Why and How to Wake up Early? (Great Advice from Successful People)

round blue alarm clock with bell on white table near snake plant

Waking up early is a crucial trait that many have tried to master. Its importance has been acknowledged by renowned leaders such as Richard Branson of Virgin Group and First Lady, Michelle Obama. As with any human behavior, the key to making it a sustainable habit is understanding how your body works and aligning it with your goals.

Early in my career, I co-founded a company and with only 24 hours in the day, I started waking up early to get quiet time to think. The timing also worked well since I had to connect with global clients living in different time zones. This habit has remained with me over the years.

I’ve always been a morning person so waking up early gives me the opportunity to split my day and schedule it in the way that’s most productive. It also gives me the flexibility to spend more time with my children later in the day.

I start at 4:30 am with a strong cup of coffee and an agenda that includes 20-30 minutes each of meditation, journaling, reading and working out. In my current role as a manager, I keep an eye on high-level goals while operating at the ground level. Starting this way stimulates my thinking and keeps me grounded throughout the rest of the day.

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A few years ago, we were blessed with twin boys and, admittedly, my sleep pattern was off. It took a couple of years and several missed tries for me to get back on track. I experimented with various alarm settings & sleep times but could not keep it up consistently. It was then that I discovered author and coach, Benjamin Hardy on Medium. He has several sound tips to create successful routines based on behavioral psychology.

What I found worked best for me was:

  • Make it routine to go to bed at about the same time each day. Mine is at 10 pm.
  • Avoid electronics that are designed to keep you up and attached 1 hour before sleep. Read something instead.
  • Set your alarm for 90 min blocks to help you wake up.
  • Put your alarm across the room so you have to get up to turn it off. This builds momentum and you keep going.
  • Use a gentle waking tone to pull you out from a deep sleep. My favorite is the sound of tweeting birds.
  • Commit to waking up early every day. Breaking the cycle on weekends makes it harder to get up again on Monday. If you need to, you can always take a power nap later in the day.

Understandably this is not for everyone. A friend of mine tried to wake up early and finally gave in because her creative clock comes up at night. Waking up early for its own sake can be counterproductive. Ariana Huffington spoke to the value of sleep as a way to be more productive so be sure you are getting enough sleep. On average, 6-8 hours is recommended. My advice is to track your activities and energy level during the day and adjust your sleep pattern accordingly.

Also, understand why you want to wake up that early and what you want to do with the time. Personally, I find it both magical and practical to wake up before dawn and have this time for myself to write, ponder and learn something new each day.

This article was initially published on Upworthy

Ellevate Squad Mod Interview

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Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I come from a diverse background and have lived and worked across three continents. I grew up in Africa with strong values like empathy and curiosity. It’s what helped me build high-performance teams over the years. I currently run a company and spend my time optimizing all parts of the business. I work on things like budgeting, finance and developing capabilities. I also own the talent pipeline and I’m best known for creating an atmosphere where everyone is valued and supported. Right now, my focus is on understanding what relevant strategies are needed for more equitable workplaces. I’m a mom of four and together we enjoy cooking, reading, writing, and traveling. I also enjoy mentoring and spend my time outside of work supporting women and startup founders.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I was lucky to have female role models growing up and the concept of a glass ceiling is something that was introduced to me here in the US. It never occurred to me that someone could not advance on the merit of their contributions or that our biases could hold back even the best of the best. I heard a podcast by Sallie and the idea of women supporting women really resonated. I immediately became a member and have enjoyed being a squad mod. We had women from multiple industries and in various stages of their careers that were open, honest and very quick to share their expertise and connections. I feel that the future of work depends on this kind of environment where we can embrace and enable the power of engaged, diverse, self-directed leaders

How would you define your professional mission?

Looking back, I see that my career progression was shaped by my core purpose and values. I currently lead a team for Epic, as well as advise entrepreneurs in emerging countries on strategic planning and foresight. Every year, I take on side projects to feed my curiosity but also my desire to contribute to a more equitable world. In my first job, I created a company to democratize trade and then scaled that by leveraging emerging technologies to provide access to opportunity in developing countries. My current mission is devising talent strategies that enable people to work at their fullest potential. My ultimate goal would be to leverage my skills for connecting business, technology, and people together to alleviate poverty.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

Empathy, resilience and an ability to think strategically, but also work tactically. This can be a challenge even for me, so it starts with a constant awareness of where your strengths are, then understanding who and how best to compliment them. I lead with “heart, guts, and hands” combined with broad experience that helps me connect people to shared business goals. I also tend to ask naive questions since it’s the easiest way to peel the layers. That said, I think the most beneficial skill I have is my ability to relate to and collaborate with a wide range of people from diverse cultures.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

I love working. I come from an entrepreneurial background so my career has been a series of “passion” projects. In terms of scale, my first job would be most accomplished having built a company from scratch to a 7 figure reverse logistics company. A favorite so far has been my project at Sustainable Silicon Valley. The vision of SSV to not just alleviate, but reverse climate change really opened up my thinking to the possibilities. What really moved me was the collaboration within a team of unpaid volunteers. It showed how me how diverse personalities could come together over shared values and the full power of intrinsic motivation. My experiences there made me slow down and really think about where I could make the most impact in my professional life.


We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I fell in love with psychology at school and growing up in an immigrant city I learned about how cultural and ethnic differences affect the ways we interact. Halfway through college, there was a recession. This was pre-analytics and companies were at a loss at what to do with all the excess merchandise. Having come from an underdeveloped country, I saw an opportunity to send these to areas that normally could not afford them. That was the start of a 7 figure reverse logistics company. Next, I leveraged emerging technologies and e-commerce platforms to connect businesses around the world. Now I lead a team at Epic and work towards building an inclusive workplace.

Who are your role models?

My mother. She’s an energetic force that broke every glass ceiling and challenge that was thrown at her. Teaching herself to read/write and building a successful business. The one thing she’s known for is building a community, she taught us by default to give generously. To name a few others… -Oprah for overcoming adversity and highlighting others. -Bill and Melinda Gates for their cause to redistribute economies. -Amelia Earhart for paving the way for women in aviation and bringing her fashion designs “for the woman who lives actively.”

What is your morning ritual?

I’m lucky to start every day with a strong coffee made for me by my husband. I get up early to read, alternate between meditating or journaling for 20 minutes and then hop on my bike for half an hour. In my current role, I’m accountable for multiple priorities across various client groups hence effective planning is imperative. I actively use my Google calendar as well as Asana to keep track of all the moving parts and delegate work accordingly. I have set time for deep work early in the morning when I’m less likely to get interrupted. Next, I prepare for upcoming meetings, I touch base with my team and key clients to address top priorities and then complete the more tactical work in the afternoons.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

Go forth and conquer! Joking but really… design your own lives around your priorities even if those priorities change with time and with each child. When I had my own company, I started an on-site daycare but my first daughter was not impressed. She preferred to go home after school, so naturally, I started working from home. Now with my twin boys, they understand/accept that I love to work and instead we have spontaneous cuddle time and weekends when they get to choose what we do. What I wish I’d known earlier was asking for support. Ladies, don’t expect your partners to mind read, make sure to articulate your needs. I found that it works best when you play to each other’s strengths, figure out what needs to be done and share the work or outsource it- my husband prefers to do the cooking/shopping while I’m more active with the kids etc.

This article was initially published on EllevateNetwork