By now you have likely heard that successful people are notorious early risers.
In fact, some studies have shown that 90% of executives wake up before 6am on weekdays, and nearly 50% of self-made millionaires wake up at least three hours before their workday actually begins.
But is this really the case?
I went in search of the wake-up times of today’s most successful people, both young and old, and from a range of different industries.
Here is what I found (in order of wake-up time, earliest to latest):
- Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45am every morning to go through email, exercise, and grab a coffee before settling in to his work day.
- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is already in the gym by 4am to get an edge on the competition.
- PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi rises at 4am and is at work no later than 7am.
- Starbucks Exec Howard Schultz gets up at 4:30am to walk his dogs, exercise, and then he makes coffee to get the day going.
- Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square, wakes at 5am to meditate, exercise, make coffee, and then check in for his work day.
- LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner wakes at 5:30am, checks email, reads the news, exercises, meditates, and eats breakfast (all before 9am).
- Richard Branson rises with the sun at 5:45am to exercise and eat an early breakfast before work.
- Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, wakes up at 6am every single day and gets his day started by checking his phone, catching up on the news, and then exercising.
- Oprah Winfrey usually wakes up (naturally) between 6:02 and 6:20am and gets her day going by walking the dogs, followed by chai tea or a cappuccino, exercise, meditation, and breakfast.
- Warren Buffett wakes up at 6:45am and starts his day by reading the newspaper.
- Elon Musk rises at 7am and begins his day by tackling critical emails, and then gets his kids off to school, showers, and heads to the office.
- Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos prioritizes 8 hours of sleep and usually gets his day started between 7 and 8am, reading the newspaper while exercising on the treadmill.
- Mark Zuckerberg wakes by 8am, checks his phone, and then goes for a run (or some other form of exercise) to start his day.
- Jay-Z wakes at 8am and starts his day with a 3-mile run on the treadmill.
- Co-founder of BuzzFeed Jonah Peretti sleeps in until about 8:30am and then reads the paper as he heads to work.
- Pharrell Williams starts his day at 9am (without the help of an alarm clock) and then hops in the shower (where he comes up with many of his song ideas).
- Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, wakes up at 10am and then clears out email for another 30 minutes in bed.
So while there are outliers on both ends, it does appear as though most of today’s top business leaders are up and at ’em by 7am (and almost certainly by 8am).
While energy levels and work conditions are unique to every individual, early mornings seem to be so popular because they enable you to get a head start on the day before distractions and obligations arise.
Attacking the day on your own terms first-thing also gives you a sense of control in your life. Early morning hours enable you to play offense, instead of being reactive to emails, calls, meetings, and other demands on your time.
It has also been shown that even if you aren’t a morning person, willpower is highest in the morning, which leads to better decision-making. It can be much more difficult to make productive and healthy choices late in the day when your mind is fatigued.
And perhaps most importantly, mornings give you the opportunity to set the tone for the day. Accomplishing something right away — whether that’s clearing out your inbox, exercising, or eating a nutritious breakfast — sets off a chain reaction of other productive behavior throughout the day.
Those are just some of the reasons why early mornings seem to provide a competitive advantage for the most successful people.
There are certainly plenty of examples of accomplished night owls, but there is no denying that most people today do not have the luxury of sleeping in. Therefore, waking up early has become almost a necessity in today’s fast-paced business world.
I am not a natural morning person, and have found the only way to make an early wake-up call tolerable is to get the recommended 7–8 hours of sleep and go to bed by 10pm.
Even with a full night of sleep, my mind is still foggy until I finish my morning run and have a cup of coffee.
But with proper rest, exercise, and coffee, I have actually come to enjoy mornings and undoubtedly recognize the business advantages of waking early.
Perhaps the dynamics of a “normal” business day will shift and become more personalized in the years to come, but for now success seems to favor the early-risers.
Just ask Tim Cook or The Rock.