Optimize Productivity: WIN THE MORNING – WIN THE DAY! The 4:30am Challenge.

Take up the 4:30 challenge.

In this post, I reveal a little productivity hack. There are many tips and tricks out there to be more productive. Stop Multitasking – be focused, Pomodoro Technique, structured planing, writing down your task for the next day at the end the day, and so on. All of them are good, but I also wanted to do more.

The Challenge

self management

Some time ago, I heard about a productivity tip to start very early in the morning. I liked the idea, even though I’m rather a night owl, but I thought I should give it a try and start a 21 day challenge to wake up very early. So I would be able to have some hours to focus on working before everyone wakes up and I’m going to be involved in meetings, telephone calls, slack and email conversations. So I accepted the challenge to Win the morning, win the day!

And why 21 days? Because there is a saying, you need 21 days to form a habit.

My Workday

Before I start, I give a brief outline of how my normal day at Inpsyde looks like. For some, this tip for better productivity is not really effective, because you usually have the opportunity to work undisturbed throughout the day. This is more of a tip for people who do not know in the morning what’s happening today.

From 9 o’clock I usually have the first meetings, sometimes even earlier, because the rest of the day is already booked. With 30 employees, it happens daily that I have some unplanned conversations with the other Inpsyders, be it for an offer, project, problems, resource meeting, events, promotions, releases or just a private talk. In addition, I get about 100-200 emails a day and write 2000-5000 slack messages per month. So, as you can see, there are many external influences before you can concentrate on other tasks. This usually happens in the evening, when I have 8-10 hours behind me and still have to complete these tasks. In addition, there are occasional meetings in the evening that are held with customers from the USA. So all in all, not really good!

The Protocoll

Improve self management

I made a daily protocol, so you can read day by day how it worked for me and how I felt about it on a daily base. Check out what is my opinion about it, if this is just another soso productivity tip or a quite effective hack to be more productive.

Before starting the challenge, I had to wake up on a holiday at 4:30 am, because I needed to catch a flight. So this was a good initial start for the challenge the next day.

Day 1: Tuesday, 4:45 am. Pretty tired though, but I have a whopping 4,5 hours ahead of me, where most of the time I can concentrate on work. Let’s see how that goes. But I can tell, after 10 minutes slowly waking up in front of the computer, it is a delighted feeling to know, you have 4 hours ahead of you to be VERY productive!

Day 2: Wednesday at 4:35 am. Pretty tired again, but woke up well. The motivation to gain 4,5 hours is huge. Yesterday worked until 7pm and finally took a real “Feierabend”. My wife was happily surprised. 🙂 The chance of having 4,5 hours more time to concentrate is much higher right now, than the will to sleep longer. Yesterday accomplished quite a bit, even though I had to go to the doctor with my dad, from 7-11 am. Felt good to have accomplished something and you were prepared on everything, what was going on that day.

Day 3: Thursday at 4:45 am. I did went to sleep pretty late at 11:30 pm. So I hadn’t much sleep. Waking up was a little bit difficult, but again, knowing that you will gain so much more productivity time keeps me up. By now, I already love the very early mornings!

Day 4: Hey! Happy Friday! Week is almost over and it was a great week, even though, yesterday it was too much to do and I still didn’t get everything done until 10:30pm. I really need to go off at around 6pm to have a little bit of leisure time and go to bed earlier as 11pm. Even though, I had not much sleep again, I’m still very motivated!

Day 5: Monday 2nd week. This weekend I didn’t get much sleep to recover the missing hours and also I went to bed at 11pm, but still, it feels refreshing to start the week ahead of everyone else. 🙂 I still love it!

Day 6: Tuesday, 4:30am. Yesterday was the first day I had the feeling I didn’t accomplish a lot, there was too much going on, but without the early morning, it would have been even worth. I was tired today, but I had 4 hours to get some things done, I didn’t make yesterday.

Day 7: Wednesday, I did go to bed early yesterday, because I did accomplish a lot, even though 18 things were still on my list, which came up just yesterday! But nothing urgent, so I can do this list this tomorrow and will be done before everyone else will be online, at least I hope so. So I can accept new tasks for the day. I’m ready to bring it on at 9am folks! 😉

Day 8: Thursday, I overslept for one hour again. So woke up at 5:30 am. This time I received several emails at night from the US with additional tasks, so not a real calm start and with one less hour on the clock, it almost feels like before, when I started working at 9am and a pile of emails, slack message are waiting for me to get answered. Horrible!

