Asking Kenyans what they do between the time they wake up and the time they start work could make for an interesting study.
Lifestyle went out to hear from a number of prominent Kenyans regarding their morning routines. Their schedules are as variant as they are interesting.
But there was a bottom line: Waking up early is a key attribute among those that have made a name for themselves.
Besides the ones we interviewed, the reason behind the success of a number of prominent Kenyans is they have strict routines.
Deputy President William Ruto, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, Kenya Commercial Bank CEO Joshua Oigara, business magnate Chris Kirubi, former deputy inspector-general of police Grace Kaindi, the late Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo, former minister Njenga Karume and legendary photographer Mohammed “Mo” Amin are some of the people whose morning routines have been documented — with interesting lessons from each.
For Instance, Mr Kilonzo, who died in 2013, is said to have been so strict with his time time that when his son, the current Makueni senator, saw him a minute after their daily appointed meeting time of 7 am, the young Kilonzo would be turned away.
Life coach Jeff Nthiwa, who advises people on how to realise their potential, says that any successful person should wake up early and have a consistent morning ritual.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are employed, you’re running your own business, you are a Class Eight student — it’s for anyone who wants to make a mark on the planet,” he says.
He adds: “Most people who’ve really made it in life are those who are very intentional about the morning hour. Because that time between 4am and 6am is very critical. It actually determines the flow of how your day is going to be.”
Mr Nthiwa, the founder of Nairobi-based Destiny Life Coaching, says people who start their day late may be forced to rush through things, which will be detrimental to their productivity.
“If you have the habit of waking up in a rush, then the day goes in a rush. Throughout the day, everything is rushing to the next hour,” he observes.
Mr Nthiwa notes that a person needs a morning ritual — be it prayer, exercise or meditation — that “keeps your body, mind and spirit in sync and in a state of flow”.
However, there are people who prefer calling themselves “night owls”, the kind that work late into the night and wake up late.
“You cannot work up to 2am and expect to wake up and be in the office and be productive at 8am. So, mostly, you need to understand yourself,” he says.
To explain the importance of waking up early, personal development adviser Wale Akinyemi gave his own example. He sleeps for five hours.
“I wake up at 2.30am. That’s when I go to my study at home. I do work, I pray, I do all those things then I leave home at about 4.15am and reach the office at 4.30am. By the time those people are coming at 9am, I’ve already had a full day. I get two days for the price of one,” he says with a laugh.
On the debate of “early birds” versus “night owls”, Dr Akinyemi, the CEO of PowerTalks Limited, says people are wired differently.
“The Bible says Jesus used to get up well before dawn. So, Jesus was an early riser,” he says.
Lifestyle learnt that traffic jams play a big part in dictating the morning schedule of many city residents and, according to Mr Adams Tuva, who deals with IT products and who is always keen to beat the morning jam, many high achievers reach their offices very early.
“These so-called big vehicles … you will not see many of them on the road after 7am. They are owned by people who run organisations. They try to run against the movements of other people,” he says.
To ensure he avoids traffic, Mr Tuva wakes up at 4am on workdays and is at the desk of his office in Nairobi’s Westlands by 5 am.
“My wake-up philosophy is that God will give you exactly what you give Him in terms of time. God is very fair to everyone … Waking up early keeps you ahead of the pack at all times,” he explains.
Kenya’s second President
Mr Moi is legendary for maintaining a morning schedule so strict it inspired many people around him.
As President for 24 years, not once did he report to office later than 6.30am, recalls his long-time press officer Lee Njiru. And, on some days, the President and his staff would be taking breakfast at 3am.
“He used to have appointments even at 6am,” says Mr Njiru, who has worked with Mr Moi for 38 years.
More than a decade after retirement, Mr Moi’s mornings are still busy.
“Under normal circumstances, he does not wake up later than 6am,” Mr Njiru told Lifestyle.
What keeps Mr Moi up in the morning, Mr Njiru says, are the schools and farms that he helps run.
The schools include Moi Educational Centre in Nairobi, Sunshine Secondary School in Nairobi, Moi Kabarak High School, Sacho High School in Baringo, Kabarak University and Moi Primary School.
“He has to get briefings from the headteachers of all these schools on what is going on in terms of physical expansion, school equipment, teachers, professionalism, missions, visions, and goals. This is not a job which Mzee can delegate,” Mr Njiru says, adding that his boss does not like “mediocrity”.
Mr Moi operates from either his Nairobi or Nakuru offices. When he is in Nairobi, the office is open at 6.30am.
“Although he left the presidency, that does not mean that he has slackened his pace in nation building; because nation building is not only running the public affairs within the government,” notes Mr Njiru.
The county boss says it has been his tradition to wake up early every morning since leaving college in 1983. On most days, he says, he leaves home by 6am.
“Morning hours present a good, quiet time to work. Between 6am and 9am, there are few or no people in the office,” he says. “Waking up early is a way of maximising what you can do in a day.”
In those morning hours, what takes up his time is “planning, putting ideas together and examining different documents”.
“The key to success is planning. The result you achieve is as good as the plan you lay; and waking up early helps one create a plan. You have the best input in the morning,” says Dr Kidero.
PROF MARGARET KOBIA
Chair, Public Service Commission
Prof Kobia, who is perhaps one of the most powerful women in Kenya, makes it a point to be in the office by 7am every day.
