Does getting up at 5am make you more successful? We tried it

Many of the world's top CEOs say they get up ridiculously early every day - Lifestyle Writer Rachel Hosie tried it to see what all the fuss is about

Rachel Hosie
Monday 16 October 2017 10:38 BST
(Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


I am not a morning person. If you don’t believe me, ask literally anyone who has ever had the misfortune of encountering me before 9am. Or my first cup of tea, at least.

No, I am resolutely a night owl and will always prefer to stay up late than wake up early.

So it’s always slightly bothered me when reading the countless articles about how the main thing the world’s most successful people have in common is that they wake up early.

Apple CEO Tim Cook apparently wakes up at 3.45am (which is legit the middle of the night), Vogue editor Anna Wintour gets out of bed to play tennis at 5.45am, Richard Branson has said he rises at the same time, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reportedly gets up at 4.30am.

The idea is that adding those extra hours to the day when no one else is up allows you to get a head-start and be super productive.

What’s more, it sets you up with a ‘winner’s mindset,’ which is all about the sense of control and strengthened willpower you get from beating your inner voice that wants to stay in bed.

So does getting up at the crack of dawn really hold the key to success? I decided to try it and set my alarm for 5am for a week.

Here are seven things I learned:

1. You suddenly have time to exercise

As someone who always prioritises her social life over her fitness, I’d for a long time told myself I didn’t have time for exercise (even though I knew this was a pathetic excuse). It turns out that when you get up four hours before you have to be at work, there’s so much time to fill you’d be silly not to get moving.

Over the course of my week, I went to the gym, did a couple of at-home workouts, channelled my inner yogi and even walked to work one day. Well, I walked half of my commute, but it would've taken two hours to walk the whole thing.

Getting up early also meant that on Monday evening - which is usually the one day of the week I do get a sweat on (instead of a drink on) after work, I went straight home because I’d exercised that morning. It felt lovely.

2. You’ll feel smug

Exercising in my living room at 6am, whilst not only my flatmates but the majority of people everywhere were still asleep, felt kind of awesome.

That said, the fact that my flatmates were sleeping did mean I couldn’t do laundry, hoover, make smoothies or do anything that might wake them up.

But by the time I got to work every morning, I’d already ticked all sorts off my to-do list, from changing my bedlinen and cleaning to sending emails and brainstorming ideas for work.

3. You’re hungrier all day

One of the nicer parts of getting up earlier was having the time to cook myself nice breakfasts at home. But being awake longer and eating breakfast earlier seemed to mean I was hungrier all day long.

Despite the supposed ‘winner’s mindset’ I certainly didn’t suddenly have iron resolve and strong enough willpower to resist the never-ending office chocolate supply. The wait for lunch was long...

4. You have to cut short your social plans in the evening

On an average day when I’d be getting up at my usual time of 7.15am, I’d go to bed around midnight. But if I had to get up at 5am, there was no way I could stay up that late.

On day two of my challenge, I had a date and decided to tell the poor guy I couldn’t stay out past 10pm. I also insisted we go out close to where I live. (I’m really low-maintenance, boys. Promise.) Fortunately I didn’t yawn once though.

On day four, however, I ended up at a fancy dinner and drinks event which simply went on later than I was expecting and meant I didn’t make it home till nearly midnight. Boy, was I tired. And getting up the next day was incredibly difficult.

5. You’ll look better

All week, I received compliments about my appearance from my colleagues. Possibly due to a combination of the healthy glow one acquires from a spot of exercise or simply due to the fact that I’d had time to make myself look halfway decent for once. It was rather nice.

I spent my mornings curling my hair, painting my nails and doing smokey eye makeup and was a little overwhelmed by the lovely comments on my “glowing complexion” and “glorious hair.” My poor colleagues have had to go back to my regular look now.

6. You hit a wall

On the first couple of days of my week as an early-riser, I didn’t even feel tired. In fact, getting up wasn’t actually that hard because I knew I could wake up slowly and simply get back into bed with a cup of tea and catch up on the news.

The sun was shining (well, almost - it was on its way up) and the birds were singing. Until the third day at least. It turns out getting up is a lot harder when it’s not sunny - I realised doing this would be a hell of a lot harder in the winter months.

And as the week wore on, the novelty wore off. By day five, I did not want to get up and was feeling really tired. When my friend cancelled our dinner plans for that evening, I was secretly thrilled that I could go home and go to bed. Which is most unlike me. The week felt so long.

7. You’ll be more efficient at work

Incredibly, I actually achieved more at work than usual and was surprisingly productive. I genuinely felt energised throughout most of the working day all week long. I was more focussed too.

Perhaps being productive first thing in the morning before you get to work does in fact make you more productive for the rest of the day.

Was I tired? Yes and no. When I didn’t go to bed till midnight I was sure as hell struggling the next day so I don’t think I’m someone who can function on under five hours sleep.

That said, it seems I don’t actually need as much sleep as I thought and I was completely surprised by the fact that I didn’t feel shattered all week.

Despite my productivity, I’m not going to continue getting up at 5am every day because I enjoy having a social life in the evenings. Do the CEOs not go out eating and drinking and socialising every night? (I probably know the answer to that one.)

However, I have now started getting up at 6am a few times a week to fit in a workout without compromising on my social life. It turns out I do have time after all.

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