put progress first. Perfection is a lie.