The Benefits of Waking Up at 5 AM

I love experimenting with the patterns in life. Every few weeks after feeling particularly inspired by a post on Medium, I put on my proverbial lab coat and play both subject and scientist. It’s usually a perspective change here or a new meal replacement there. About three weeks ago I finally made one of the bigger changes I had been reading about. Getting up at 5:00 am.

Tim Cook would still be getting up before me (he wakes up at 3:40 am), but I wanted to awaken my inner Richard Branson and learn what the countless blog posts, books, and podcasts we raving about. It took a few weeks for this to stick. First I tried the “get up 15 minutes earlier each day” and immediately remembered how much I like the snooze button and gave up on that approach (much to the relief of my roommate I imagine). Next, I took the “dive in head first” approach and got up at 5:30 to make it to a 6:00 am yoga class at the studio I frequent.

This stuck. It was difficult for the first week. Weekends looked a lot different, but here I am. Not quite a billionaire yet, but I am now rich with knowledge, advice and a few warnings.

1. You will get things done

You likely have a list of things you wish were part of your morning routine that you’ve been struggling to turn into a habit. I did; Excercise, Journalling, Meditation. These things will fall into place if you make time for them in the morning. Think of getting up at 5:00 am as flipping your day on its head. My days used to look like this: wake up, get ready for work, work, do what needed to be done before dinner, eat, maybe catch a yoga class, think about doing the things I want to add to my life, then get distracted and crash.

There is solid research that shows that your willpower is a resource you use. You should be using it for YOU. Getting up before the rest of the world is perfect for time to use it. Tasks feel easier to complete, your mind will be clear and you will get them done.

You might think this will affect your work in a negative way. You might be concerned you will spend less time in the ‘zone’. You might slip. I found the opposite to be true. By the time I get to work, I feel like I’ve given something to myself, I’ve already succeeded and I can ride that success into my work day. I tend to stay more focused and remain calmer during stressful situations.

2. Changing your mornings means changing your evenings.

When you start going to bed at 9:00 pm, every minute after work feels like it needs to be used wisely. I was originally worried that I just wouldn’t have enough time to get everything done, but 4 hours is way more than enough time to close our your day and unwind. It nudges you out of spiraling into a Netflix binge, keeps you from going out, and keeps you on task during your nights.

Weekends are also a whole different beast. To be honest, I recommend allowing yourself to sleep in an extra hour. It’s important to refuel, and there will still be plenty of time to take care of yourself at 6:00 am.

You are going to party less. Going to bed at 10:00 pm means your nights often end before most of your friend’s begin theirs. I recommend still joining in the earlier parts of celebrations and ducking out before things get wild. This means to catch the dinner, skip the bar. Your wallet is going to thank you. You can use the time the next morning as you go for a hike, bike ride or just read a good book. Hangovers suck, after a few weeks of skipping the ragers, you will come to treasure your new mornings. You will never want to go back to reaching for the Advil and finishing your brunch at 2:00 pm.

Also, whatever you do, don’t lord this new lifestyle over your friends. They are doing their own thing, you’re doing yours. You will be seeing a little less of them, if you act holier-than-thou, you will be seeing them a whole lot less. Not by choice.

3. Things will go sideways, and that’s okay.

Recently I went on a short tour with my band to Vancouver Island. I was definitely nervous about how this would affect the new pattern I developed. I had only recently moved into habit territory and was unsure if I was about to blow all of my progress out of the water. I was also bummed that if I went to bed the second we stepped off stage, I would miss spending time with some of my best friends.

What actually happened was a bit of both. I napped a lot, stayed up way later than I had been, and slept in to … hold your breath … 9:30 am. Yeah, I kind blew the pattern out of the water, but I was wiped by the time I got home, asleep by 10:00 pm and back at the yoga studio at 5:45 am Monday morning.

The lesson here is: life should be lived. It’s great your changing your life and making time to improve it, but remember life is supposed to be fulfilling and good! Be nice to yourself, skip the Friday night closers, but once and while when the people and moment are special, stay up past your bedtime.


story written by Airrick Dunfield