The “5 a.m. club” is a buzzword of the moment in entrepreneurial circles. It’s the term given to uber-successful folks like Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey and Tim Cook who are routinely up at the crack of dawn, and many swear being part of this elite group of non-snoozers is the only way to truly maximize your potential as an entrepreneur.
We’ve touted the benefits of waking up before the sun many times on this blog; in fact, Ignite Spot’s CEO Eddy is a die-hard early riser. Me? Well, it’s more of a grudging necessity than a beloved part of my routine.
So I started wondering—is the “up before the sun” sleep style really the best way to do it? To find out, I tapped into our entrepreneurial network to chat with some successful businessmen and women who are good friends with the snooze button, and they had some surprising answers.
Here are 10 benefits you might enjoy from getting a few more zzz’s in the morning.
Harness more of your creativity
If you’re a natural night owl, you might be familiar with the bursts of passion-driven creativity that often strike around midnight (or later!). We know creativity is one of the most important traits for a profitable entrepreneur, so why fight those late-night bouts of inspiration?
“The impeccable silence at night allows me to tap into my creative mindset,” says entrepreneur Lisa Chu of children’s apparel line Black N Bianco. “My industry is very saturated and competitive, so any advantages I have I must use. My most creative ideas and business plans have all been drafted during the midnight hours.”
Ryan O’Connor of One Tribe Apparel echoes the sentiment.
“I grew up playing guitar in bands and I've always felt my most creative at night,” he explains. “If I’m writing marketing copy or doing anything that requires my utmost creativity, I do it at night and leave the more mechanical business issues for the daytime hours.”
Tap into the international market
We often forget there’s a whole world of business being done out there while we’re snoozing here in the states. If you prefer a later wake-up time, it can be advantageous to expanding your business overseas.
“Sleeping in can actually be a really effective strategy if your business involves a lot of interaction with partners in India, China, Europe, etc.,” says Kate Sullivan, Content Director for TCK Publishing. “I've had a lot of international clients in my time, and being rested and perky late at night when those clients are in full work mode has been invaluable.”
Some entrepreneurs set their 4 a.m. alarm clock to do business with their Chinese counterparts; you could just as easily flip the clock and make that your bedtime, while still getting the necessary international work done.
Work with your body’s rhythm, not against it
This one resonated with me because although I’ve been waking up early for years, it’s never gotten easier. If there’s a day when I don’t set an alarm or a rare occasion with no morning commitments on the calendar, I’ll easily doze until 10 a.m. or later. That has to say something about my body’s natural rhythm, doesn’t it?
Entrepreneur Marisa Meddin agrees.
“I spent six years waking up around 7 a.m. to get to my corporate job at Pepsi, and there was never a day where it was easy,” she says.
Meddin has since left her 9-to-5 to found her own baked goods company, The Dessert Place, and now keeps “non-traditional” hours that feel much more comfortable.
“I try to go about my day in a way that takes advantage of the times when I have the most mental clarity. Why try to fit into a mold that doesn't work for me?”
Definitely something to think about.
Get enough sleep
One of the greatest benefits of sleeping in is, well, sleep!
Gary Vaynerchuk, for one, regularly advises budding entrepreneurs to work from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., then get up at 6 or 7 to go do their day job. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for shut-eye.
Nancy Shenker has been running her business and marketing consultancy for nearly 15 years and says for her, it’s no longer about the time on the alarm clock. The number of hours of sleep she’s banking are much more important.
“Since I left a steady gig, I simply follow the "close to 8 hours" rule, tracking my sleep with a FitBit,” she says. “Great sleep is the key to prosperity!”
If your location means traffic is an issue, simply shifting your working (and waking) hours can shave valuable time off your commute.
“Traffic to my office is ridiculous before 9:30,” says SEO consultant Bradley Shaw. “I adjust my office hours accordingly, so I don’t spend 90 minutes a day stuck in traffic.”
Save yourself from time wasters
Traffic isn’t the only thing that eats up your day when you follow the same schedule as 95% of the population.
“Think about how much time we spend waiting in rush hour traffic, working out inefficiently because the gym is packed, waiting in line at our favorite lunch spot, milling about in Starbucks while they make the 20 coffees before yours,” points out John Liston.
Liston is the Strategy and Operations Manager of All Set, an app that works like Uber for house cleaning and lawn maintenance. He says living life a couple hours behind what’s considered the norm can come with some serious productivity benefits.
“By waking up later, but following the same pattern as everyone who woke up two hours before you, you’re actually saving yourself from many of the day’s biggest time wasters.”
Cater to your industry
Most of the 5 a.m. club members we hear about are typically from a handful of fields—tech, finance, startups and so on. But what about entrepreneurs in an industry that doesn’t even turn “on” until 10 p.m.?
Dan Moran is a DJ, and being good at his job means rubbing elbows with the major players in the nightlife world. Plus, he says, it forces him to make the most of the daytime hours he does have.
“Routinely sleeping in until 10 a.m. each day not only fits with how connected I am to the nightlife industry, but it also encourages me to make the most of my time,” he says. “When I sit down to really get working mid-afternoon, I feel a sense of urgency that gives me that extra push to keep the ball moving, knowing the sun will be down in a few hours.”
Have a life outside work
It’s tough to enjoy a networking event or the occasional cocktail hour if you know the alarm clock is going off in a few short hours.
Janis Isaman is a one-on-one fitness coach who says waking up at 10 or 11 gives her plenty of time to fit in the day’s coaching sessions while still leaving time for “life” afterwards.
“That means time to be with friends and family, have hobbies and interests, and do some evening events that include networking or socializing and STILL get a good night's sleep,” she says.
Gain a competitive advantage
If you’ve worked a 9-to-5, you know the stress that comes with trying to sneak in a trip to the bank or a doctor’s appointment during standard business hours. Wouldn’t it be great if your doctor, dentist or hairdresser was routinely available at 8 o’clock at night?
Brittany Sherwood is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who sets herself apart by offering non-standard appointment times that fit better with her clients’ busy lives.
“I’ve never been a morning person and realized I could leverage this in my business hours,” she says. “Many [of my patients] work or go to school during the day, so it’s good for business to offer appointments in the evenings.”
Enjoy the luxury
Most entrepreneurs didn’t strike out on their own to be a slave to the clock—in fact, the opposite. Professional photographer and e-commerce entrepreneur Phillip Van Nostrand encourages us to take advantage of the flexibility that comes with running your own business.
“Sleeping in is a glorious luxury, like going to the movies in the daytime (something else I do),” he says. “What is the point of working for myself if I’m a slave to the same constraints everyone else lives by?”
Well put, Phillip.
Which camp are you in—the early risers or the night owls? Leave a comment and let us know what works for you!
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