That means waking up at 5.30am. Before she leaves home, one of her routine tasks is checking her to-do list. After tea, she is good to face the day.
“I take a cup of tea and leave home by 6.30am and I am in the office by 7am. I read and respond to e-mails up to 8am,” says the mother of three.
For the decorated 3,000 metres steeplechase athlete, mornings are about watching news and training.
He is up at 5am each day and then watches international television channels.
“I switch on my TV, go through CNN, BBC, Sky Sports; then get ready for my morning run at 6am sharp,” he says.
On the TV, he is interested in “world headline news and also sports. Just to get ready for the day”.
After acquainting himself with the news, the next item is the morning run, which he does between 6am and 8.30am every day except Sundays.
Starting the day early, he says, “wakes up my mind” and makes him relax.
“That’s why I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years,” says one of the greatest steeplechase athletes in history.
Founder, Keroche Breweries
Ms Karanja’s day usually starts at 5am and there are three constant features of her morning: exercise, prayer and a little housekeeping.
“I have to do 10-minutes on the treadmill; and then after the treadmill I prepare myself for work. Being a woman, I tidy my room — unlike a man who will just get up and leave,” she says with a chuckle.
But why the treadmill?
“It gives you the energy and makes you ready to start the day,” she says.
And a prayer also comes in handy because she says a divine hand is always welcome in solving worldly problems.
Some days are too demanding for her that she has to forget about having breakfast at home.
“When you have a breakfast meeting, you have to wake up earlier than 5am so that you are in the office by 7am. So, you are to leave your house by 6am so that you get to the office by 7am because of the traffic,” she says.
On a bad morning, the Keroche Breweries CEO says she takes one-and-a-half hours from her house to the company’s Riverside office.
“Actually, it is the same time I use to go to Naivasha (where the company manufactures its products), which is about 100 kilometres away.”
For her, early meetings are the surest way to clear backlog at her workplace.
“I start my meetings early and then fix my day early. Because I am the boss, I can say I’ll only do 20 per cent of my job, but at the end of the month I’ll not have finished what I wanted to achieve,” she says.
RABBIT (KENNEDY OMBIMA)
If you are one of those people who like their morning meals heavy, with ugali to boot, you have company in the fast-rising rapper.
“Kaka Sungura” considers himself a person with a poor diet, saying he eats heavy in the morning and eats fruits the rest of the day.
He works three days each week — Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday — and on those days he wakes up at 4.30am.
His first activity is watching a movie.
“I’m usually watching some series at any given time. I usually wake up, pray then head straight to the TV. I watch TV for about 30 minutes — that’s until about 5am. Then I shower, make preparations up to 5.30am. By that time, my food has been prepared. I eat in the morning — ugali with some liver and osuga (traditional vegetables), beef or chicken,” he says.
His working days are packed with meetings, which start from 7.30am.
“On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’m usually in meetings throughout the day. My meetings end at 10pm,” notes the rapper who also runs an artiste management stable.
There are hectic mornings when Ms Thongori has to wake up at 3am. The day she spoke to Lifestyle was one of those.
But on ordinary days, the lawyer is up by 5.40am. A sizeable portion of her mornings goes to planning the day with her workers.
“Apart from ensuring that there is breakfast on the table for my family, I ensure that the people who help me at home know what they are going to do for the day. I also ensure that the provisions that are supposed to be in the house are there, or what I need to get in the course of the day. For that, I will have a list as I leave the house, then I leave to drop my daughter at the school bus stop,” she says.
“But when I have work, like when I have to do court preparations because I’m in court at 9am, then I would push my clock backwards. Sometimes it can be more than two hours before, like today. The point is that the only time of the 24 hours that you have that is truly yours, in my view, is the night.”
The Nairobi traffic jams have a huge bearing on Ms Thongori’s morning programme. “I get to the office about 7.10am. I work for an hour until about 8.10am and because I’m in Westlands, then I have to start driving across to the courts and that takes me about an hour; you know how it is,” she says.
Executive Director, Federation of Kenya Employers
The one thing that cannot allow Ms Mugo to sleep past 5am is the morning workout, which has to take at least 45 minutes.
Her mornings start with prayers before she begins her exercise.
“I exercise in the house because I realised going to the gym every morning will not work. I prefer aerobics or zumba,” she says, adding that she has digital discs that help her effect the exercise.
Her working hours can stretch late into the night because of the different time zones of the people she communicates with. Regardless, she has to wake up early.
“I’ve had to learn to be a morning person because of the demands of my work,” she says.
Founder, Mount Kenya University
Mr Gicharu has nurtured the culture of waking up at around 4am since his days as a student at Murang’a High School and he has never looked back.
“We used to wake up very early in the morning. When you are fresh, your mind concentrates even more when you wake up very early,” he says.
Nowadays, he wakes up at 4.30am, then heads to the gym for a one-hour workout.
“I take a shower then I’m ready to start the day from around 6am,” says Mr Gicharu who is also the chair of the Rural Electrification Authority. He is in the office by 7am and says morning hours provide the best time for work.
“That is the time you strategise. You are able to go through various correspondences, then act. By the time people go to the offices, you have already responded to whatever needs a response,” he says.