Why waking up at 5AM will change your life overnight
“5am? Surely not!” I hear you cry.
Oh, I’m sure.
By the end of this article I will have almost definitely swayed your opinion on 5am starts from “impossible pseudo-science” to “quite possible pseudo-science that is backed up by science”.
Now a quick bit of backstory – I started waking up at 5am a few months back, around the time I went started investing a lot more time into the blog. I watched a video of some bloke who looked like Frodo telling me how it had improved his life in just 1 week.
And Frodo had a point, the 5am club really started to appeal to me. I did some more digging and found that one of the guys I really admire – Jocko Willink, advocates getting up super early too (4:30am) which gave this early rise malarky some clout.
Being a relatively early riser anyway (7:30 – 8:30 most days) I figured that it wouldn’t be too hard to do. Even knowing that it was stupidly early and expecting it to be a drag for the first few days I found it much easier than expected.
Obviously there’s always going to be an adjustment period but I tell you what – this is powerful stuff. Here’s why you should join the 5am club.
This will be a relatively short list in comparison to how many benefits there actually are. There are countless stories of the most successful people in the world singing the praises of early starts and hundreds of benefits so you’ll be able to find more online if you so desire but here are the ones that are really going to change your life.
This is the biggest one for me and probably will be for you too. There’s no need to go on your phone at 5am, or 6am, or even 7am. No one else is doing what you’re doing. They’re all asleep. Who are you going to talk to? What are you going to scroll through? No one’s awake!
This means that you have no distractions. Keep your phone off and it will help you to be as productive as you’ve ever been. Those who keep their phones with them when doing a task have been shown to take up to 3 times as long as someone who is solely focused on the task.
I found that statistic absolute mind blowing. In fact, I thought it was stupid, but then I caught myself doing a blog post and checking my phone every minute for notifications and realised just how spot on it was.
If you’re thinking “pfft, I can work AND go on my phone”, I challenge you to do that same work with your phone put away and I guarantee you’ll do it at least twice as fast.
Getting up early can have carryover effects into so many different areas of your life. Just building the discipline to get up at 5am is a beneficial trait. If you can have this discipline from the very start of the day then you will feel better equipped to carry this discipline on throughout the day when making other decisions and performing tasks, be that at work or wherever else.
The headstart element of being an early riser is one of the biggest kicks I get from it – the smugness levels are off the scale. No one else is getting up and at it for at least another 2 hours. You have all this time to perfect your craft, learn something new or whatever the hell you want to do before anyone else even brushes their teeth.
You’ve had time to wake up, hydrate, fuel yourself and really start hitting your stride by lunch time whereas other people are only really getting going by 11am and then they have their lunch time slump, so in actual fact you’re probably being about 10 times more effective than them. You will also be able to start calling these people ‘normies’ on 5am Reddit subthreads.
For me, I have found this headstart to be invaluable. One big thing that I have noticed has given me a sly competitive edge is that I can do my emails really early. If you time them right, yours can be the first email that brands, clients, etc see in their inbox.
This may seem like a small thing but being the first person they deal with before they get time to become miffed at lots of other things in their day is a huge boost. You’re basically catching them on a good day, every day.
There’s literally no noise. I live on top of a hill so I can’t vouch for the city centre but I’ll bet no one else is awake apart from a few night club goers who still haven’t given up the sauce. It’s calming & it helps you get in the right headspace for productivity due to the absence of constant distraction.
I have never felt peace and quiet like when I started getting up at 5am and leaving my phone in my room. You become fully immersed in a task and I can only describe it as a state of flow. I’m not trying to be some sort of online Bruce Lee calmness master but the stillness of the early morning is something to be savoured in a world so full of noise.
Your own pace
There’s also no rush to be anywhere when you’re up so early. For the majority of people, you will start work at 9am. This may mean rolling out of bed at 8:15 running round getting dressed, doing your teeth (if you have time – you dirty scoundrel) and stumbling out the door with a piece of toast hanging out your mouth. The mindset you leave your house in is not going to be great – your mind will probably look like a monkey playing symbols over and over (visual representation).
