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Waking up Early

Several years ago I read a book that linked one of the habits of success to waking up very early in the morning.  I think the author pinned the time as being 6:00 AM or earlier.  The interesting thing is that the book profiled a wide group of people whom were at the top of their careers, including entrepreneurs, CEO’s of very large corporations and even successful politicians.  Of course there are successful people that wake up late, but the author was confident that waking up early was a component of success.

I remembered the book because it was in stark contrast to my lifestyle.  Waking up early for me was 8:30AM, and it was not uncommon for me to wake up until 11AM or even 12PM.  In college I would never go to bed earlier than 1AM.  I was either studying, playing video games or partying, and I intentionally never had a class before 12 PM.  Then when I came to China, I taught English and I didn’t have to work until 10AM and I would often stay up until 2 or 3 working on my new business.

For the first few years when I started my business, I literally would start work at 8 PM and I would go to bed around 9 or 10 AM.  I was in Asia, and I was my company’s only employee so I had to keep these hours to provide sales and customer service support to my clients in the US.  Then when I started to hire people in my company, I had to work nights to manage them, but I also had to work during the day to manage our factory suppliers.

As time went on, my hours became more normal but I always found myself keeping the schedule of at least working until 2 or 3 AM, and not getting into the office the next day until 10 AM, and often times much later.  I’m the boss, so of course there was nobody that would dictate to me when I had to work.  I started to hate the schedule, because it was unfair to my Asia team that worked during the day.  If I had something that needed to be done, I probably wouldn’t think about it until after lunch, and its difficult to accommodate a boss that is giving you assignments that are due that day, when the day is already half over.  The fact is the world still operates with the morning being the beginning of the day and the night being the end of the day.  If you aren’t keeping those hours you are always behind.

This idea of waking up early really appealed to me so I gave it a try.  I started waking up at 4:30 AM.  I chose 4:30 because it allowed me at least an hour to work with anyone on the East Coast of the US as 4:30 AM in China or the Philippines is 4:30 PM on the East Coast (3:30 depending on the time of the year), and it’s still 1:30 or 12:30 PM on the West Coast to work with my team in California.  It also gives me time to talk to my night team in Manila, and it allows me to prepare for my production staff in China for the upcoming day.  I also work with some people in Europe and they are 6 hours behind us in Asia, so its 9AM in Europe when it’s 3PM in China.  By lunch I could have meetings with the US, our Philippines team that serves the US, our China team, and there was time to spare to prepare for Europe.

In theory the plan was perfect, but the execution was poor.  First of all I had 10 years of history of sleeping late and waking up late, so it was really hard to break the cycle.  What made it more difficult is right before I was about to go to bed there would always be an important email or phone call, and I’d be up until 1.  I’d wake up at 4:30 AM, I’d be exhausted, so I’d take a nap during the day and then it would be difficult to fall asleep at a reasonable hour that night.  I tried it for about 2 months, but the experiment failed miserably and I was really tired and unhappy doing it.

I tried it again about two months ago and its working out really well, and I’m truly enjoying it.  The most important thing I had to do, was to train everyone around me and myself that I would not be available after 10.  I might send an email after 10, but I got rid of the expectation that I can be reached after 10.  I also taught myself that almost nothing is so important that it can’t be dealt with 6.5 hours later at 4:30.  It took a few weeks, but now I don’t get phone calls after 10, and everyone knows that I probably won’t respond to emails after 10.  Even my friends know now not to call me after 10, or to invite me out for a late dinner.

To be continued………