5 Powerful Ways Becoming A Morning Person Unlocks Your Leadership

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So you’re trying to be more productive—to get more done in less time.

I get that. But what kind of change does that mean for your schedule? Because as you know, if nothing changes, nothing will change.

So here’s a question: Does it really make a difference whether you’re a morning person or not when it comes to productivity?

One of the more frequently asked questions I get as a leader is, “How do you get it all done?”

My answer to the question of how to get a lot done is usually a variation of “It’s amazing what you can get done before 8 a.m. if you try.”

As painful as that may sound to you, it’s probably also true for you. Most high-impact leaders I know get more done before 10 a.m. than most people get done in a day.

Here are five ways becoming a morning person—as tough as that might sound—unlocks your leadership!

I Wasn’t Always A Morning Person…

I wasn’t always a morning person.

In university, I chose classes based on how late they started to sleep in.

I’ve made the transition from NOT being a morning person to getting up most days between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m.

How did that happen? The journey started when my wife and I got married (I decided to get up at 8 a.m. because she was a morning person).

Having kids a few years later threw my previous schedule out the window, and I started rising around 6 a.m. and kept that discipline up through my 30s. Usually, I would get up early, pound through some email (after devotions), and then make breakfast and start working in earnest around 9 a.m.

I spent my 30s wanting to write a book and having friends tell me I should. But I didn’t.

It wasn’t until my 40s that I started getting up earlier and really committing to a 5:00 a.m. wake-up call.

Since then, I’ve led the church I planted to the largest it’s ever been, published three books, blogged regularly, launched a podcast, and spoken more regularly at conferences – plus spent more time meaningfully with my wife and kids than before.

Is that ALL because I got up earlier? No, age and stage have their advantages.

You (hopefully) accumulate wisdom, learn to do things faster, and your kids get older and don’t demand 24/7 attention like they used to (although I’m still convinced parenting teens requires as much or more time than parenting toddlers). Could I have done all of this in my 30s? Probably not.

But if I got up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. most days, I’m convinced all I’d be able to handle is my day job, and I’m convinced I would do it more poorly at that. In other words, I’m not sure I’d be doing anything more than my day job had I kept sleeping in.

So how does being a morning person give me (and many other leaders) a distinct advantage?

Here are five ways becoming a morning person unlocks your leadership potential:

1. Your Brain Is (Probably) At Its Best

Personally, there’s no doubt I get my best work done before 10:00 a.m. My most creative thoughts, best insights, and clearest analysis happen well before lunch.

I’m amazed at how many high-capacity leaders I know tell me the same thing.

Some research backs up my findings—that morning people do significantly better overall than night owls do.

Other studies show a more balanced view, with night owls gaining a few advantages over morning people.

My guess is we could trade studies all day long to make our points, but I’ve personally never been better than when I’m up early.

Your most important asset as a leader is your mind.

And personally, my brain just does better when it’s fresh off of rest. (I think sleep is the secret leadership weapon no one wants to talk about.) By working early (even if it’s just an hour), you do your most important work when your brain is at its best.

Naps can also reset your brain during the day, and I will often take a nap if I can. However, I find a nap recharges my brain for far less time than a 6-8 hour sleep will.

Your brain serves you better as a leader when it’s rested.

Your brain serves you better as a leader when it’s rested. Click To Tweet

2. You’re More Efficient Because You Beat Rush Hour

Of all the ways an early rise impacts your leadership, I think this is my favorite.

Work patterns are a lot like traffic patterns: At 5 a.m., you have the road to yourself. At 8 a.m., it could take you three times as long to travel the same distance.

These days I do everything I can to beat traffic, not just on the road but in life. I do most of my shopping during off-hours. My wife and I have even begun to do off-season travel.

Why? Because we end up having more time to do what matters most.

Ditto with work.

Guess who’s texting you at 5:30 a.m.? Nobody.

Guess who’s emailing you an urgent response at 6:15 a.m.? Nobody.

