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Does too much get made of getting up early?




“Get up early”, Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, “Rise and shine with sunshine”


We have heard of the extolling of the virtues of getting up early endlessly from our childhood. We also will have studies pointing out how the rich and famous people (expect Bill Gates to be included in any list) are what they are because they are early risers. Implying that early rising is the cause of their success. Every study of successful people will focus on a very narrow area and determine it is the cause of success.


I heard one young adult comment, “If you get up early, you will end up sweeping the roads. All city, building maintenance people, milk vendors, paper distributors are early risers. I never heard of society calling then successful by any means”


Often rules in the society are made in a context. As time passes we retain the rules and forget the context it was made in. That is how the rituals we practice every day become rituals without any meaning. If the context is not there do the rules still apply?

In an era where work depended on the sunlight, when there was no electricity, where work depended on the physical proximity of colleagues, the early riser may have had an advantage. But today the world has changed.


We have 24-hour power, shift system, call centres, remote location working, online world, staggered work hours, flexible work hours, concepts which were alien even two decades back. Do we still think you will be successful only if you get up early? Let us acknowledge that people have a different sleep-wake cycle. Some are morning folks who are up and running at the break of dawn, some need a couple of hours breathing space before they can hit the energy levels and there are quite a few people who shine bright and are full of beans only after the sun goes down. Some find their productive best at night.


In a 24-hour cycle, most of us can put in a good work of about 6-10 hours. Does it matter when we do it? If our work/study does not disturb others, implementing the old rule of ‘Early risers are the best’ does not hold good any longer. Even when it comes to studies, some children are better in the morning and some in the evening and some (esp teenagers) late in the night. As long as they do what is required of them, should it matter when they do?

Before we take sayings, quotes, aphorisms seriously, we need to understand the context in which they were originally made. Some of us are morning people and some of us are not. The world is big enough to accommodate all of us.

“The early bird gets the worm’, you tell your teenager emphasizing rewards are available only to those who get up with the sun or earlier.

“That is good in the bird world”, comes the repartee, “In the worm world, the early worm gets eaten”

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