Video: A nation of early birds

By Dawn Fratangelo Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/29/2006 8:52:23 AM ET 2006-03-29T13:52:23

Mornings are manic these days.

Just listen to the overachievers who call into the 5:30 Club on Chicago morning radio, like one caller who listed what she’d done so far in the morning: “I did one load of laundry, took the dog out, emptied the dishwater and folded clothes.”

Host Eric Ferguson began hearing more early callers three years ago. Now, the morning drive show generates 80 percent of revenue.

“People hit the ground running right away,” Ferguson says, “And subsequently that's caused us to be the same way when we go on the air at 5:30. It's time to go.”

In California, Robyn Eckard starts even earlier.

“I just roll right out of bed,” she says. “I let my son sleep for about an hour so I can shower and get dressed, put on my makeup, check my e-mail.”

The, she and two-year-old Max are out the door by 6:00. They stop at his pre-school and then, armed with coffee, Robyn's in her office by 7:00. 

“It's the quiet hour in the morning,” Eckard says, “So from seven to eight, I have a real opportunity to get stuff done.”

In New York, early morning demand is so high, one commuter line into the city will run trains up to 25 minutes sooner.

“There's more pressure on everybody to be more productive,” says one passenger.

Stages of sleepEvery minute seems to count. The number of passengers riding into New York City before 7 a.m. has grown 23 percent in the past five years.

But with less sleep and longer hours, are we really getting more out of life?

“Pull away, even though it feels like career suicide. Go home. Rest, sleep, recharge, have fun with your kids, play with the dog and watch how much more effective you will be,” says author and time management expert Julie Morgenstern.

The trick is finding that elusive balance. Until then, there's always the early morning bragging rights.

"I got up at 3:30," boasted a recent caller to Chicago's 5:30 Club. "I put together six care packages. Who has accomplished the most today?"

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