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Do You Have to Get Up at 4 a.m. to be a Successful Entrepreneur?

Updated on January 17th, 2022
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When was the last time you read a story about a successful entrepreneur that got up at 9 a.m.?

Probably never.

Instead, the internet is awash in stories of high-achievers who get up before dawn is even a glimmer on the horizon.

And, while your morning routine is an important part of having a productive day, it doesn’t mean that your routine has to start at 4 a.m.

Your routine can start later if you want it to. In fact, according to Business Insider, there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who sleep in a bit.

Who’s Getting Up “Late”?

So, according to Business Insider, who sleeps in past the “usual” successful entrepreneur time of no later than 7 a.m.?

Well, it’s no surprise that some creative folks like Jackson Pollack and Gertrude Stein used to sleep in a bit. Pollack often didn’t wake up until 1 p.m. Pharrell Williams, the musician, doesn’t get out of bed until 9 a.m.

But it’s not just creative types that eschew the early rising that often characterizes millionaire entrepreneurs. According to Business Insider, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, Box CEO Aaron Levie, and Genius cofounder Tom Lehman are all part of the “after 10 a.m.” club.

Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti gets up at 8:30 am. That doesn’t feel like sleeping in to someone who drags out of bed at 7 a.m., but if you are surrounded by people who wake up by 5 a.m., 8:30 seems a little late.

As you can see, though, you don’t have to get up super-early if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. Plenty of people don’t try to turn themselves into a morning person just for the sake of trying to make it work.

So, if getting up early isn’t the complete key to success, what is? Well, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur without the need to force yourself out of bed while it’s still dark, you need to pay attention to other aspects of your day:

Get Enough Sleep

The first key is getting the right amount of sleep for you. Forbes points out that most successful entrepreneurs get between five and eight hours of sleep.

Rather than worrying about when that sleep takes place, concentrate on whether or not you are getting the right amount of sleep to meet your needs.

Are you able to function well on the sleep you get during the day? Do you feel energetic?

Good sleep habits help you make better decisions. You are also more creative when you get the right amount of sleep.

Pay attention to how you feel after you sleep. Note how much sleep you get at night, and figure out how much you need. I generally need between six and seven hours of sleep. If I go to bed between 10 and 11 p.m., I’m usually up and ready for the day between 5:30 and 6 a.m.

This works well for me.

I have an entrepreneur friend who needs nine solid hours of sleep for ideal productivity. He goes to bed at 11 p.m. and gets up at 8 a.m. It’s the perfect schedule for him.

He’s managed to create a lifestyle that allows him to be productive on this schedule. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t up at 4:30 a.m. He is still successful and happy.

I’ve another friend who’s a night owl. He does most of his best work between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. He goes to bed between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and needs a little more than six hours of sleep. He’s usually up around 10 a.m., ready to get going on the day.

Pay attention to your habits, feelings, and productivity. This will help you learn your chronotype so you can plan your day in a way that allows you to make the most of each minute.

Manage Your Schedule

I get up when I do because it’s a good way for me to get some business things out of the way before my son gets up and we eat breakfast together before he leaves for school.

Once my son is off to school, I get dressed, and start in on meetings or other writing. Then I look into whether I have community obligations, or other items on my schedule. Sometimes what’s on my schedule is lunch with a friend or a manicure. Nothing wrong with that.

Because I get the pressing work out of the way first thing, when I feel most productive, I don’t have to worry about pushing through the afternoon slump. Instead, I can spend that time getting a facial, reading a book, swimming laps, taking a nap, or attending a community meeting.

I try to be home by 4 p.m., when my son gets back from school. If I’m working, that’s when I stop. My son and I have a chat, relax a bit, and do homework (or I drive him to an extracurricular activity).

We make dinner, eat, and watch a little TV. After he goes to bed, I might answer emails or write one more article. Then it’s lights out for me.

This is a schedule that allows me to be productive and attend to other aspects of my life.

As a successful entrepreneur, it’s more about finding a schedule that works for you and results in work-life balance on top of allowing you to be productive.

Change the Way You Work

Sometimes, you do have to change the way you work in order to be a successful entrepreneur. It depends on what you choose to do, and other circumstances.

Before I started the 5:30 a.m. wake-up schedule, I was struggling out of bed at 7 a.m. Or sometimes later, depending. I found myself struggling to get everything done, though, and still maintain a relationship with my son. I also didn’t have time to exercise.

Sometimes I was up until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. trying to finish up the most important items. The whole thing was a mess.

When I adjusted a bit, things improved.

You might have your own challenges. Do you have business contacts in a radically different time zone? Maybe you know you need to manage your kids’ after-school activities every day from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — right when you wish you could get a few things done for your business.

The realities of life sometimes mean that you have to make adjustments that you might not want to make.

As long as you find a way to make incremental changes that result in a better business outcome, you can find success, even if you aren’t getting up as early as other entrepreneurs.

It’s About the Results

In the end, being a successful entrepreneur is about the results.

It’s not about whether you can tell your buddies that you get up at 4:00 a.m. and follow a routine that leaves you enlightened and calm.

The best routine for you is the one that works for you — and gets results.

If you get up at 9 a.m. and you manage to grow your business and live a lifestyle you find mostly fulfilling, who cares that you aren’t up before dawn doing yoga?

Figure out what works in your life and helps you get the results you want in your business life and your personal life. It might require some tinkering and a little effort, but in the end you’ll be glad you’re doing what works for you.

Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit

I'm Miranda and I'm a freelance financial journalist and money expert. My specialties are investing, small business/entrepreneurship and personal finance. The journey to business success and financial freedom is best undertaken with fellow travelers.

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