Why Getting Up at 4 a.m. Is Not for Everyone, and What You Can Do Instead
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Why Getting Up at 4 a.m. Is Not for Everyone, and What You Can Do Instead

Should you be planning to resolve to start your day earlier in 2020? As in 4, or 4.30 am early? There are a lot of big business names who think you should. It was perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook, who jump-started the idea when he revealed that he gets up at 3:45 a.m. every day, and a slew of others followed.

Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi all get 4.30 a.m. starts. The 5 a.m. club includes the likes of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. All very successful people. But is rising at the crack of dawn beneficial for everyone?

Why 4 a.m.?

The proponents of these before the rooster rises wake up times say they use the early hours to get a head start on the day, before emails and everything else start making demands on their time. Some also use this time to fit in a workout before the rest of the day begins. All of which is admirable, and probably provides a great productivity boost indeed. But there are downsides to the 4 a.m start; namely losing sleep and not having an actual life.

Whatever can be gained by a 4 a.m. start is easily outweighed by the benefits of a good night's sleep. The pros and cons of rising so early can be debated endlessly, but the benefits of enough sleep cannot, they have been scientifically proven time and time again. Not getting enough sleep is bad for your physical and mental health and it's also been proven to reduce your effectiveness and productivity at work.

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So you need those 8-8.5 hours of sleep that all these studies and experts recommend. To get that, if you plan to get up at 4 a.m. you will need to be in bed – and asleep – by 8 p.m at the latest.

Think of all the things you'll have to say no to in order to make that happen. Dinner with friends or your partner? Nope, you've got to go to bed. Concert, theater, or sporting events tickets? Give them to someone else, you'll be busy sleeping. Outing to the movies? Kid in a school play? No and no. And missing out on all this will, at some point, leave you feeling like life is passing you by, which it will be.

And speaking of kids, for parents going to bed by 8 p.m. can be almost an impossibility. And do you really want to miss out on those few precious hours of family time you can snatch as a busy person? The honest answer here is almost certainly no.

So, for most of us a commitment to a 4 a.m. rise before a full day of work is not reasonable and is likely to make you unhappy, unhealthy and less productive. But there are ways to still reap the benefits of doing so without having to go through all that. Here's a look at some of them.

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Get Up Early, Just Not Crazy Early

Depending on your commute and what time you have to be at work, rising at the considerably more civilized hour of 6 a.m. will still give you enough time to get in a workout before work.

You don't need to head to the gym, or drag out a ton of home exercise equipment every morning either. A 15 minute body weight HITT workout can be very effective and such routines burn a torn of calories too.

Get More Creative With Your Physical Workouts

If you just can't get in a pre-work workout you think is beneficial for you without waking up in the wee hours, then think about other options for making sure the workout happens.

For example, make a date with a friend to go for a walk or a run or to the gym or to an exercise class at lunchtime or after work. The fact that you're meeting a friend makes it much harder for you to cancel if your work schedule gets overloaded. Plus, you're getting the benefits of social interaction at the same time.

Create Quiet Time

Another often cited reason for a 4 a.m. start is the ability to get things done distraction free. However, except for those who have little control over their schedules in the day, like nurses, doctors and dispatchers, most of us have the ability to create quiet time for ourselves during the day.

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There is indeed plenty of evidence that this kind of uninterrupted thinking is important for innovation and creativity, and also for our general well-being and productivity. But it can be at any time of day. All you need to do is silence the ringer on your phone, close your email software and all social media. Tell your employees and colleagues not to disturb you until a time of your choosing.

If your colleagues don't get it and keep interrupting you, take your quiet time away from the office, at a café or library. And if you don't think they can get along without you for an hour a day, that suggests you have a problem with delegating and you should do something about it, something that is a whole different issue you need to address.

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