Search icon


17th Dec 2017

This One Small Change Will Reduce Your Stress Levels And Let You Get More Done


Do the world’s most successful people live their lives differently to us regular folk? Without question.

I’m fascinated with the habits of high fliers, which is probably why I was attracted to a recent article about how much sleep billionaires get.

The piece revealed that Bill Gates get seven hours of sleep a night, Tesla’s Elon Musk gets about 6 hours, while Twitter’s CEO gets Jack Dorsey just a measly four hours.

But you don’t have to be one of the ‘sleepless elite’ and cut your sleeping time in half to see a increase in your productivity.

This is what inspired me to take on a bit of a sleeping challenge. I decided I’d get up at 5am every day for a week to see if it would any difference in my own life — or just make me really pissy.

It would certainly be a departure from my usual routine: laying out tomorrow’s clothes and showering the night before so I can sleep as long as physically possible before making the last-minute dash to work while eating on the go.

Needless to say I’m no morning person, so I figured this’d be an interesting experiment…

The early bird and all that

I managed to pull myself out of my warm bed in the dim light of the early morning on the first day. Barely.

Since I’d only started this new sleeping cycle and wasn’t tired enough to go to bed any earlier, I’d fallen sleep at my usual time the night before, somewhere around midnight.

Groggy from a mere five hours sleep, I’d made my way to the living room where I sat feeling sorry for myself and wishing I was back in bed.

Not exactly a confidence inspiring beginning, true, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Upon gradually coming to my senses, I realise that I’d hours ahead of me to get my shit together before work, which was a refreshing situation to be in for once. 

The beauty of being awake at this hour is that you’re so bored that you actually want to do something productive.

Think about it, you’re not going to watch TV at that hour of the morning — you wouldn’t want wake up your housemates. Also, it’d just make you feel really lazy.

You’re not particularly interested in wasting your time on social media either, since there probably isn’t anything new on it from when you looked at it right before bed anyway.

Sure you could read a book to pass the time, but we’re counting that as being productive.

The first morning is the adjustment period, but it’s the second morning that things start to look up.

Jogger Sunrise

Now what?

Presumably you’ve now got about four hours before work begins, so you’ve got to decide how best to fill them.

You went to bed at a reasonable hour (about 10pm) and now you’re ready to make the most of that early start.

Got a meeting that day? Put your notes together. Tonne of emails to read through? Respond before the day even begins. If it’s a choice between staying late at work or getting a jump on things beforehand, you’ll feel better doing it first thing when you’ve got more energy. 

If a long day at work often leaves you too exhausted to exercise then this early start is just what you need. I kicked my early starts off with a long walk as the sky slowly brightened with no sounds on the streets but the birds singing, which is a surefire way to put yourself in a good mood for the day. 

While I’d usually have toast or fruit on the run as my sad breakfast of choice, by waking up super early I found myself having time to actually cook the occasional breakfast, which seems like pure luxury on a weekday. 

Once you’ve exercised, made a decent brekkie, packed your lunch, prepped for work and maybe read a little, you couldn’t be readier to start your day. By the time you make it into work, you’ll have been awake for so long that you’re firing on all cylinders and ready for action.

But for all those benefits, and they are plentiful, the best part is something you might not have even considered. 

Sleeping Happy

Silence is golden

According to a piece by Harvard Business Review, the busier you become and the higher your stress levels, the more you need to balance it out with silent periods.

Successful people set time aside for quiet, like JK Rowling and Carl Jung, where they can escape the noise that can arise from hectic lives and careers.

Why does this benefit your mind? Because in the absence of other people your mind is free from an exhausting, near-constant activity: having to think of something to say.

The world’s quieter at 5am, more peaceful. Think about how much peace you get on a daily basis. An hour? Do you have any period in the day for this?

Being awake before dawn is great because, since so few people are awake at this time, you can easily enjoy some tranquility and recharge your mental batteries for demanding days and evenings.

Of course, you don’t have to wake up at such an ungodly hour to achieve this effect; you could also snatch a few minutes lounging in your favourite armchair without the noise of TV or your phone.

After just one week of these early starts I found myself far more content and productive. If you’re life has gotten a bit too noisy, then maybe it’s time to try being an early bird.

READ NEXT: I Tried To Be A Good Catholic For A Week And Failed Miserably