Women

Early mornings are the best time to think, plan and achieve. So, set your alarm clock and hour or two earlier – it’ll open up a whole new world of achievement

When the 18th-century US President Benjamin Franklin wrote, Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’, who knew his words would be trending nearly 300 years later? Yet in an age where daily life is increasingly demanding and stressful, and not having enough hours in the day’ is a common complaint, more and more people are discovering that the secret to getting ahead, both personally and professionally, lies in rising early.

From clearing their in boxes, writing blogs or attending breakfast networking events, to doing crack-of-dawn workouts, meditation or even getting a hit of endorphins at an early morning ‘fitness rave’, the new breed of early risers is getting off to a flying start each day and ticking off their to-do lists while the rest of us are still hiding beneath our duvets and hitting the snooze button.

Description: Change your life before breakfast

Change your life before breakfast

Wake-up call

Indeed, it seems the old adage of ‘you snooze, you lose’, now comes weighted with scientific evidence. Numerous studies conclude that early risers are more proactive and productive, can anticipate problems and minimize them more efficiently, and are better planners, using their morning quiet time for goal-setting and diary planning, all resulting in greater success at work and increased personal satisfaction.

Happy hour

‘Early risers tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges which then leads to better job opportunities,’ says biology professor Christopher Randler of the University of Education at Heidelberg, Germany. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them - they’re proactive.’ And a recent study published in the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion, indicates anything early risers are generally happier than night owls too, although researchers suggested that part of the reason could lie in the way our society has structured the workday in a way that’s more conducive to a morning person’s schedule. (Unless you work a night shift, of course.)

Little wonder, then, that so many of the world’s most powerful and successful people, from President Obama and Apple CEO Tim Cook to US Vogue editor Anna Wintour and actress Gwyneth Paltrow, are generally up and out of bed by 4AM.

Description: Early risers tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges which then leads to better job opportunities

Early risers tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges which then leads to better job opportunities

Anjhe Mules, founder of sportswear brand Lucas Hugh (lucashugh.com), is another early morning convert. ‘I realized I was never going to get anything done if I slept in. I awake at 6am and go straight to the gym. It sets me up for whatever is lying ahead, and I don’t feel guilty for the rest of the day, thinking I need to fit in exercise.’ Despite retiring at 9.45pm every week night, Mules doesn’t feel she’s missing out. ‘The key is to work out what your priorities are, and structure your day according to what you want to achieve.’

So it’s great news all round for early birds. But what does this ever mean for the 20 per cent of ‘ the population who are night g e L owls, and the other 6o per do n e cent who fall somewhere t in’ between morning lark and nocturnal? I don t think you can categorically say that early risers are more successful,’ says Professor Jim Home of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University. ‘Although morning types do tend to be more studious and organized, evening types are shown to be more creative, innovative, extrovert and flexible, which are also useful qualities for achieving success,’ he points out.

Indeed, the secret of getting ahead in life has less to do with your ‘sleeping personality’, and everything to do with logistics, says Laura Vanderkam, author of new book What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. She believes that even committed night owls can benefit from rising early if they arrange their time to better complement their creative tendencies.

‘Early risers are not better people than late risers. It’s just that early risers structure their lives in order to get important things done,’ she explains. ‘If you wait until the end of the day to tackle your goals, having done meaningful but non-urgent things like exercise, prayer or reading, and only then and ponder how to advance your career, or truly give your family your best, you may be out of energy or time. You should always priorities what’s vital and necessary.’

Description: Early risers are not better people than late risers. It’s just that early risers structure their lives in order to get important things done

Early risers are not better people than late risers. It’s just that early risers structure their lives in order to get important things done

New research on willpower supports Vanderkam’s theory. In an experiment conducted by Roy F. Baumeister, psychology professor and author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength participants successfully resisted the temptation of sweet treats, but the effort left them with less energy to tackle cognitive tasks. This led Baumeister and his colleagues to conclude ‘willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse.’

If this is correct, suggests Vanderkam, your levels of willpower will be used up throughout the day as you make decisions or face problems. Because your levels of willpower are at their highest first thing, it makes mornings the ideal time to tackle anything that requires discipline and focus.

Dream life

Business woman Kal di Paola, CEO and founder of BuyMyWardrobe would surely agree. Before the birth of her son three years ago and the launch of her business, she preferred working at night ‘while the world slept’. These days, she still does lots of writing and business planning in the evenings ‘because it’s the time I feel most creative (some habits die hard)’. But she now wakes at 6am, using the first hour to go over the previous night’s work when her mind is at its freshest. ‘Plus, there are no distractions, so I get more done in that hour that I would in three hours at the office.’ After an hour of quality time with her son, she drops him at nursery and reaches the office at 8.45am; or her husband does the nursery run and she fits in a 45-minute run. ‘Committing to a routine means I get things done and have the focus I need in order to achieve the goals I set myself. I can’t imagine a life waking up later now,’ she says.

Description: But she now wakes at 6am, using the first hour to go over the previous night’s work when her mind is at its freshest

But she now wakes at 6am, using the first hour to go over the previous night’s work when her mind is at its freshest

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