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Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jul 17, 2016

DianneErskineHellrigelAre you an early riser? If so, you’re in good company. People who get up with the birds are generally smarter than their colleagues, healthier, happier, and get more done. Science doesn’t lie. Early risers are go-getters, and many are geniuses.

A University in Heidelberg discovered that early birds got the worm, so to speak. They got more done, were more productive, and were much more in control of their lives-business-research and had better self-esteem. Early risers are smarter, more optimistic, filled with self-satisfaction and are much more successful than the average morning mattress hugger.

Rising early is a common trait among the most successful people. Think about how much time you waste in bed: If you got up just one hour earlier each day, you will have gained 15 full days in a year. Imagine what it would be like to have that many more days to be productive.

Yes, that’s my kind of math. Staying in bed is a total waste of time. Hop to it, and git ‘er done.

So you’re wondering what you could possibly do in the morning instead of sleep. I can almost hear some of you out there grumbling.

Well, the morning is the best time to exercise. For me, exercising in the early morning sets up my whole day. I’m filled with energy, ready to focus on my daily itinerary with great enthusiasm for my day ahead, and I have much less stress.

Early morning, before the rest of the household gets up, is also a perfect time to be creative. It’s already 4:30 a.m. and I’ve had my green tea, a piece of my homemade, 12-grain German bread (made with whole grains that I’ve ground myself in my grain mill), and I’ve already written a grant, and now I’m writing this exciting and encouraging piece of literature for you.

One day, I could be writing my masterpiece. I can feel it. I’ve heard that most of the great works of art were written in the wee hours of the morning, not the late nights as so often depicted in feature films.

If you want to be more creative, try unlocking the secrets of the early morning hours.

Waking up early allows me to have control over my day. When everyone is rushing off to work with a disgusting fast-food pastry locked between the jaws, I’ve already completed several things on my work plan. I’m calm while their blood pressure is rising, the coffee is spilling onto their suit jacket, and they’re throwing jelly doughnuts onto the windshield of the guy in the car next to them.

Once they reach work, they are too stressed actually to get anything done. The boss, being a not-so-compassionate human being in the morning, piles on more stress, and the whole office is a room full of chaos. Meanwhile, I’m on No. 6, checking off that item and putting it into the “Done” column. Time for me to stretch and walk around the block … while you are probably hiding under your desk to avoid a display of desperation in front of your office mates, who are probably also hiding under their desks.

13664627_10210465799220055_1482770947_nIf I’ve just described you in the paragraph above, try waking up just an hour earlier, get to the office earlier without the traffic, settle in and start being productive before anyone else gets there.

For me, an office situation is the worst possible atmosphere to get things done. There are too many interruptions, and everyone is wasting time talking, yakking on the phone, running in and out of your office, complaining unendingly, and boom! The day is done, and you’re still on No. 1, and it’s not yet in the “Done” column. But if you’re there early, you can get No. 1 done before the late risers even get there. And if you need advice, you can ask when the crowd arrives.

Late risers, in general, are procrastinators, not doers. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” It’s time for you to lead. You’ll never be truly successful if you’re following someone else around all the time. Learn what you have to, and start being a leader. Break out of the pack. Being an early riser will help. And don’t hang around negative people. They will only drag you down. You can do it, but you’ve got to start early.

Early risers are set apart from the rest because they have increased their productivity, they are their own masters, they are always on time if not early for appointments, they get a head start and the tackle the big things first. They don’t waste time on useless Internet searches or social media; they have a faster (earlier) commute than the rest of you; and they are more at peace with themselves. They also love quiet times and working in quiet instead of blaring music and 100 people blabbing all around them.

In an office setting, you will not see them hanging around the water cooler … but you will probably see them in their office at work with the doors shut.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say that at one time or another. Early birds have time for breakfast. And of course, breakfast always has a plan. Early birds are not known for cramming a pastry in their mouths and spilling coffee on themselves as they run for the door. But early risers take their time with fruit, a veggie omelet and coffee or tea. Or perhaps they will make a green veggie smoothie that will easily carry them through until lunch. Our bodies are like cars. If there’s no oil and gas in the car, it just won’t run. Eat wisely and prosper.

