The 5AM Club - My Thoughts After 2 Weeks of Waking Up Before Dawn
I’ve never been an early bird or a night owl.
I’ve always liked the idea of waking up early, but in practice, I could never sustain a habit of removing myself from my warm, cozy bed at the sound of an alarm.
Sometimes I stay up too late watching Netflix or drinking beers with my husband.
I severely dislike feeling restricted or having anyone else tell me what to do.
So, as an entrepreneur who works from home and designs her own schedule, there is very little external motivation for me to wake up early. No sense of urgency that “I’ve got to get going!”
For the past 7+ years, I designed my life that way.
Not having anywhere to be, it turns out, is a blessing and a curse.
As a rebellious 23-year-old, my dream was to be free. I started an online business not to be rich, but to be able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.
And for the past couple of years I soaked up that lifestyle.
Moving to a new city made me feel free…
Not having an alarm wake me up made me feel free…
Starting each day by asking myself, “What do I feel like doing today?” made me feel free…
…UNTIL IT DIDN’T.
For a while, I’ve had this irritating feeling that my version of freedom was actually somewhat immature and hedonistic. It needed to grow up.
I started to feel bored with my business rather than creatively stimulated.
I started to spend way too much time in my apartment watching Netflix. So. Much. Netflix.
I’ve always been a healthy person, but I wasn’t exercising as much as I wanted to.
My apartment, schedule, and mind started to feel chaotic, cluttered, scattered.
I became stagnant.
I turned 30…then 31.
My “freedom” started to feel like a prison. Childish instead of childlike.
I wasn’t PUSHING myself because I frankly didn’t feel motivated to go after anything in particular.
Feeling BORED with your life sucks. In some ways, it’s worse than disliking your life. At least then there’s passion, desire, something.
So, when choosing a word for 2019 I landed on “self-discipline” instantly.
I didn’t know HOW I was going to be disciplined (because let’s face it, I don’t identify as a disciplined person for reasons I’ve already expressed).
But I’ve read enough personal development books and attended enough Tony Robbins seminars to know that it’s exactly what I needed ;)
At first I thought, “I need to cultivate self-discipline, but in my own way. I don’t want my self-discipline to hinder my freedom.”
But what I’ve come to realize is that self-discipline IS freedom. Without self-discipline, freedom is a fleeting facade. You might feel free while binge watching The Crown but the anxiety strikes once you realize you need to book another client in order to make ends meet next month.
For me, this showed up in a pretty big way: I’m going to get transparent with you. 2018 was the first year that my business made less money than the year before. In fact, we took a 25% hit. (That is not all due to my lack of discipline, of course. A lot of it has to do with adjusting our strategies, but my lack of self-discipline certainly didn’t help. Seeing the numbers is eye opening).
In December 2018, I was at Costco minding my own business when I stumbled upon Robin Sharma’s book, The 5AM Club”.
I’d already devoured his bestseller, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari a year earlier and I’d even seen Robin Sharma speak at an event. I knew I liked his style and couldn’t resist the Costco price, so I bought it.
Within days I had finished the entire book and was ready to try the 5AM thing in the new year.
For those of you who have asked me, “What is motivating you to wake up so early?” I say, “READ THE BOOK.”
Because honestly, less than a month ago when I picked up that book, I had zero intentions of waking up at 5AM every day for the rest of my life. I simply knew it would be a good book. I hoped I could learn some principles that I could use in other areas of my life while ignoring the whole 5am thing.
In fact, less than one week before buying this book I was at a mastermind retreat in Austin where I declared, “My word for 2019 is self-discipline, but it’s not like I’m going to make myself wake up at 6am every day.”
Up until recently, here’s what my habits have looked like on the average day:
7ish-8ish wake up, look at phone for up to an hour, get out of bed and go sit on the couch and turn on the TV
9am workout class 1-2x per week
10ish meander to the computer to start working. Since October, my work has been less and less defined (because I am now outsourcing most things to my team) so I would often fall down the rabbit hole of Facebook, Slack, etc.
