The benefits of waking up early

Femke van Schoonhoven
The Apartment
Published in
6 min readJan 25, 2016

We all want more hours in the day, but what if we shifted our mindset to making more time by getting up earlier?

Everyone is busy.

When you ask your friends how they’ve been, it’s likely they’ll reply with ‘Pretty busy’. Being busy is almost like a badge of honour, a way of showing you’re productive, you’re doing things with your time.

Yet it can also cause exhaustion. Not planning your day and running from task A to B can eliminate the power of focus time — which i when you get your best work done.

While we feel like we’re being productive and getting things done, we often don’t reflect on whether we spent the day being efficiently productive. You could be going from meeting to meeting, or complete three blog posts today, but how efficient were you during those tasks? Were you attentive at those meetings? Are your blog posts packed with value that will appeal to your audience?

We’re often trained to value quantity over quality. It can be easy to write three 500 word blog posts and feel accomplished. The challenge is in writing one 1,500 worded value packed blog post. But where do you find the time, focus and energy to complete that one task?

This is why we only post on this blog once a week. We respect your time and would rather put our focus and efficiency into providing you with one highly resonating blog post than 3 click bait one’s.

But how do we do it?

We wake up early.

Make time

Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day yet somehow we each manage to fill it up, completely to the brim and still feel like we don’t get enough done, or we ran out of time.

“I wish I had more time to do X”

This is something I’ve heard time and time again. It’s almost as if it’s an excuse. Yes, while time is a constraint that we can’t change, what we can change is what we do with. This starts with assessing your priorities.

Did you have something important you needed to get done yesterday but ran out of time to do? Think about what you did yesterday — did you watch TV? Spend a lot of time on your phone? Browse social media a lot?

Each of these activities occur because you made a conscious decision to do them. By making that decision, you prioritised them over other tasks.

Prioritising means you’ll have to make sacrifices, which isn’t easy. Sometimes you may have to sacrifice socialising with your friends, or catching up on the last episode of your favourite television show.

Identify what’s important to you and be aware of the decisions you make today on what activities you’ll do and how much time you spend on them. What would happen to your level of productivity if you spent that time working on your side project?

It’s time to stop wishing for more time. Prioritise your tasks and give those tasks your utmost attention and focus by making time.

Not sure where in your day to make time? Let’s start with making more time for yourself in the morning.

Get your most important work done first

You don’t need to be a morning person to get up early. YouTube star and my fellow podcasthost Charli Prangley made a video on how she transitioned to waking up at 5am every day while still maintaining that she’s a natural night owl.

Getting up early starts with a commitment to yourself. The first hour of your day always has the potential to be your most productive hour. Getting up early (before the majority of the rest of the world awakens) gives you the power make this hour even more productive as there are less distractions.

As soon as you start checking social media in the morning, your mind turns from having the potential to create into consuming mode.

The early morning is the best time for you to create and get your most important work done. Set your phone to do not disturb and try to avoid checking your emails.

Allowing yourself to put your brain into create mode first thing in the morning will give you the power to focus. This the time of day where you’re at your freshest. Your brain is energised from sleep and your body isn’t exhausted from the activities of the day.

Eliminating early morning distractions and putting your brain into create mode will help you focus and get your best work done.

Increase in productivity

Finding motivation to get out of bed early can be hard. We all love the warm, comforts of a cosy bed and crave just an extra ten minutes of sleep.

To help encourage yourself out of bed early, maintain a to do list or set a goal for the morning, the night before.

Waking up, lugging yourself to your desk and then trying to figure out what to do with your time can be a motivation killer and only make it hard to keep up a consistent wake up time.

If you’re often swamped with an overwhelming task list, the morning can be a great time to get those tasks done — especially if you’re also juggling a full time job. You may have a few small tasks that you could spend an hour doing, or get started on a bigger to do list that might span over a few days.

Spending an extra few minutes carefully planning, strategically thinking and managing your time is going to let you be a lot more productive when it comes to actually completing tasks. You’ll spend less time floating as having a structure to your week will help you maintain consistency.

If you manage to check off your early morning to do tasks early, you’ll empower yourself to have a lot more focus on the remaining tasks of the day.

Creates habit and routine

Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs were/wore the same clothing each day without question. Why? Because they’d rather spend those 5 seconds creating and building on their success rather than deciding on what to wear.

As this task began to find it’s way into their morning routines, after some time this became a habit and they never had to think twice about what to wear.

The same thing can be done for waking up early. If you hit the snooze button on your alarm every morning, it’s likely that you do this without thinking. Do you make a conscious choice to hit the snooze button? Or is it something that you just do out of instinct?

Hitting the dismiss button is one of the most powerful thing you can do to get up early. Waking up and saying no to snooze everyday will eventually become habit.

Charles Duhigg writes in his book The Power of Habit that the underlying psychology behind habits is to perform a routine and receive a reward.

Zuckerberg’s reward from wearing the same clothes every day is more time available to spend creating. Just like a reward of brushing our teeth is a clean smile and minty tingle.

The reward is often something that we can’t determine or define. It’s built over time as we continue to perform the routine. If you’re using that morning time to get your best work done, it’s likely that the productivity of achieving that work will become your reward.

Getting up early is going to be tough, at first.

As you start realising the potential of your productivity from your morning session, your body will adjust and a habit will form — making it easier.

Have you adjusted your routine to waking up early and found a positive effect on your productivity? Let us know on Twitter!

This article first appeared on The Apartment. Sign up to our newsletter to get articles like this in your inbox.



Femke van Schoonhoven
The Apartment

Kiwi in Canada, Product designer at Uber, Podcasting at @DesignLifeFM, Videos about design: