If I could only give one, single, solitary piece of advice to anyone here on how to grab control of their life, quit their job, and put themselves on the path to success and fulfillment it would be wake up early. My life completely changed when I started getting up early and built a morning routine. In fact, I directly believe I was able to finally quit my job because of rising early.
Waking up early is no secret. Plenty of CEOs and successful people are known for waking up early: Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly gets up at 3:45am every morning; The Rock hits the gym by 4am; former Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz is up at 4:30am. In fact, a five year study of self-made millionaires found that 50% of them wake up three hours before their workday begins. So waking up early has plenty of successful company.
I start my day around 4am. I love telling people this and have them call me crazy. They say they could never do it. I just smile and tell them it’s changed my life. And it has.
The idea of waking up early and building a morning routine came about after reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. This was the very first book I read after beginning my ‘Renaissance’ and started looking to reshape my life. Ferriss notes the importance of having a morning routine and included some of the behaviors of both himself and successful people interviewed in the book. You build a routine from this behaviors that have a positive impact in your daily life; some of them are as simple as just making your bed every morning as Admiral William McRaven suggested in both his University of Texas commencement speech and later his book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World.
Making your bed first thing in the morning scores you a win. You’ve accomplished something. Regardless of how the day goes and whatever happens, you’ve accomplished one thing. Psychologically, this leads you to want to accomplish something else, then again and so on. The chain of productivity begins by making your bed.
After Tools of Titans I created my first morning routine based on what I wanted to do each morning and what was important. My gym schedule was erratic at the time, and I usually would only go on days I started my shift later in the day. I wanted to go to the gym more consistently, so I added that. I wanted to eat out less at lunch, so meal prep time was added. I also added something that Ferriss talked about in his book, what he called “Morning Pages.” This is writing three pages of whatever is in your brain in a notebook when you first wake in the morning. With these pieces, I set my alarm for 5:30 and started off on this new lifestyle.
It wasn’t easy the first week, but it certainly got easier and easier. I went to the gym every morning, regardless of when I started my shift. Combined with eating protein (egg whites) before the gym and after (oatmeal), my body ended up being supercharged for the day. I found I could go all day energized before hitting a wall at 9pm. I never got tired in the afternoon. The Morning Pages worked amazingly as well. If the gym gave me stamina all day, Morning Pages gave my mind clarity for the day. By waking up and dumping out whatever was in my brain — anxieties, stresses, things I had to do, things I wanted to do, whatever came out — it cleared up the noise in my brain. Once those things were written down, I didn’t have to keep them in mind anymore.
These two routines prepared me physically and mentally for the day. Mind and body were both exercised and ready to take on whatever came at me.
I watched my co-workers drag themselves into work in the morning, sleepy-eyed and downing coffee to function. I was wide awake, energized, and already full speed (and I am NOT a coffee drinker!). This gave me an advantage at work. Waking up early also gave me time to work on my business, do freelance work, work on personal writing projects, and handle emails and finances. By the time I got to work, my personal affairs were done for the day. All I had left to do was work. I could come home from my retail job and do nothing the rest of the day and I still went to sleep with a sense of accomplishment.
Waking up early became my favorite part of the day. It’s dark outside, everyone is still asleep. I’m alone, cat on lap, with nothing but my thoughts and a notebook. It’s incredibly peaceful. I don’t have my phone, I haven’t checked any messages, emails, or social media. That stuff all comes later. Waking up early and having a morning routine means prioritizing yourself; you are in control of your life and not reacting to others and letting them dictate your life for you.
In the two years I have woken up early, I have never wasted a single day. In fact, I’m writing this right now at 5:15am. You may be asleep but day is already up and running. This is how I could work on a business while having a day job. People always complain about “not having enough time to do things.” The time is there, you just have to find it. If you really, truly want to do something, you can make time for it.
For fun here is an article from The Independent where their Lifestyle Writer tried waking up early: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/does-getting-up-at-5am-early-make-you-more-successful-we-tried-it-a7716086.html