Benjamin Franklin claimed, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." It's nice to believe that it's really that easy and can apply to everyone. Even some research indicates a connection between early risers and high achievers. But a better predictor of success is the highly beneficial but underrated quality of self-awareness. Understanding what works for each of us individually sets the tone for our performance and productivity.
Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up? Do you get to the office, log on and check your email right away? Are you running from one meeting to another, and before you know it you've lost your day entirely? We all do this to some extent, paying the price of living in a super-connected world. At times this leads us to lose sight of our personal connection towards others, and self-awareness for ourselves.
I am lucky in that rising early comes naturally. I am most alert and energetic in the morning. But I've also set priorities that work with my natural rhythm and support both my professional and personal responsibilities. When I arrive early to the office, I spend my time on creative thinking, visualization and reflection. Allocating time to connect with yourself is very important for all leaders: it grounds you, gives you perspective and prioritization. That is how I'm able to set the tone for the day ahead.
I also enjoy what naturally happens early in the mornings at the office: hallway gatherings, one-on-one discussions, and informal coffees. I learn a great deal about our business and who our team members are from those early morning chats. Their hobbies, passions, and what drives them come across easier and faster outside the nine-to-five. Typically I find myself in an unplanned breakfast at least twice a week, always an enjoyable and insightful experience.
Finding those informal pockets in the day to connect with colleagues is valuable for any leader. And it's clear why we are starting to choose breakfast over lunch. What you do before 8 a.m., whether meeting with colleagues or taking the time for reflection, gives you plenty of time to proceed with the business of your day. It allows you to move through your day with less anxiety and a sense of accomplishment.
Maybe the success scale does tip heavier in favour of those wired to rise early. But that sounds silly. There are plenty of success stories about those who prefer to begin their day when the sun is already up. One common thread among successful leaders, regardless of when they wake up, is that they shape a positive and productive workday for themselves and for those around them. By becoming aware of their environment, taking the time to reflect, they define their priorities clearly and manage their time.
While we may lead others, we decisively lead ourselves.