More than 25 years ago, I chose to become a morning person. I was fifty pounds overweight at the time and decided to try exercise to feel better. Determined to eliminate excuses, I realized working out before heading to the office was going to be my best bet. It was painful setting the alarm clock an hour earlier at first. But the burst of energy and self-esteem I received, along with lost pounds, more than made up for it. I’ve kept most of the weight off by continuing that morning exercise habit for the past two decades. Even better, becoming an early riser has also helped me activate my full potential.

There are a lot of distractions to deal with during the day, like family, friends, co-workers, deadlines, social media, bills to pay and much more. Our society gets so focused on “doing” that it is challenging to find time for just “being.” Waking up before everyone else does creates that opportunity.

My best thinking now is done most days before 6:00 a.m. I write in my journal and set goals for the day before heading to the gym for a sweat session and then ultimately, the office. Sure, while attending conferences in Las Vegas I’ve gotten the stink eye from late night owls still gambling at the crack of dawn as my workout gear-clad self darts through the casino towards the gym. By 10:00 p.m., my brain is typically toast. Those minor inconveniences aside, becoming a morning person has helped me truly thrive.

I hold a full-time, intense C-Suite job while working on a book project and writing articles on the side. And I’m far from being alone in this early riser success mantra. As reported in the Harvard Business Review, morning people are more proactive in their career. Biology Professor Christoph Randler from the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany surveyed 367 university students, asking what time of day they were most energetic and how willing and able they were to change a situation to their advantage. “My earlier research showed that they tend to get better grades in school, which get them into better colleges, which then lead to better job opportunities,” notes Randler in the article. “Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, my survey showed. They’re proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, proactivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages.”

In my personal life, focusing on myself in the mornings lets me be more present with my husband and carve out quality time for friends. Curious about how this practice could help you? Even if you’ve been more night owl than a lark for years, it’s not too late to become a morning person. Here are a few ways to ease into the benefits of early to rise:

Plan a steady progression. Suddenly setting your alarm for 5:30 a.m. after rising at 7:00 a.m. for most of your career is probably going to hurt. Instead, consider arming your alarm for 10-15 minutes earlier each day for a week or so to get used to the new time. When it feels normal, dial back another 10-15 minutes each week until you reach your goal. Keep your alarm – whether it’s on your smart phone or an old school clock by the bed – out of reach so you don’t smack the snooze button four times in a row.

Fill that time with goodness. You may want 30 extra minutes in the morning to savor a great cup of coffee and contemplate life or try to carve an hour out for a high energy spin class that revs up your mind and body for the day ahead. The point is, fill that morning time you are claiming with something that makes you feel great. Starting the day focused on yourself helps you ultimately have more time for everyone and everything else.

Track progress. At the end of each week, make a list what you’ve done for yourself with the morning time you’ve claimed. Whether it is four hours of weekly exercise, writing a book chapter, designing that app you’ve been thinking about, scrapbooking or proposing a new business initiative that puts you on the fast track for a promotion, the wins are going to add up. Acknowledging everything you’ve done is going to motivate you to do more.

Learn to savor quiet surprises. I can hear birds chirping in the morning before the sounds of traffic and the bustle of everyday life intrude. You get to see some amazing sunrises. Wow, sounds like I’m narrating a National Geographic special, right? However, those experiences reinforce how great it feels to be an early riser.

Benjamin Franklin is believed to have said: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Smart advice indeed from a prolific scientist, inventor, founding father and morning person extraordinaire.