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Every successful person you know might not wake up at 4 AM like me, but I guarantee they make the most of their mornings.

They don’t go to bed dreading the next day, and they don’t hit snooze on the alarm clock. They get up each morning ready to go.

Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, is up by 5 AM reading, working out, and answering emails. Richard Branson doesn’t just lounge around on his private island. He’s up by 5:45 AM every morning – I’ve watched him seize his day in person. And Apple’s Tim Cook? He’s awake by 3:45 AM EVERY DAY.

Bracken Darrell, the CEO of Logitech, kills two birds with one stone, combining early morning meetings with his daily 5 AM jog. If you want to discuss business, you better keep up! The same goes for Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, who offers interviews to journalists that are willing to brave the steep, dangerous Grouse Grind Trail with him.

My buddy Hoby Darling, the former CEO of Skullcandy, is up and at the gym every morning even when the temperature dips below zero degrees. For him, an early workout sets the tone for his day and helps him to be a better leader and a better person.

The pursuit of success is the best alarm clock. 

Science is on the side of early birds too. In 2008, Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered that people who wake up early are also more proactive. They take charge of their lives. They take responsibility, and they make things happen.

You don’t have to wake up at 3 AM to kick ass. It’s not just early birds that get the worm – it’s people that make the most of their time.

Time is a decaying asset. You can’t slow it down, and you can’t buy more. It is the most valuable asset we have. Nothing else matters as much as time.

So why do we waste so much of it?

Binge watching tv is a waste of time. Surfing the web is the ultimate time thief. Complaining is as useful as trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. And waiting around for something to happen will ruin your life.

The reason early birds get the worm is because they use their mornings to jump start their day and tackle problems before the rest of the world is even out of bed. In his book The 5 AM Miracle, Jeff Sanders talks about dominating the day before you even pour your first cup of coffee. It’s all about establishing daily habits, setting ambitious goals, and simplifying your schedule.

Turn your mornings into the most valuable part of your day with three simple steps:

Set your alarm.

Want to be the next Richard Branson? Prove it.

Set your alarm for an hour earlier than usual and get your ass out of bed. Do this every day, even when you’re on vacation. Get in the habit of waking up early and seizing the day, and soon it won’t feel like work at all.

Every night, make your ABC list.

To get where you want to go, you’ve got to know where you’re headed. Here’s the system that works for me:

I create three lists – A, B, and C.

On my A-list, I write down everything that matters to me. The stuff that makes my life ten times better.

The B-list is for all the things I need to do to get the ball rolling on my A-list.

On the C-list, I add all the stuff I should do, but if I don’t, my life won’t fall apart.

Then I look at each list and cross off everything that doesn’t really matter. I decide what NOT to do. If I’m getting up early, I don’t want to waste that time on the stuff that isn’t important.

By doing that, I have more time to focus on what Elizabeth Weil calls non-negotiables. Elizabeth is an all-star runner, super businesswoman, and a devoted mom. Not only does she kick butt in the venture capital business, but she competes in races regularly while still making time to be there for her family. Running is her non-negotiable. She brings her running shoes with her to work, on every business trip, and on every vacation, and she schedules running into her daily schedule.

When you schedule it in, you’re committed.

Something else will always come up, but that time is always set aside for you.

Mark your calendar.

Once you decide what not to do, schedule your non-negotiables for first thing in the morning when it’s quiet and your brain and body are fresh.

Do these no matter what.

Don’t compromise.

Your mornings are too valuable to waste.

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