New research recently revealed that the most productive hour of the day is the one between 4 and 5 am. Hmmm…you don’t say? In reality, this makes perfect sense. At 4 am, there isn’t much traffic on the roads, so travel time is fast. At 4 am, there isn’t much competition over the coffee pot, or the waffle maker, so breakfast is quick and easy. At 4 am the house, the office, the gym, and the neighborhood are all quiet, so there are virtually no interruptions to our productivity. And yet most people don’t take advantage of this golden hour of production. Why not?
For one, most people watch tv late into the evening, often as late as midnight. To get up at 4 am, you would need to get to sleep by 8 pm just to get the minimum 8 hours of shut eye the body needs nightly to heal and repair itself. Most of us have difficulty getting our children into bed by 8 pm, let alone ourselves. But if you could rearrange your schedule to have your evening meal no later than 5:30 pm and make 8 pm be lights out at your house, getting to bed early would soon become the norm for you. True, you’d miss all the latest episodes of your favorite tv series, but that’s a lifestyle choice only you can make. Where are your priorities? Is getting more done a higher priority than watching a tv show you’ll forget in a few years anyway?
For two, a lot of people spend the last hours of every day on the computer or cell phone engaged in social media such as reading emails or catching up on today’s Facebook posts. Piles of research has proven that the electronic emissions from tablets, computers, cell phones, and even e-readers keep our brain stimulated long after we shut off the device. This results in poor sleep quality and less restorative brain processes during sleep, yet people continue to indulge in this detrimental habit. Save your email and social media updates for the 4 am hour, and then dedicate a specific time period in which to indulge. This will get you to bed earlier, as well as ensure that you get the restorative sleep your brain and body needs.
For three, researchers claim that every hour of sleep you get before midnight is equivalent to two hours of sleep after midnight. So going to bed by 8 pm and getting up at 4 am is equivalent to 12 hours of rest and restoration as opposed to the same 8 clock hours between, say, midnight and 8 am. So by going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, you won’t feel more tired, you will feel more rested and invigorated.
The first night you go to bed early, consider sleeping in your gym clothes. Set your tennis shoes right next to your bed so that when your 4 am alarm sounds, you pull back the covers, lace up the shoes, and head to the gym or treadmill. On your night stand keep a bottle of water and drink that on the way to hydrate your body right out of the gate. After your workout, have your cup of coffee while you read for at least 30 minutes something either inspirational or educational. Research clearly indicates that the brain is most receptive to new information first thing in the morning.
If you aren’t sure you can commit to a 4 am start time, try it for a set period of time. In the same way that some religions promote a period of sacrifice, plan to sacrifice your normal routine for, say, one month. On the last night before you start, use a journal to record how you feel. Be very specific. Then record again at the end of each 7 day period. At the end of the month, evaluate your recordings and decide if you want to continue the plan or go back to your old habits. The month is going to pass either way. Why live with regret for never having experimented on what might be the greatest change to your schedule you will ever make?