Why I Wake Up Early and 3 Reasons You Should Too

I’ve never been a morning person. But, I love my job as a reporter for CNBC, and it requires waking up REALLY early. I’m based in Los Angeles where I cover media, entertainment, and Internet companies. After years of battling the pitch-dark alarm clock ring, I’ve come to embrace an early wake-up as a key to success. Should I ever have a job that did not require a pre-dawn wake up, I’m convinced I’d wake up well before 6 a.m. to get a head start on my day.

My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., and after a few brief snoozes, I power through emails in bed. If I’m not traveling for work, I start my day on a conference call at 5:15 a.m. Pacific. If I’m on the road for work, which is often, or if I’m reporting a story for Squawk Box, it’s not unusual for that alarm to go off in the 3 a.m. hour — or earlier.

My two year old son can’t be blamed for my crazy schedule. I’m lucky he’s a solid 7-to-7 sleeper. But I do have him to thank for prompting me to wake up earlier. When I returned from maternity leave, I decided to start my day just an hour earlier so I could spend more time at home in the afternoon. Once I made that shift, I realized my previous schedule had me constantly playing catch-up. By 6 a.m. Pacific, when I used to arrive in the office, the East Coast work day was well underway, so I’d race to keep up with emails while calling sources and writing scripts. Then, I’d stick around hours after my colleagues on the East Coast had left to catch up before shifting gears to the next day.

Obviously, my job has some unique constraints. I’m based on the West Coast but work with, and report on, a lot of people in New York. Plus, CNBC news coverage starts at 6 a.m. Eastern time. That said, setting that alarm clock even a half hour earlier can give anyone, in any career, a professional boost.

1) Play Offense, Not Defense

Get a head start on your “to-do list” to ensure you can accomplish your goals before you’re pulled in a million directions. I like to make calls early — to reach people before they’re distracted, or so I’m the first person they call once they sit down. I love calling sources as they drive into work. I’m not taking up valuable time and invading their work day. Get what you want accomplished before you’re too busy to remember what you wanted to do.

2) Form Your Own Opinions

Whether it’s news analysis, blogs, tweets, or colleagues and rivals, we’re all bombarded with opinions. Give yourself enough time to evaluate whatever information is on your plate by yourself before you read or hear any analysis. It’s so easy to get swept into a herd mentality by the Twittersphere and water cooler commentary. You’re more likely to come up with an outside-the-box analysis or an unexpected solution given some extra time to think before joining a brainstorm meeting.

3) Your Boss Wakes Up Earlier Than You Do

Of the dozens of CEOs I interview every year, I can only think of only one or two who doesn’t wake up very early. Though I only occasionally poll them on their alarm clocks, CEOs inevitably bring up something they saw on Squawk Box at 6 a.m., and sometimes even Worldwide Exchange, which precedes it.

West Coasters work to stay ahead of the East Coast. A number of heavy hitters, like Disney’s Bob Iger and WME’s Ari Emanuel, have a morning routine of treadmills, Squawk Box, and iPads with newspapers. As revealed by his tweets and Vine posts, Jack Dorsey, of Twitter and Square, takes runs around San Francisco in the early morning twilight. Apple’s Tim Cook has been known to send emails to employees before dawn.

It’s not just the time difference. Some of the most powerful CEOs across industries and geography, wake up to exercise and read before their day begins: PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Virgin’s Richard Branson, General Motors’ Dan Akerson, and Xerox’s Ursula Burns. One top media executive notoriously shot off e-mails in the pre-dawn hours until he realized it was off-putting to his staff, and started waiting to hit ‘send’ until the sun was up.

Chances are, your boss wakes up before you do. If you want to reach him or her, strike before the rest of the day piles up. If you don’t want to be caught off-guard with a tough request, as little as 15 minutes can make a difference between being unprepared and poised.

By Julia Boorstin

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