The best habit to implement

the best habit to implementWhen I speak about the power of habits, rituals and routines, I often get the question what I consider to be the best habit to implement – and why. Below is the answer that I give every single time.

Be an early riser!

This is something that anyone can do, whether you are 16 and still in school, 32 with two kids to take care, 55 and starting a new business or 101 and being eager to live another beautiful day.

I have been an early riser since I was much younger. Way back as I was still in school I did all sorts of things after school that had nothing to do with homework. I saved that for the next morning before the world awoke, when I was fit and rested. Very effective.

I didn’t keep that habit. There was about a decade in which I was working and studying at the same time. All classes were in the evening and I would be home pretty late. In that period I was a real night owl and it worked well for me.

And there were other periods in which the evenings “needed” me. :-) That was fine as well. I am not the kind of person that gets grumpy when things change. My body and mind seem to follow the lead with ease. I’m totally grateful for that.


Yet, somehow I naturally convert back to being a morning person when all options are open. Here is what I love about it and why I think it is a good idea to contemplate rising early – in no specific order:

  • All in my own pace – Instead of rushing from bed to shower to a first appointment, there is time to make the shift from total inactivity to the rhythm of the day. My body and mind love that. There is no shock, all is easy. I can follow my own preferences and feel the joy of slowly waking up.
  • Peace and quiet – Most people are still asleep and there is stillness all around. A perfect moment to meditate or reflect or to just listen to the early sounds. A dog that barks, the birds that burst out in their first songs, a train passing by. And since no one starts calling before regular office hours, it is also the most uninterrupted time of the day.
  • A head start – With everything around being calm, it is much easier to focus on a major taks. I can reserve a time block for an activity that has huge impact on my life instead of immediately falling into the routine of emails, conversations or meetings. Even when I may not do anything related to work, I can do something that is important to me. Write a story, read a book, study a new topic, bake my bread…
  • Time for meditation – By starting the day with this, I can carry the peace and quiet into the day for a very long time. And it is also something that cannot be skipped or forgotten this way. The benefits of meditation are confirmed by research – and even without that confirmation I have felt the positive effect – so why wouldn’t I take 20-30 minutes for that?
  • Planning my day – Every morning I take 10-15 minutes to plan my day. It may seem like a lot, but I win that back during the day. I look at what is the most important, has the highest impact on my life and has the highest long term effect – and I schedule time for that. Then I batch minor tasks that are similar, look at what I can share or delegate, who I need to contact and what is on hold because I am waiting for something or someone. By estimating the time I need and scheduling it all I can make conscious choices and feel great when I have it all done at the end of the day (even though much of the list for the rest of the week is not crossed off).
  • Exercise – This is a great moment for exercising. The body is grateful when it gets attention. For many years I went swimming at 6 o’clock. And when I moved and no swimming pool around was open at that early hour, I went for a walk, a run or a round on my bike. Nowadays I like Qi Gong. Because I work a lot from my home office, I love to go out during the day when I take a break. But giving my body a nice start is still on my list.
  • See the sun rise – This is one of my favorite things in the morning. Unfortunately the sun rises at the wrong side of the house where I live now. Before I would be at my desk working and I could just look out of the window to see the changing colors in the sky and the light getting more and more intense. But I still take the time to watch it every morning and enjoy the beauty that is right under my nose and feel the gratitude of living in this amazing world. When the birds join me with their music, it’s even better.
  • Time for breakfast – I start my day with water with lemon and a cup of tea or coffee. After an hour or so I take time to enjoy my breakfast. Just having breakfast at a time at which others are still asleep and I have already done a lot, feels fantastic.
  • Motivation – At around eight or nine o’clock, when most offices slowly get started, I can look back at the fact that I have my most important topic of the day done or well on its way. The uninterrupted hours helped me focus and that means I achieved a lot. Of course it doesn’t matter whether it is done at 9 or 12 o’clock – but there is something about the fact that the whole day is still ahead and I feel like the day is already a success.
  • Perceived free time – It may sound crazy, but imagine starting working at 6am as opposed to beginning at 9am. Then suppose that you work for 8 hours on both days with an hour break. It means the difference between stopping at 3pm or 6pm… Even if you go to bed earlier because you rise early, it means having the feeling that it is possible to spend time to do nice things during week days. Going to a museum is still possible, shopping when it is quiet in the stores as well and in winter there is still enough light for a walk in the forest.
  • Easy commuting – As I was working in a location about 150 km from my home and the only way to get there was by car (or a four hour commute with public transport), I drove there early before anyone else was on the road. It helped me avoid many annoying and time consuming traffic jams.
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This list is made from my own experience. Recently there has been some research and there seem to be some correlations with success. These are some of the possible positive effects of rising early that have been researched in the last years:

  • Better study results
  • Being proactive and anticipating what comes
  • Being more organized, planning better and setting more goals
  • Being more fit, since many use this time for exercise
  • Better quality of sleep since the rhythm seems more in harmony with nature
  • Being more optimistic
  • Being more productive because of the quiet, uninterrupted time
  • Feeling of success and accomplishment because the things are done earlier in the day

Seeing this lists of benefits of early rising, can you understand why I think this is the best habit to implement? How do you feel about this? Or are you already a member of the early-riser-club?

Have a successful and fulfilling day! – Margot

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2 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    I feel it would be really hard to get up that early. But when I read this, I think I will give it a try. I will wait until Summer, when the sun rises early as well :-)

    • Margot van Aanholt says:

      It’s also nice to see the sun rise – or to feel the peace of the darkness from which the sounds of the day start to arise.

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