In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about early morning routines and the act of waking up early in the morning as a founder.

It is common knowledge that how well you sleep and the state of mind you create at the beginning of the day have a lot to do with how much you’ll accomplish in that day. It’s a good idea to develop a morning routine that makes you be more productive.

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thought on morning routines, waking up early in the morning as a founder and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

01:21 About Hiten’s morning routine.

01:49 How having a reason can help you wake up early.

02:57 Steli’s morning history.

04:39 The magic of waking up at 5 a.m.

06:42 Why waking up super early is not for everybody.

07:31 Why you should do what works for you.

08:04 The importance of observing times of the day when you could be doing more.

09:31 Why you need to adjust your routine.

3 Key Points:

  • Do what works for you.
  • For me, I wake up early because I don’t want to hit traffic.
  • There’s not just one formula that works for everybody.



Steli Efti: Hi everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: Today on the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about waking up early in the morning as a founder. Maybe we’ll expand to like early morning routines but it’s 6:00 AM in San Francisco. Thankfully, I’m in New York so it’s just 9:00 AM for me. But I’ve heard and read a lot about morning routines, being a super early kind of morning person. For I think about five or six months, I had actually established a morning routine where I was waking up at 5:00 AM every morning. I really, really thoroughly enjoyed it. Now, it’s in the past distance, this year I don’t even know what time I wake in the morning. I’ve been traveling so much, I’m all over the place, but I’ve noticed consistency over the past years that you are a super early morning person, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, these days I am.


Steli Efti: These days, all right, certainly. Is that something that … Would you say it’s not a natural thing, it’s like a learned thing or? Tell us more about it.


Hiten Shah: Totally a learned thing. I think-


Steli Efti: A learned thing?


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: I think for me, truthfully, I can go either way very easily, I think maybe just like you. I don’t travel much so I guess like people are different and some people really prefer or think, I think, that they think that they’re night people, right?


Steli Efti: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Hiten Shah: Or they’re morning people. I’ve been both in my life. Right now I’m a morning person and for me, the way I do it is I just have a reason. So I have reason to get up and do something. So today my reason was getting on the podcast and recording a few podcasts with you, so that’s my reason. I live about 20 to 30 minutes south of San Francisco in a city called Redwood Shore. I call it the city that Larry Ellison built because it’s right behind essentially his main office, like the big buildings and stuff. It’s like suburbia and so I live here. If I get up early, that means get up right around 6:00-ish, I can make it to the city by 7:00. I wake up, shower, and what not, get ready, and I can make to the city by 7:00. If I get up any later, then I end up making it to the city by like 8:00 and it takes me like 45 minutes. So it’s a difference between like 25, 35 minutes, and like 45 minutes to an hour, and hour and 10 minutes. So my excuse for getting up early is I get to drive less and I don’t have to drive in traffic in the morning.


Steli Efti: Beautiful, I love that, having a reason. All right, so I’ll give my quick history in terms of my mornings. I think, I mean, I definitely have been both., super early morning person, normal morning person and late. I think I don’t know that for sure but my natural tendency would not be … Like I know that I work best if I either work, either wake up at 5:00, or wake up later, let’s say at 8:00. These days I wake probably around 6:30 to 7:00 AM-ish and that’s actually not an optimal time for me to wake up. I don’t know why, maybe it’s kind of a sleep rhythm thing where I’m like in deep sleep during that time. So it’s harder for me to wake up a little later than 5:00 AM. But for me, the first that I really worked hard to experiment with my morning routine was when I had my first son. I was responsible in the morning when he was waking up, to feed him, to do breakfast when he was a little … I think at the one year age when he wasn’t a baby anymore and wasn’t breastfeeding anymore. I noticed that it was really messing with me to wake up in kind of at different times. Some days he would wake at 6:30, some days he would wake up at 7:15. It would always within a range of 40 minutes at different times and it really messed up to wake up hearing a crying kid or hearing a kid waking up. I was kind of a little out of it, craggy, preparing food, changing dippers. It was kind of a very weird way to start the day where I’m like one step behind. I did that for a while and then I read an article somewhere about like the magic of waking up at 5:00 AM and how amazing it is and it’s the best thing ever. I was like, “Huh! Maybe I should try that.” I did. I established that routine and for a while I really loved it because it allowed me to wake up at 5:00 AM. Nobody is up at 5:00. So I would go on a walk, I would go to Starbucks, get some coffee, sit down, plan my day, clear up my inbox, do some routines, read a little bit. Then I would go back around 6:20 at home, sit down, start meditating and whatever. He would wake up, I would be actually excited to hear him, I was awake, I felt prepared for the day, and then I was actually in a really good mood, pick him up, changing dippers, rock and rolling with him in the morning. I felt that that really changed the tone and rhythm of my day. But as I said, I think that this year, like with moving from San Francisco to New York and Germany and having like two home bases and traveling so much, I don’t even know. Like I don’t. All my routines are a little on shaky ground this year so I need to work on this again a little bit. But it’s funny, I feel like it’s this preconceived notion. Some people, as you said, are like, “Oh, I’m a night, late night person and that’s just the way it works for me. When I have to wake up in the morning nothing works.” Then there’s other people … I think that this is more prevalent in the entrepreneurial community at least. There’s this kind of myth of the super founder that wakes up super early to win or whatever. Like three hours more working time. They’re like, “If I wake up at 5:00 and start working and the normal founders starts working at 8:00, I have a three-hour headstart to all my competition.” I think that that’s a really damn idea just to throw that out there. I don’t think waking up earlier or later should have to do with like hours, like adding hours to just pure work or answering emails or anything like that. I think like you said before, you just need to look at your life probably and we’re getting into the tip section of this. But looking into your life, your routines, the demands on your time and just designing your day in a way that it’s going to allow you to be most productive and waste as less, as least, as little time as possible.


