You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is check your phone. You will not even check if your legs are working.
Are you the person who hits the snooze button five times before giving up and going back to sleep for three hours? Do you feel the urge to lie in bed and check social media for one hour after getting up? The first hour of your day has a disproportionate effect on how you carry out tasks for the rest of the day. What you do immediately after waking up sends a powerful message to your brain about the kind of person you are and the things you value the most.
“Early to bed, Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
As a child, you probably sulked when your mother told you to go to bed at an early hour so she’d have an easier time waking you up for school the next day. Ironically, as an adult after a tiring day, you relished nothing more than the chance to go to bed early. Beyond avoiding temper tantrums and dealing with a sleep-deprived child first thing in the morning, it turns out our mothers were on to something by making us start the day early.
The most productive people often tend to wake up early. Jack Dorsey, Cofounder of Twitter wakes up at 5:30am every morning and starts his day with a morning jog. Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin airlines wakes up at 5:45am every morning and leaves the curtains open so he can rise with the sun. Mary Borra, the Chief Executive of GM may have taken it one step further. She arrives at the office every morning by 6am.
“Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
St Francis of Assisi
I’m a big fan of the early morning hours. I relish getting as much tasks as I can out of the way before noon. There is something about the first few hours of the day when you are awake that provides a huge productivity rush. For me, it tends to be the hours when I have the fewest distractions. Whose house am I going to visit or call at that hour? I have also just woken up from a good night’s rest and I am ready to tackle a difficult task.
One of my favourite books is “Don’t be sad” by Aid al-Qarni. It is riddled with practical examples on how to deal with adversity and develop a pragmatic approach to dealing with life’s problems. Problems are a part of life. Nobody is going to have good days all the time. There will be situations that annoy us, make us angry or make us want to despair. Our feelings can have a very large influence on our productivity by being either positive or negative force multipliers. If you wake up with a smile on your face and get a healthy breakfast, you are likely to approach the day’s tasks with a more positive frame of mind. Start the day with a fight after having slept fitfully without electricity and being bitten throughout the night by mosquitoes, however, and your productivity is likely to take a nosedive for the rest of the day.
Scenario A: You wake up after a good night’s rest. You eat a healthy breakfast. When work starts, everything seems to fall in place. You are in the zone. All your A-tasks for the day get completed and you make progress towards your goals.
Scenario B: You wake up grumpy. The electricity goes out while you are trying to boil water for tea. When you get to your car, you discover you have a flat tyre and the spare tyre has no pressure in it. By the time you get to work, you are ready to take your anger out on anyone unfortunate enough to get in your way. You can’t seem to focus. You give up on getting any meaningful work done before lunch and just want the day to end so you can go back to sleep.