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I am a night owl by nature. I would rather stay up late than follow Benjamin Franklin’s admonition in Poor Richard’s Almanack: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  But I have learned that Franklin understood something. It is the same thing that the most productive people know.
In this lesson, we will briefly discuss the morning habits of successful people. I am not citing any particular authors because there is near universal agreement on the following pattern.
First, productive people value sleep—or at least, they value the benefits of sleep. Get enough sleep. Be sure you get good, restful sleep. I fully realize that this can be tough. I have six children and the quality of my sleep over the last 13 years has ebbed and flowed based on our baby’s desire for company at 2:00 AM. But, as far as it depends on you, prioritize sleep.
Next, get up early.  That may sound strange after I just told you to get enough sleep, but these two things are not necessarily in conflict. It will require you, however, to go to sleep earlier.  But the benefits will outweigh the cost.

I found this to be particularly true in my situation where I have quiet before the chaos when children rise.  Instead of waking up when my children demand breakfast, I began getting up at 6:00 or 6:30.  It was amazing how productive I could be in the hour or two before my children arose.
The most productive people seem to agree that rising early is a key to their success. 6:00  seems to be the norm, though some rise as late as 7:00 and others rise as early as 4:00 AM.  No one advocated 10:30 AM, which is quite sad.
Next, exercise your body and mind. The productive also tend to exercise first thing in the morning. A morning workout does not have to be long for exercise to have an impact. Many also spend time before working by reorienting themselves either with inspirational, motivational, or devotional reading.
Finally, they review the day’s activities (which they would have determined the night before) before getting down to business. They do not jump right into work and they certainly do not spend this golden time checking email. Often they spend this time on long-term creative tasks such as planning or writing. This time precedes everything else, including breakfast and the normal work of the day.
When you put it all together, it is like an emotional energy drink: great sleep, plus exercise, plus motivation, plus focus means that you hit the ground running before others are even awake.
I tried this myself, and I have to admit that my days changed fairly significantly.  This was my routine:

  • I tried to get to sleep an hour or two earlier. I was not always successful.
  • I tried to wake up at 6:00 (it was more like at 6:30, but this was an improvement). I tried 5 :00 and 5:30, but that just didn’t work for me.
  • When I got up, I would immediately exercise. I prefer to go for a walk, but if the weather was inclement, I would ride a stationary bicycle at home.
  • While I did this, I listened to an audiobook (or if I was riding the stationary bike, I might watch a YouTube video about productivity). By doing this, I was killing two birds with one stone.
  • By the time I started my work, I felt energized and was ready to attack the day. As an added bonus, I still had time to knock out some quality long-term projects before the children arose.

This method is a game-changer. I can feel the difference in my output and my demeanor each day when I follow this plan. After a month, I forgot what it was like not to exercise first thing in the morning.
However, I haven’t conducted this new morning routine consistently. The week that I worked at my church’s VBS and the weeks that relatives were in town were washed out by the extra activity. I was amazed how easy it was to break a new habit (more about that in a future lesson). Nevertheless, I see the benefits and I plan to live by this new approach. You should too.
What About You?
What can you do to make sure you get a good start each morning?