Another book that influenced me and helped me to maintain this regiment was a book I read recently about the importance of keeping habits. If something becomes a habit it is easy to maintain. One difficulty I was having was that when I would travel it completely threw off my schedule. Especially when I would visit our Manila office because our team there works at night. I’d work the night shift with them, and then when I’d get back to my normal life, I couldn’t shake the habit of staying up late. So now in Manila I’m out of the office before 7PM or 8PM before anyone comes into the office, and I’ll wake up at 3AM or 4AM, so I can catch the last 4 or 5 hours of their shift. I don’t lose much because it forces me to be more focused during that time, and after everyone leaves I can focus on other work that doesn’t relate to that team.
The key to waking up early is you have to get a reasonable amount of sleep. If you don’t you are going to hate waking up early, its going to be miserable and less productive than just waking up late. The promise I made to myself is if I was going to “punish” myself by waking up early, I’d reward myself with getting good sleep.
The other thing that I learned was that sometimes you have to be a bit flexible. One night we had a new email campaign that we were sending out and the person in charge of it really couldn’t figure out how to use the tool to manage it. Nobody else in the company could figure it out and I wanted things to go out on time, so I ended up staying up until 2:30. I was flexible with myself and woke up at 6:30. You will have to find what’s right for you, but I can sleep 4 hours if its only once and a while, and with enough coffee, I can get through almost the entire day with a lot of energy. I don’t need a nap and by the time 9 or 10 comes around, I’ll be exhausted and ready for sleep, and back on track to wake up at 4:30.
Now I have been waking up at 4:30 AM for about two months and I absolutely love it. Its no longer a punishment. It’s now a preferred lifestyle choice. The biggest change is that I feel completely in control of my work as an entrepreneur.
At 4:30 I’ll take care of any East Coast calls, which is only about once or twice a week. I’ve mixed in a basic workout (this is one area that I need to improve on though, because there are no gyms open at this time in China or the Philippines and I hate jogging). I eat a healthy and large breakfast and by 6:00 or 6:30 I’ve worked out or read the news, cooked and ate breakfast, and showered. I’m in the office by 7 and I’m completely caught up with all my emails by the time my staff trickles into the office at 9AM.
By lunch I’m usually done with all of works mundane tasks, which means that after lunch I can sort of slow things down. I can take time to inspect our products, or even go to the factory, or have coffee or tea with one of my employees to find out more about their job. And now when 10 approaches, I don’t have to try to force myself to go to sleep, because I’m exhausted.
The only disadvantage to this is that your social life does take a bit of a hit. The US is actually the only culture that I have been exposed to where people stop social activities so early. In China its very common for people to have late dinners and to stay at the restaurant until 10 or 11 and sometimes even do something else afterward. Most of my friends here are not Americans, so this new regiment pretty much precludes me from being able to meet people during the week day. However, during the weekend I’ll stay out a little bit later, and I’ll sleep in later. But now I honestly have a preference for waking up early so by 12 I’m exhausted and its almost impossible for me to sleep past 7:30 on the weekend.
If you want to be a good entrepreneur you need every edge that you can get and this is definitely a new tool that will help you succeed. It might be difficult at first but with the proper planning you will be happy that you incorporate this habit into your lifestyle.