Accomplishing things in the morning sets off a "cascade of success," says Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, and a "night owl" who "consciously changed my morning habits so I could get up earlier." He now starts his days by writing down three things he's grateful for, exercising, and sending a quick email to reconnect with a family member or friend. He says he enjoys all these activities, and finds that "if you're thinking about things you're looking forward to, that makes it easy to get out of bed." Then, "once your brain records a victory, it's more likely to take the next step and the next step." If your first major victory comes at 10 p.m. but your boss expects you to be at an 8 a.m. meeting, there's just not much time for getting things done.
Financial advisors tell people to transfer money to savings as soon as they get paid, because there will always be a reason why you can't put $500 toward your emergency fund at the end of the month. Likewise, there will always be a reason not to exercise at 5 p.m. A growing body of research suggests that will power functions like a muscle. It fails when used too much. By putting important-but-not-urgent activities like exercise, religious practices, or strategic thinking early in the day, you can knock these tasks off your list before your will power is exhausted by boring meetings or the siren song of the office vending machine.
Randeep Rekhi has an 8 to 5 job and also runs an online wine store called WineDelight.com. "The physical location for the business is in California and I'm in Colorado, so the easiest way to communicate with other employees is via G-Talk, thus I'm always on it in case I'm needed," he says. "This can get distracting at times, but working very early in the morning is great because all the other employees are asleep." Even if your colleagues are all early risers, they likely want to use this time to focus, too -- and may feel sheepish putting a conference call on someone's calendar at 6:30 a.m.