Waking Up Early Can Make the Difference between Success and Failure

But there’s a catch…

Waking up early is common advice in the personal development literature. “Join the 5:00 am club.” “I woke up at 4:30 am, and my life changed.” “Ex-seal wakes up at 4:00 am every day.” These are the headlines you come across frequently.

I believe I have the credits to write about waking up early. Since 2017, I regularly wake up around 5:00 am. There have been long stretches when I woke up around 4:00 am and sometimes earlier. Today’s post will be an honest review of my experience.

Waking up early has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your goals and life situation, it can make the difference between success and failure, or it might not make any difference at all. In some cases, it could be counterproductive.

I recommend that you assess your life situation and goals first before committing to waking up at 5:00 am or earlier.

Let’s assume you sleep eight hours per day, and you wake up at 7:00 am to barely make it to your work at 8:30. You work until 5:30 pm. And after a hard day of working, you’re at home at 6:00 pm. That means you have five yours at your hands in the evening.

What are you going to do with those five hours in the evening? Let me tell you. Most of those five hours will be wasted on useless activities like watching TV, drinking, or hanging out. That’s to be expected because you’ve worked hard throughout the day in your day job, and you’re mentally and physically exhausted.

5 hours a day is a lot of wasted time. If you waste 240 days per year, that makes 1200 wasted hours per year. That makes 75 days if you take into account only waking hours. That’s one-fifth of every year. By waking up early, you can claim some of that wasted time.

What to Do with Those Extra Hours in the Morning?

You can wake up an hour earlier every day and squeeze in a workout there. Depending on where and how you work out, that might mean an extra 30 to 45 minutes of physical exercise every morning.

If working out every day is too much for you, you can spend the first hour on reading and learning on some days and working out on others.

If both activities are essential for you, you can wake up two hours earlier and spend the first hour on your workout and the second hour on learning. That would mean you wake up at 5:00 am.

Waking up at 5:00 am leaves you with three extra hours to spend with your family and loved ones in the evening.

You can go to your work one hour earlier, and start working in the peace and silence of the morning before other people arrive. That could make a difference if your job requires deep concentration.

If your commute involves traffic jams, you can save a lot of time by shifting your working hours one hour earlier if your job allows that.

Unlike some personal gurus out there, I’m not going to preach you strict schedules and what to do in every quarter of those hours. It’s up to you to decide what to do with those extra hours in the morning.

You might decide to have a morning routine that is balanced between physical and intellectual activities. Or you might want to dedicate all of your extra hours to a single activity.

Anthony Trollope was an English writer who wrote three hours per day before his day job. He wrote 3000 words per day and produced 49 novels in 35 years. So, never underestimate those extra hours in the morning.

The Disadvantages of Waking Up Early

I found it relatively easy to wake up at 4:00 am in the winter, as I could go to bed at 8:00 pm to get my daily eight hours of sleep. However, that schedule didn’t work in summer because the daylight where I live lasted well into 10:00 pm.

I still went to bed at 8:00 pm and woke up at 4:00 am, but it was hard to get into sleep when there was daylight outside.

I heard from Dan Peña that some of his mentees sleep only four hours a day, but they make it up on the weekend. That’s a hack I haven’t tried yet, but it’s an option that you could try.

If changing your daily schedule overnight doesn’t work for you, you can ease into it using 1% improvements. Just wake up 5 minutes earlier every day until you reach your target wake up time.

Last but not least, you don’t need to wake up early to be successful. Some people are more efficient working at night when everybody is asleep.

I’ve written my Ph.D. thesis after the dinner in the working days. I drank some green tea to stay awake and concentrated and worked well into midnight.

This is also what Gary Vaynerchuk recommends, working between 7:00 pm and 2:00 am on your side hustle.


Depending on your metabolism, life situation, and goals, waking up at 5:00 am or even at 4:00 am can have its advantages.

You can use those extra morning hours to work out, to learn, to work on your side hustle, to avoid the traffic jams on your way to work, or to squeeze extra working hours in your day job.

There are some disadvantages to waking up early, especially if the daylight lasts until 10:00 pm during the summer days, and you still want to get your eight hours of sleep per day.

Don’t forget that everybody has a different metabolism. Some people are more productive late at night than early in the morning.

Last but not least, waking up early is a tool that’s available to you. You can use it to your advantage if you know how to use it toward a worthy goal.

If you don’t have a worthy goal, if it doesn’t work well with your metabolism, or if you don’t know how to make the most of those extra hours, waking up early won’t make a difference in your life.

On the upside, those extra hours could make the difference between the success and failure in your career or side hustle.