13664355_10210465798900047_1748734342_nBenjamin Franklin, a morning person, was known to have said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

I don’t mean to imply that evening people are all slouches. That is far from the truth. They can be creative, intelligent, humorous extroverts as well as pessimistic, neurotic or depressed. And not all morning people are geniuses. In general, morning people are more agreeable, optimistic, stable, proactive, conscientious and satisfied with their lives than evening people.

Some have suggested these two types of people evolved in early human groups to take night watch and morning watch to keep the groups protected. I suppose that’s as good an excuse as any. DNA and learned family habits are also good excuses.

If you want to, you could learn to be a morning person. Perhaps a morning person is your hero. Perhaps being like him or her will convince you to give it a try.

Ben Franklin was one of our founding fathers. (I mention this in case history was not your strong subject in school). Every day when he would rise early, he would ask himself: “What good should I do today?” He was known for being focused and determined, and he would continue to persevere until he was successful.

More recently, and recognizable to all of you millennials out there, is Tim Cook of Apple. Tim is Apple’s CEO. He begins every day at 4:30 a.m. Before most of the rest of us rise to face the day, he has sent out inspirational company emails, has worked out that the gym and is always the first one at the office. He’s also the last one to leave the office because he believes in leading by example. He’s an admirable guy.

13650630_10210465799060051_278702953_nGeorge Bush – Love him or hate him, he was a very early riser, and he knew how to get things done. George, like his father George, would set the tone of his entire day with early morning meetings. George was a workaholic. He began his days early and continued his public service into the wee hours of the night, not leaving the office about 2 a.m. He was a very dedicated public servant.

13672460_10210465799180054_84963651_nTelevision personality Rachael Ray is also a morning person. She wakes up every day before 6 a.m. and has become a successful TV show host, writes books, publishes recipes on a blog and also runs a charity. She’s at the top of her field, all because she changed her habits from sleeping in to becoming a self-made morning person.

13664810_10210465798940048_1274529562_nCondoleeza Rice is another morning person and is highly successful at everything she has put her mind to. She is an overachiever. She is a former U.S. Secretary of State, an educator and more. She wakes up at 4:30 every day of the week.

13652641_10210465799260056_574618443_nNapoleon was an early riser. He made his fame in the French military, and one of the only battles he lost was to one of my ancestors in Austria (because he was fighting another early riser). Napoleon later also made a name for himself as Emperor. Even in exile, he continued to rise early.

13652535_10210465799020050_933424113_nTwo famous authors, John Grisham and Ernest Hemingway, were also early risers, doing their best work in the early hours of the day. Both had multiple successful careers. Both writers felt they were the most creative in these early hours, and their enthusiasm lasted easily until noon.

So who will be the next early riser to reach for the stars, to become known for their grand success, creativity or perhaps their great public service? Maybe it will be you. There’s no time like the present.

Maybe you should sleep on it.



Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.


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  1. Alan Pollack says:

    In Defense of Night People

    Night people are made to suffer by the morning people who rule the world. By what law of nature is it ordained that the workday must start at 8am? If night people ruled the world, we would spend a relaxing morning sleeping and get to work at noon. There would be no need for rushing, stuffing pastries in mouths, or putting up with obsessive bosses who are morning people. There would be no stress in the world. In fact, we would have world peace!

    There are studies that show a genetic tendency towards night or morning persondom (is that a word?). To say that you can learn to be a morning person is tantamount to saying you can learn to fly without being born with a pair of wings, and I’m talking natural flying, not using airplanes, balloons, or other gadgets.

    If night people are more depressed or negative, it is only because morning people force them to defy their natural circadian rhythm to live in a morning person world. That productive time you morning people spend at 5am, could just as easily be done at midnight. And creativity in the wee hours of the morning could just as easily be accomplished by the night person who never went to sleep as opposed to the morning person who is just waking up.

    And who would you rather emulate in life, Napoleon or Winston Churchill? Yes the renowned British prime minister was a night person. Many famous and creative people did their best work at night. The roster includes Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Toulouse-Loutrec, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Wolfe, and even Bob Dylan. Our current POTUS? A night person.

    Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote “‘There is a romance about all those who are abroad in the black hours.” Night people of the world, lie down and be proud! And yes, I am writing this in the middle of the night!

  2. Hardin Rich says:

    This whole back and forth convo should have stayed in the lunch room, where it sounds like it began.

  3. Richard says:

    Night Owls are much smarter and intelligent then early birds. Only LOSERS go to sleep at 8pm.

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