Day 9: Friday, I went to bed the night before pretty early and I was on track again at 9am, so the rest of the day wasn’t stressful. In the evening, I had to go to a birthday party, and I didn’t mind to leave at 1am already. 😉

Weekend was alright, I went to bed late, but slept until around 7-9am to catch up some sleep.

Day 10: Monday, even though it was May 1st, I woke up early again at 4:30am and was working until late 22:30. So not much sleep for the night.

Day 11: Tuesday, of course I was pretty much tired, but a lot of things ahead of me to get accomplished, before everyone else is coming online.

Day 12: Wednesday, I went to bed a little bit late, because lot of things had to be done. But with knowing, that several hours are ahead of me in the morning, I didn’t feel stressed or something. Even though, I overslept and woke up at 5:30.

Day 13: Thursday, started at 4:30 sharp and accomplished quite a bit before the world woke up. It was a pretty good day!

Day 14: Friday, I went to bed pretty late, so I slept this time until 6am, even though, I didn’t meant to, but somehow I switched off the alarm clock. But still enough time to be on track with my tasks.

Day 15: Monday, an early off site meeting with a client. I didn’t mind, since I was already awake for some hours. I had accomplished already 2 hours of work before I left the house at 7:00 am, so not a stressful feeling at the client meeting, since I didn’t have things to do, which are urgently waiting for me.

Day 16: Tuesday, starting 4.30am I was able to catch up with everything and plan out the day for my team. Good day!

Day 17: Wednesday, a pretty early meeting at 7am, but again, all was prepared before the meeting and I was ready to dive into the meeting since I started working at 4:45am.

Day 18: Thursday, on my way to Berlin, before leaving the house at 3pm, I had 10 hours work behind me already, so enough to relax on my way to Berlin, because most things were done.

Day 19: Friday, woke up in the hotel at 4:30am, did some emails, I was reading some news and felt pretty good at breakfast, whereas everyone else was just getting up and still in sleeping mode. 🙂

Day 20: Monday, be with our Inpsyde Team in Eisenach, so in the morning I was able to read and write all emails, before everyone was about to be awake and we had some teamwork going on, I’d done a pretty good chunk of my work already since I was awake at 5:15am.

Day 21: Tuesday, and last day! It was pretty tough to wake up at 5am, since I stayed up pretty late with some teammates. But I really wanted to finish the challenge. After the first 10 minutes of feeling really tired, it was a great feeling having the day before you and enough time to do things.

The Conclusion

Increase productivity self management

After my 21 days of challenge, I turned back to my normal sleeping habits, because at our week in Eisenach we all stayed up late and it would have been too hard to get up that early. When I got back I didn’t create a habit out of it. Unfortunately, because those 3 weeks were very productive and refreshing, even though it was very tiring sometimes, when I stayed up late, since I’m a night owl.

Here and then, when I know, there is quite a lot to do, I rather stop working all night, and go to bed early, to start fresh the very early morning.

Waking up at around 4:30am sounds pretty hard, but it actually wasn’t. You might be tired for 5-10 minutes, but what drove me to start so early, was, that I have a whopping 4,5 hours time before most of the others and our clients are ready to work. And that even without coffee, since I normally don’t drink any coffee. 🙂

It was always a real relieving feeling to have such a lot of time beforehand to accomplish many things and no one would disturb you for the next couple hours. Also for the rest of the day, everything went smoother because I was better prepared. I was able to avtively shape my working day instead the work was shaping my day. You are not feeling so stressed out, because you have done most of the tasks right away, especially those, which need your full concentration and attention. Knowing you met all your goals today and you had a productive day at 9am already, is such an awesome feeling!

Also a feeling of urgency on your everyday work is much less. Cause you have the certainty, a task can also be done in the morning and doesn’t have to be done very late in the evening. Since you have enough time to work on it before the person, who is waiting for, is start working.

Does it have to be that early, wouldn’t be 6-7am enough? Sure, better than 8 or 9am. But I quickly realized, that if I have more than 4 hours to accomplish something, it is really a priceless feeling. Because many times, 2 hours is just too short, it is gone by no time and after an hour of work, you see, oh my god, only 1 hour left before you have your first meeting. In my experience, there is a huge difference, waking up that early gives you enough buffer before everyone comes in.

For the new year I’m going to do it again to accomplish much more then normal. And I’m really excited to do it again, I only have to change my bad habit to going to bed so late. I must admit, I’m a little bit jealous to those early birds, they control their day much better than a night owl does. Having less stress, being able to be better prepared and get rid of the bad feeling of urgency are enough very good reasons to do it again and make it to a constant habit this time, it certainly would be great. Waking up with the sun and having a great feeling you will accomplish a lot before lunch time and you control the day, not the other way around.

Try it out! It’s your turn!