If you've read about the habits and lifestyles of successful entrepreneurs, you'll realize that there are two unspoken rules of being an entrepreneur.

First, wake up at an ungodly hour. Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 a.m. (yep, that freaks me out, too), and Richard Branson wakes up at 5:00 a.m.

Next, don't check your email in the morning. Time management expert Julie Morgenstern wrote an entire book on this subject, and entrepreneurs who stick to this rule include Hinge CEO Justin McLeod, who went to the extent of completely deleting the email app from his phone.

So, does this mean that if you can't wake up early, you're pretty much doomed as an entrepreneur? Of course not. Lori Greiner, who is worth an estimated $50 million dollars, shows that you can do the exact opposite and still be successful.

Lori Greiner's routine: sleep at 2:00 a.m., wake up at 9:00 a.m.

While other high-profile entrepreneurs are waking up at 3:45 a.m., Lori Greiner goes to bed at 2:00 a.m. In fact, her sleeping patterns are more similar to a college kid (or a stressed out adult) than what we consider to be a "successful entrepreneur".

But here's the thing--this works for her. Greiner says that she's a night owl, and that she gets "energized" at night. So she uses her time at night to think and exercise, and only goes to bed at one or two in the morning.

After waking up at 9:00 a.m., Greiner has breakfast, then sits down to tackle her emails. Again, while other entrepreneurs say that they like to avoid their emails early in the morning, Greiner finds that doing this works best for her. Because she gets "inundated with hundreds of emails a day", Greiner tries to start off her day by looking at the emails that come in overnight.

Blindly copying a successful entrepreneur's routine is not the answer.

While it makes sense to learn from other entrepreneurs, blindly following someone else's routine is not enough to make you successful. In other words: you won't suddenly make loads of money after you structure your morning like how Tim Cook does. You won't sell more of your products after copying Amazon's checkout process.

The important thing to consider here is context. Think about it--someone who receives 500 emails a day will deal with them differently than someone who receives 15. So if you're the guy who gets 15 emails per day, don't copy the process of someone who receives almost 30x more emails than you.

When it comes to your morning routine, the same thing goes. If you're following a morning routine of an entrepreneur who's always traveling for work, and you don't travel, this won't do much for you. If you're following a routine of someone who's a morning person, and you can barely function in the morning, again, this won't get you results.

How to learn from a successful entrepreneur (the right way)

What's the right way to learn from a successful entrepreneur then? Simple--model your day or workflow after entrepreneurs who are just a few steps ahead of you (instead of entrepreneurs who are in completely different situations or stages).

Ideally, you'll want to look for an entrepreneur who was in your exact position not so long ago, and has recently progressed to the next "level". If you're making five figures a month, for instance, learn from the strategies of entrepreneurs who are in the same industry as you, but making six figures instead.

Ask yourself: What are they doing differently from you? What did they do to push them to that next level? Copy only the strategies that are relevant and achievable to you, and you'll get your results much faster.

Published on: Mar 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.