28 October 2016
Early risers feel they are ahead and ready to meet the challenges of the day. Photo:
Early risers feel they are ahead and ready to meet the challenges of the day. Photo:

Why 4 a.m. is the most productive hour

There’s a lot in our corn crib of folk wisdom that extols the virtue of rising early: “the early bird catches the worm”, “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, etc.

There’s also compelling science to support the habit of rising early, such as research about circadian rhythm or our internal alarm clock, which says that our body is attuned to the normal cycle of nature from daybreak and nightfall.

Yet for most people, waking and sleeping patterns depend on what they do for a living. So a farmer or a mailman is expected to wake up before dawn while a night-shift worker or nightclub singer would probably still be in bed until noon.

Still, there are those who wake up before dawn because they want to.

For them, nothing can compare with the quiet delight of starting the day when the sky is still dark and almost everyone else is still asleep. 

It gives them the feeling that they are ahead and ready to meet the challenges of the day. At the same time, it makes them feel that they need not start the day in a rush, and allows them the time for reflection.

And that’s important as far as productivity is concerned.

“When you have peace and quiet and you’re not concerned with people trying to get your attention, you’re dramatically more effective and can get important work done, so they have that part right,” the Wall Street Journal quotes psychologist Josh Davis as saying.

Davis, director of research at the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of the book Two Awesome Hours, which is about using science-based tools to enhance productivity, notes that one of the biggest hindrances to productivity is the presence of distractions in the workplace.

He is referring to emails, cellphones and Facebook in particular.

“By waking up at 4 a.m., they’ve essentially wiped a lot of those distractions off their plate,” Davis tells the Journal.

“No one is expecting you to email or answer the phone at 4 a.m. No one will be posting on Facebook. You’ve removed the internal temptation and the external temptation.”

Many successful executives are also known to be early risers.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook is said to be among the first to come to the office and the last to leave. He starts his day at 3:45 a.m.

Sallie Krawcheck, chief executive of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, has been quoted as saying: “I’m never more productive than at 4 a.m.”

Most early birds are not necessarily workaholic. They just hope to avoid the distractions of technology and social media, or they want a jump start on their day before other demands intrude, says WSJ.

Waking up early has its drawbacks, of course, chief among which is that they also have to go to bed early.

The Journal cites the case of Russ Perry, a 33-year-old resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, who manages his own graphic design firm.

He says 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. is “the most planned, most organized and most scheduled part of my day. It’s a crapshoot from there.”

That period allows him time to pray, exercise, go through his emails and work on his finances. “I feel I get a head start on everybody,” he says.

However, Perry says he’s completely exhausted by 10 p.m., and therefore has to call it a day.

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