Sometimes I’d have meetings on Zoom
Sometimes I’d meet up with friends to co-work, but because my job was undefined, I was rarely getting anything done.
Most of my work time was spent doing the nebulous activities of “thinking” and “brainstorming”
2pm afternoon slump, turn on TV or Netflix. Honestly, I don’t really know where my time was going.
Have a drink or two most evenings (a habit that crept up on me and I am keen to break) mostly out of boredom / poor planning / I felt like it.
10-11pm bedtime. Look at Instagram in bed. Really struggle to fall asleep. Turn on a Podcast to listen to distract me.
Not very inspiring, was it?
Here’s what things have looked like for the past 2.5 weeks since starting the 5AM Club:
5am Sunrise Alarm turns on. Get out of bed and go to bathroom to pee, brush teeth, splash cold water on face.
Take Kindle to living room to read a book for 30 or more minutes.
Spend 15 or more minutes journaling and reflecting.
6am Skating Practice or Gym (or even continue reading if I’m on a rest day)
7am Deep stretching, shower, get ready.
At the end of this hour, I re-download Instagram to my phone, which I delete every evening to limit my access to the app. This is much less annoying and more helpful than it sounds, I swear!
8am Social Media Hour
One of my worst habits was constantly checking Instagram or Facebook every spare minute. I have now carved out 2-3 social media hours throughout the day to check Instagram, Facebook, and email. (Before doing this my email inbox had 40+ new messages on average and I had no habit of going through them. I hate email.)
15 minutes on Instagram to post, respond to comments, check DMs, engage (I often only need 10 minutes to do all of this).
15 minutes to check Facebook Groups (for work, not pleasure. I have my newsfeed blocked with the Newsfeed Eradicator).
15 minutes to go through email and respond to Slack messages from team. I am now getting to inbox zero regularly.
9am Review Top 3 for the day.
Get started working. (Sometimes I have meetings at this time).
11am CEO Metrics.
My fabulous COO Tressa Beheim helped me to redefine my job role. We identified the main metrics that I, as the CEO, need to be monitoring on a regular basis and put them into categories. This means that every day M-Th at 11am I am creating a ritual of going over the metrics for that day.
12pm Lunch break - allowed to check Instagram for 15 minutes (I have yet to need this much time)
1pm Get back to work
Afternoons are typically where everything goes awry for me. Mostly, it’s because I fail to decide in advance EXACTLY what I will work on in the afternoon.
3pm Start winding down by focusing on easier tasks
4pm Relax, and YES, watch TV
5pm Almost always finished working by this time
6pm Make dinner
7pm Start winding down, go over calendar for next day, brush teeth, put on PJs, read.
8pm Go to bed, read
After two weeks of waking up early, here are my thoughts:
I wish I’d started doing this sooner.
I can’t believe I didn’t’ start doing this sooner.
Honestly, it feels amazing every day to have read a book, journaled, exercised, and gotten ready before 8. There’s something really fun about feeling like you have a head start every single day. It might be the only time of day that there is no traffic driving in Vancouver, which is an added bonus.
Waking up at 5 am (and closer to 6 on weekends) has been a keystone habit—meaning that it has had a ripple effect on other areas of my life.
When I wake up at 5am I feel accomplished (even when I groggily roll myself out of bed and onto the couch scrolling Instagram when I shouldn’t be).
When I wake up at 5 am, I spend slow mornings reading books and listening to podcasts.
When I wake up at 5 am, for some reason I get more done throughout the day.
When I wake up at 5 am, I am less likely to binge watch TV and drink alcohol— two habits that I have also been trying to curb for a while.
When I wake up at 5am I am able to drive my husband to the skytrain station to go to work. Before I started waking up early, I only saw him in the evenings. Now we get to spend some time in the mornings together, too.
What is the downside to waking up at 5am?
I tend to get overly enthusiastic about new projects, so I want to take a minute to be honest about the negative side of waking up early.
If there wasn’t a downside, everyone would do this.
