Why Waking Up Early Leads to More Productivity

Most of us are aware of Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying that early to bed and rise is the condition precedent to both health and wealth. What is less an element of the public consciousness is Franklin’s passage from “A Way to Wealth” that precedes it:

“But if you do love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of, as Poor Richard says….If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be, as Poor Richard says, the greatest prodigality, since, as he elsewhere tells us, lost time is never found again, and what we call time-enough, always proves little enough: let us then be up and be doing, and doing to the purpose; so by diligence shall we do more with less perplexity. Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all easy, as Poor Richard says; and he that riseth late, must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night. And early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” (emphasis added).

The advantage of waking up early is the momentum effect that you can build that carries with you throughout the entire day.

As a matter of logic, the quiet of 5 AM – 7 AM shouldn’t necessarily be any more productive or useful than the period for someone staying up from 1 AM to 3 AM, but something psychologically exists where you feel like you’re getting ahead of everyone else during the early morning hours whereas the same effort exerted delayed to the end of the day feels more like a mad dash to play catch up.

This distinction matters because victories tend be cumulative and it is easier to do something impressive on the heels of accomplishment because you have the confidence. If you wake up at 5 AM and exercise for an hour, the prospect of the work ahead is not nearly so daunting because you have already proven that your body is capable of accomplishment so why not your mind, too? Or, if you start your morning by doing work, you can enhance that productivity because you have already gotten into the “flow”.

Beginning a task is the hardest aspect of a task. Getting from 0-10% on an assignment can often consume just as much time and effort as getting from 10% to 100%. Subconsciously knowing this, it can be tempting to sabotage ourselves into delaying the start because we have internalized that getting from “about to start” to “in the flow of things” is the most difficult aspect.

If you delay commencement until the end of the day, thinking you’ll work as late as need be to get ahead, you will be frantically trying to find that flow, often at a time when you’re feeling most tired. Meanwhile, someone who wakes up early in the morning can get from “about to start” to “in the flow” during the moment when most are still asleep, with the rest of the day serving as the runway to accomplish that other 90%.