Hiten Shah: Oh man, yeah. I mean, lool, it’s not for everybody. You want to have enough productive hours in the day. For sure, trying to wake up early so you have more hours in the day is probably detrimental to your health if that’s just not what you’re meant to do. But sometimes maybe you need to work that hard if that’s the way you look at it. I guess my tip is just like do what works for you, don’t make it this thing. Like you were saying, like don’t make this thing, “We have to have more hours.” Don’t make it this thing where you have to wake up early ’cause “they”, whoever “they” is says you have to wake up early. I think do what feels right for you. If waking up late and sleeping late makes you feel most productive and you actually get enough done, do it like that. If waking up early does that for you, do it like that. I mean, I don’t like, I think these are all myths and all these made up stuff about like what makes a good founder, and what makes a good person, or whatever, or that you have to wake up early and it’s better or worse. I feel like you just need to like we’re here to like work mostly. That’s right, and do stuff, and make money, and what not. So just literally, like figure out what works best for you and sometimes that might need to change for whatever reason. Like for me, I wake up early because I don’t want to hit traffic.


Steli Efti: I love it, yeah. The other thing is I think just observing yourself and seeing like what are the times of the day that you are maybe not taking as good advantage of. I remember back in the day when I switched my day rhythm from going to bed at 11:00 or midnight, and waking up at like 7:00 or 8:00, to going to bed at like 9:00 or 10:00 PM and waking up at 5:00, I realized that most nights between 10:00 and midnight, I really didn’t do anything enjoyable, right? I didn’t even try to be productive but even the unproductive things, like even when I was like watching a movie or just browsing the web. It was a part of the day, like maybe early in the evening if I would read a book or watch a Netflix show or something, I would enjoy it, it would relax me. But then later in the evening or in the night, I realized that these activities were not enjoyable anymore. I was just like at a place where I was too exhausted to go to sleep but too exhausted to do something productive. So I was just like stuck in this like browsing weird sites, reading, not useful, blog post, just like wasting time in a way that was not really energizing, fulfilling or really helping me with rest. So I was like, “You know what? The last two hours of my day, I’m just wasting, I’m not even enjoying this. So I might as well go to sleep and see if in the morning, the two hours that I win there if I can do something that’s more enjoyable, more quality for me.” That was true back then. But again, I think we always go back to like look at your life, look at your day and your hours, how do you use them, what’s challenging, and then adjust. Sometimes you might have to be or want to be a morning person, sometimes you might want to take advantage of starting your day much later. But there’s not one formula that’s right for everybody. But this morning, it was just funny, usually we don’t record at 6:00 AM and Hiten you said, “Steli, can we move this up to 6:00 AM Pacific?” I was like, “We should talk about morning and being a morning person for founders. It’s very applicable to the recording session today.”


Hiten Shah: Absolutely.


Steli Efti: All right. I think that’s it for us for this episode. If you have learned anything interesting about your morning routines, late in the evening routines when you’re productive, anything else, just let us know and always get in touch with us, steli@closeio, If you have not done it yet, five-star review rating on iTunes, please give us all the stars and all the reviews. We highly appreciate it and that’s it for us for this episode.


Hiten Shah: See you.