Downside #1 - It takes a lot of enthusiasm to get momentum
If you are mildly interested in waking up at 5am, it probably won’t stick. Hell, even if you are wildly enthusiastic about it, it might not stick.
So how did I go from zero interest in waking up early to being the virtual spokeswoman of rising before dawn? First, I got fed up with myself. I had already realized that my lack of self-discipline was holding me back. And then second, I read The 5am Club by Robin Sharma. For me, it worked.
I also started my routine at the beginning of the year. In Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before she refers to this as the “clean slate”. I do believe that for my personality, having a new year approaching to get started gave me extra fuel.
Downside #2 - You have to do it every day
I believe one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to get on any type of sleep routine is that they only do it during the week.
I mean, just imagine how hard it is to adjust to a new time zone that’s only 2-3 hours different from yours. That’s essentially what you’re doing on the weekend when you go to bed and wake up much later than during the week.
In the past, I’ve chronically struggled to sleep well on Sunday nights because I was always staying up too late on Friday and Saturday nights. Call me an old lady, but I am now getting ready for bed around 7:30 and going to sleep somewhere between 8-9. Yes, on weekend nights, too.
Of course, it’s only been 2 weeks so I have yet to be in a situation where I want to rebel against this schedule. I’ll keep you updated here on the blog as to what happens when I have guests visit or get invited to a party (as if that ever happens! My friends are old ladies, too). ;)
Downside #3 - Society thinks you’re weird
This doesn’t bother me as much as it might other people. One of my core motivations in life is to be different from everyone else. As I already mentioned, I love feeling like I have a head start in the mornings. It satisfies my need to feel like a special snowflake sometimes.
That said, while most of the feedback I’ve gotten about waking up early has been positive, some people have not been so encouraging. Some people feel that I am perpetuating an ideal that waking up early is a magic pill (it is and it isn’t). Others worry that I am not aligning myself properly with my biological circadian rhythm. (I might not be, but I’m feeling happy, healthy and productive so I couldn’t care less).
One of my absolute favorite quotes from Robin Sharma’s book, The 5AM Club is this:
“If you want to have the results only 5% have, you must be willing to do and think like only 5% do and think.”
Downside #4 - It’s sexy at the beginning and then gets boring…but you have to keep going.
Personally, I’m all about starting new things and not so great at finishing them. I tend to be a pleasure seeker, so once something becomes dull and routine, I like to start something new.
This personality trait is the MAJOR reason why I chose self-discipline as my word for 2019.
The first few days of waking up at 5am were exciting.
It felt magical.
Even during week two I felt excited— I was becoming someone who wakes up at 5am.
Now, though, I’m at the 2.5 week mark and the 5am habit is becoming routine.
I’ve already noticed a voice in my head saying, “You should just sleep in this weekend. You deserve it!”
In her book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin calls this loophole-spotting or moral licensing.
“Moral Licensing Loophole: In moral licensing, we give ourselves permission to do something “bad” (eat potato chips, bust the budget) because we’ve been “good”. We reason that we’ve earned it or deserve it.”
Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before
I am the QUEEN of moral licensing, so reading Gretchen’s book has helped me to become more aware of the desire to constantly treat myself, which is more about indulgence than it is about self care.
In summary, if you are even remotely interested in waking at 5am every day, here’s what I recommend:
STEP #1 - Get fed up with yourself
Are you on the hedonic treadmill? In other words, are you currently living as a pleasure seeker—only doing things when you feel like it and struggling to stick to your commitments?
What effect is this having on your life long-term?
WHY do you want to change?
STEP #2 - Read a f*ck TON of books about habit formation to get inspired
I’ve shared my favorites on my Amazon page, but in short they are:
The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Atomic Habits by James Clear
STEP #3 - Make a plan and stop making excuses
The books above will help you with this.
I’ll make sure to update y’all here on my blog as time goes on.
One of the sneaky benefits of writing these blog post is that it helps me to feel publicly accountable, so thanks for that.
I truly want to hear how you feel about this whole 5am thing. Is it something you want to do? Something you’re sick of hearing about? Please leave a comment and let’s have a conversation about it!