By giving yourself another 3 hours, you can take life at your own pace. You have all the time in the world to get ready, have a god damn groom if you so please and even have some breakfast if that’s what you’re in to.
If you want to de-stress even further, you could leave for work a bit earlier and miss the crowds of early morning masses. Basically, getting up at 5am is going to open up a whole world of options for you.
No decision fatigue
5am is the best time to make your big decisions. Decision fatigue is something I have talked quite a lot about and is something I firmly believe in. It’s the theory that we only have a finite amount of good decisions we can make in a day. After that, we start to make poorer and poorer ones (late night snacks anyone?).
That’s why I recommend using your stores up early on the big decisions. This is also known as eating the frog. If you make your biggest decisions at the beginning of the day, everything after that will pale in comparison, making your day progressively easier, every day.
This is key to consistency and as we all know, consistency over time is what will inevitably determine success. The best way to conserve your decisions is to automate your days as much as possible. This is why you’ll see a lot of successful people wearing the same clothes every day (Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Spongebob…).
This is because they don’t want to waste time and energy thinking about what they need to wear that day, they want to use that energy to make the big boy decisions that really matter. My way of doing this without having to dress like beige personified is to simply pick your outfit the night before – easy.
I also fast for the first 6 hours after I wake up. In this time I’ll do a workout and do as much blog work as I can. This means I don’t have to think about food and I don’t have to think about when I’m going to work out that day – I just do it automatically.
What this does is free lots of time and mental energy for my actual work on the blog and means I can write droves of bollocks like this article you’re currently knee deep in. This is something that a lot of you will be able to implement quite easily, but for that extra bit of insurance, I’m about to show you exactly how you can.
How I do it and why you should too
You’ve got the why – and it’s a convincing set of whys is it not? Now all you need is the how. This is the hard part, but if you implement all of these tips that I’m going to give you then you’ll have your life changed overnight.
The night before
I recommend this to all my personal training clients – get a night time routine and get that phone off! Screens release blue light, which stops the secretion of melatonin – meaning you’re going to find it really hard to get to sleep and when you do, it’s going to be of a much worse quality than if you hadn’t gone straight from the screen to the pillow.
I recommend first of all, to switch your phone off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed, ideally an hour. I’d then go a step further and get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses. I got a pair for £25 off Amazon and they’ve been fantastic for my sleep quality. Put them on around 7pm and it’ll help your body continue to secrete melatonin and aid in getting quality sleep.
If you want to go a step further, place your phone out of your room for the night and turn it off. This will stop you from being tempted to go on it through the night or in the morning when you’re trying to get things done.
You should have your goals laid out, ready for you to attack the day straight away in the morning. Without any set goals you lose focus and feel unmotivated. By having them laid out from the off, you don’t have to waste time thinking what you want to achieve and instead, you can just go out and achieve it.
I bought a whiteboard to write my goals down on so I don’t have to go on my phone in the mornings or when I’m setting the goals at night just before bed. This means I can focus solely on the goals and avoid distractions. A whiteboard costs about £10 and will be a fantastic investment for your self-improvement journey.
Just do it
Sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up.
This is basic advice and could be misconstrued as cliche but I promise you it’s not. I’ve had those mornings where I just couldn’t get out of bed (so I thought) but you realise that once you stand up to go and switch your alarm off – you really are already up and out of bed.
All you’ve got to do is make yourself stand there for about 30 seconds. You’re not going to fall back asleep standing up are you? This is a bit of tough self-love. You’ll thank yourself in the long run because the amount of times I had tried to get up at 5am and then just snoozed my alarm and climbed back into bed is criminal.
I had been trying it off and on for years before I just realised all I had to do was put my alarm at the end of my bed, stand up in the morning and simply ‘just do it’. If you want, you could set up a poster of Shia Labeouf at the end of your bed to remind you each morning to get up and get after it.