You’ve got the work lane all to yourself, which means you can work uninterrupted. You can think uninterrupted. You can actually accomplish all your most essential tasks completely distraction-free.

Morning people beat rush hour at work the same way early risers beat traffic on the highway. Click To Tweet

And for someone with ADD, I’m grateful for that.

By the way, this reason alone is enough for me to recommend starting early to any leader.

Working when no one else is working gives any leader a distinct advantage.

People are trying to communicate with you at any other time of the day. But rarely do they do that before 8 a.m.

Morning people work uninterrupted because, well, no one else is up. Imagine that. Click To Tweet

3. You Get To Work On Your Most Important Tasks

Do you know what’s fascinating about leadership?

Nobody asks you to accomplish your most important priorities. They just criticize you if you don’t.

Your colleagues will never ask you to accomplish your priorities. They will usually ask you to help accomplish theirs.

Which is why you never get your work done.

That’s also what email is, by the way; other people asking you to do things that aren’t on your task list.

By starting early, you can accomplish your priorities and then be available to help others with theirs, in person or via email.

Beginning early eliminates so much of the everyday push and pull. Plus, you’ll be far kinder and more gracious when you interact with them because you’re already done.

Nobody asks you to accomplish your most important priorities. They just criticize you if you don’t. Click To Tweet

4. You Already Have A Series Of Wins Under Your Belt

Sometimes, all you need as a leader is some kind of win.

Starting early means you:

Got a jump on your message.

Came up with a great idea.

Discovered a new strategy.

Banged out a chapter you were not expecting to write.

Got the retreat planned ahead of schedule.

With one or two wins under your belt, the rest of the day is easier.

So much of leadership remains undone at the end of the day–except for what you got done first.

So much of leadership remains undone at the end of the day–except for what you got done first. Click To Tweet

5. Your Big To-Dos Are Already Done

If you use your time well, the essential task for the day can be done by mid-morning.

I’ve never tried this, but I suspect if I stopped working at 10 a.m. most days, I’d still be 70% as productive as I am now. And more importantly, I’d have the most significant things done.

I usually spend my later time in meetings, answering emails, or doing other tasks that require less mental energy.

But again, even if those don’t go well or take longer than expected, the big stuff is already accomplished. Which means you’re really already done for the day.

Think about what that could mean to you and the people you love: When you start early, you get your evenings back, your weekends back, and your life back. Because your most important work is done.

So how can you become a morning person?

Try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier every week until you hit the time you think you need to be up. In a month, you could be operating one hour earlier than before. (And remember to go to bed earlier too. I’m generally in bed between 9:30 and 10 p.m. most nights.)

Michael Hyatt has some great ideas on becoming a morning person as well.

The bottom line is: Start now.

Wanting to be a morning person brings you none of the benefits of becoming a morning person.

Wanting to be a morning person brings you none of the benefits of becoming a morning person. You have to start now. Click To Tweet

Can't find the time to get it all done? Become a high-impact leader without burning out (or sacrificing yourself).

Without a new strategy and approach, it's easy to continue to:

  • Sacrifice family on the altar of work
  • Overcommit and underdeliver
  • Have no time for what you actually want to do
  • Struggle to get time off to refuel and relax

Worst of all, other people—other tasks, jobs, and projects—will continue to hijack your life.

It’s time to change that by implementing a strategy that works.

At Your Best is a proven strategy to get your time, energy, and priorities working in your favor. It's my step-by-step online course that will help you overcome stress, find a sustainable pace without losing impact, and be far more productive at work.

50,000+ leaders have used the At Your Best strategy to escape the stress spiral and finally do what they want to do—grow their organizations, advance their careers, launch new ventures, be far more present at home, and take regular time off.

Wow! I didn’t realize I was in desperate need of this message and system in my life and business. 

This message so profoundly impacted us, that we named our annual company theme, “At Our Best,” using Carey’s system and resources to strengthen our culture and make health a priority this year.”

Sean CannellFounder and CEO, Think Media

Whatever you choose to do with it is up to you. Join today for instant access.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.