The typical stereotype of a coder working into the wee hours of the morning can often be also associated with entrepreneurs. Blame those all-night hackathons. Combine that with other misconceptions that entrepreneurs are lazy or unwilling to work a 9-to-5 day and it breeds a belief that entrepreneurs and early mornings don’t mix.
While the notion of being unwilling to work a 9-to-5 day may have some truth to it, entrepreneurs, especially ones running startups, are anything but lazy. When you own your own business and your team is either small or non-existent, your days are filled with many (and sometimes unfamiliar) tasks and responsibilities. With so many things on your plate, it’s important to make effective use of all your time.
So despite what some people may think, many entrepreneurs actually prefer to start their days early to maximize their effectiveness. Here are some morning habits of highly successful entrepreneurs.
Go to Bed Early
While this isn’t exactly a morning habit (and one that probably isn’t going to win you any cool points), reprogramming your internal clock by going to sleep earlier is integral to getting to work before the sun rises. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Shauna Harper, Startup Prince George and Owner of Live Work Communications, says that once she changed her sleeping habits, she found that it really changed her productivity and capacity. Her morning hacks include preparing your coffee maker the night before, and setting a goal to achieve in the morning before going to sleep. Over at 99u, they agree with Shauna and provide some tips for becoming an early riser. Some of the world’s most successful people swear by the value of a good night’s sleep. Take Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, who credits her productivity skills to getting seven hours of shut-eye every night.
Start With a Stimulant
For some people, the day begins with a coffee. For others, it’s a hearty breakfast. Still others find early-morning exercise is what gets their neurons firing first thing. Figure out what wakes you up and stimulates your productive juices, and work that into your morning routine. Kellie Paquette, President of LegUp Consultants, says she eats protein in the morning to keep herself alert through to the afternoon, since protein creates norepinephrine and dopamine which helps promote alertness. Nevin Buconjic, President of Digital Adventures, says he uses his first cup (or two) of coffee to read his emails and get caught up on what is happening in the world. In a 2013 article on NPR, Stephen Braun claimed that low doses of caffeine not only improved alertness and mental performance, but also help us be more supportive in social situations. He does go on to say that in our caffeine-soaked culture, it’s important to take a caffeine holiday, since too much caffeine can start to affect sleep patterns.
Get Small Tasks Done First
The reality for a lot of entrepreneurs is that their startup isn’t their only job. Many still work a full-time gig with their business being side hustle (for the time being). Sudbury entrepreneur Nicole Quenneville says she is most productive with getting the small tasks of her part-time freelance business out of the way in the few hours she has before heading into the office for her day job. If she leaves them to tackle after work, she says, other priorities like groceries and errands often get in the way. These early morning sessions are great examples of breaking work into 60-90-minute intervals, which is approximately how long it takes for your brain to burn almost all your body’s glucose. Plus, by breaking down a bigger job into smaller tasks, you are able to feel like you’re accomplishing more, instead of having a single big looming deadline.
Do the Brain Burning Stuff by Noon
Behavioural scientist, Dan Ariely, says that the two hours after we fully wake up, we are at our most productive. Yet, it’s during this time that we are often trying to ease into the day. Rather, he suggests, this should be the time where we use our brain to its full capacity. At LegUp Consultants, Paquette plans her day with Ariely’s theory in mind. She says she tries to schedule her important (and/or physical) tasks at the beginning of the day when she’s most alert. This includes meetings, webinars, and seminars, leaving email and other less challenging things to the afternoon.
For years it’s been drilled into us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While
what you eat has been shown to affect productivity levels, it’s important to remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the entire day, not just in the morning. Keeping active and balancing sleep, food, work, and play will lead to increased levels of happiness and helps boost your immune system.
While these suggestions are just the tip of the productivity iceberg, they’re relatively easy, simple changes that can have a big impact. Remember not to get frustrated when you’re trying to change your habits; it takes between 21-30 days for a habit to fully form. Also, while there are ways to improve your productivity, there are also a number of bad habits that are hurting your productivity, so watch out for those. As you continue to increase your productivity, you might want to try scoping out new ways to streamline your business processes with technology like Intuit QuickBooks Online invoicing and bookkeeping software.