Is An Early Rise Important For Career Success?

One of the interesting debates about achieving success is whether it’s better to be an early bird or night lark.

Is it better to be a go-getter and start the day before your peers and competitors, or is it better to rise at a more standard hour and take the day in your stroll?

If you read the biographies of many successful people in business, the arts and sport, there does seem to be a skew towards early birds.

Take Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who starts his mornings at 3:45am. By 5am, he’s in the gym. He also works late, priding himself on being the first into the office and the last out of it.

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Mark Wahlberg, the Hollywood actor, is another famous early riser, up at 2:30am. He begins his day with half hour of prayer, before a 3.15am breakfast and hour-and-a-half-long workout. He’s eating the second meal of his day by 5:30am.

Iconic historical figures are also renowned to have had little sleep. Thatcher famously said she slept for only four hours a night, as too did Churchill during World War II (albeit he took naps in the afternoon). Napoleon, when asked how many hours sleep people needed, is said to have replied, “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool."

However, as you would expect, there many examples of incredibly successful people that have standard waking times. Take two of most prominent US billionaires, the geniuses Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

Musk, the founder of three $1-billion valued companies, wakes-up at a standard time of 7am, getting in the recommended minimum of 7-8 hours sleep. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is believed to raise as late as 8am, and the first thing he does is check his Facebook.

Many biologists believe that the importance of the morning routine far outweighs whether you wake up early or late. Naturally, the critical thing is how productive you are with your time.

They cite the importance of a structured morning routine, to set the tone for the day, allowing us to prioritise our time, and ultimately increase our productivity. A daily plan of attack allows us to control our schedules, rather than our schedule controlling us.

Indeed, Musk intentionally plans his day out in five-minute increments or 'time blocks’, allowing him to zoom in with a ruthless efficiency on the important tasks at hand. Each time block is assigned with a specific task or activity, including replies to overdue emails, meals and work meetings.

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Interestingly, the Harvard Biologist Christoph Randler discovered that it is early risers that tend to have the traits to be successful. They are more pro-active and have greater willpower which are deemed to be critical habits for individual success.

This makes sense. Early risers need to have the discipline to go to bed early and the willpower to wake up early. It’s not surprising they have a more energetic and pro-active approach to life.

Interestingly, not only are early risers likely to be more successful, but they’re also like to live longer. In 2018, scientists at the University of Surrey completed a six-and-a-half year study, collecting data from 430,000 adults. Their major deduction was that night owls, those who went to bed late and slept in late, were 10% more likely to die early compared to early birds.

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