Get a manual alarm clock
This was such a biggie for me. When you have your phone as your alarm clock, what do you do? I bet you pick it up, switch the alarm clock off and then scroll through all your notifications for about 10 minutes, if not longer. You then proceed to roll out of bed feeling horrible because you’ve just exposed yourself to a bright, blue light-laden screen so soon after waking up and the day’s off to a fat stinker.
How do I know that?
Because that’s what I used to do! We all do it – apps are optimised for grabbing your attention and keeping you there. It’s horrible but that’s how they make their money.
If you want to take your attention and early morning productivity back into your own hands then you should invest in a manual alarm clock. You’ll have seen mine on my Instagram stories no doubt. That cost me about £15 and was one of the best investments I’ve made this year.
Get a routine
Having a morning routine is the key to getting yourself out of bed and awake as quickly and efficiently as possible. By having a certain routine you do every morning, it lets your body know that it has to start doing the same thing at the same time every day.
This means that if you’re always waking up and doing a certain routine, your body will start to release hormones that will help you to wake up at the same time every day. This is why people who work for the postal service that have got up at 5am their entire working life have a hard time not waking up that early when they retire – their bodies are finely tuned to get them up early naturally.
You can find my morning routine recommendations here. I also recommend doing a few sets of dead hangs to stretch out the body after a full night of being laid still along with some outdoor box breathing.
Being out in the fresh air and doing light exercise stimulates the body and helps you to adjust to the early wake ups initially. It also helps to regulate the early morning cortisol spike which is ideal for many health reasons such as hormonal balance & appetite regulation.
The coffee sandwich
This is a lovely name I conjured up for a very standard method – however, the results it gives you are brilliant.
Basically, when you wake up, do your routine and whatever you do when you wake up. THEN, have a pint of water. After this, make yourself a strong cup of the black stuff and sip on that to get a nice wee buzz. Once you’ve had that and you’re feeling good about the world, have another pint of water.
This process takes me about half an hour as I’ll take my time whilst I crack on with work. It’s a great way to get into a productive mindset whilst gamifying your hydration so it’s not as much of a chore.
Being hydrated is a key element of being productive. It also helps to get you into an alert and productive mindset as soon as possible when you wake up.
Have a schedule
You should have a schedule of things you want to get done before your day starts. If you don’t have anything planned then what’s the point? Just getting up at 5am isn’t going to change your life – you have to fill the time with things you want to get done. If you don’t have anything set out then your body will just go back into rest mode because there’s no need to be awake.
I suggest dedicating this time to something you want to get really good at – I mean really good at. This way, you can frame your 5am time as mastering your craft.
This could be an hour of dedicated reading around a topic that interests you, it could be painting, writing, working out, researching – it could even be gaming! Whatever it is that you really want to get good at, you should dedicate these golden hours to making it happen.
Personally, I like to try and get a blog post done. This post is actually currently being written in my 5am hours. I started at 05:30 and finished at 08:00. When you’re in a state of flow without your phone to distract you, you’ll be astonished at the sort of workload you can get through.
“Ooo I’m a night owl look at me I sit up on my phone in bed until 3am because I come alive at night!”. No you don’t. You stay awake at night because you lay in bed on your phone for hours scrolling social media.
I’ll be honest with you now, no one ever got anything great done when they were sleep deprived at night, bleary eyed, watching another greatest premier league goals montage on their phone.
You need to redefine yourself. If you keep telling yourself you’re a night owl then you’ll believe it and you’ll never get up. You need to tell yourself the truth – that it’s a pile of garbage and that you have the power to change your habits & change your life.
*One thing to note*
I know the 5am club simply can’t be for everyone. People have kids or commitments that prevent them from getting into this sort of routine but if you can, maybe just try one day a week and you’ll see some massive benefits.
If you do have the time to start getting up at 5am then make it your biggest priority, you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
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