Waking up at 5am every day for 30 days — and why you should give it a go.
For 2020, I started off the year waking up at 5am every day. For the first 30 days, I kept a daily record of my experience. I ensured that I got at least 7 hours of sleep.
There are many reasons why I’m doing this. Some of them include:
- Getting a head start on the day
- It allows me to have more free time
- I can fit in a workout before work
- I don’t do anything productive past 10pm anyway
- I can get a lot of personal work done from 5:30 to 7:30am
- Challenging myself
My usual time of getting up would be around 6:00–7:00am, as I’ve found I much prefer having time in the morning before heading to work. The times that I’ve woken up at 5am in the past, I’ve found the experience really beneficial and it feels as though the day is extra long.
Day 1–1 January 2020
Day 1 was perfectly fine. Got up, had a coffee, watched the sunrise for a bit and completed a good hour of some work for this website all before 8am. At around 4pm, whilst watching a series on YouTube, I started to doze off slightly and probably could have slept properly if I wanted. Any sleepiness went away after going for a walk shortly afterwards. I started to get tired again around 10pm. Slept at roughly 10:30pm — so I need to make sure I’m in bed earlier.
Had a great gym workout with a friend at 5:15am, finished up with a coffee, and back at home by 7:30am. Amazing. I noticed that at roughly 5pm whilst catching up with a friend, I felt a bit drowsy. This was most likely due to sleeping slightly less than planned the night before. Considering I’m writing the Day 2 summary right now at 9:48pm, it’s time to shut off and head to bed.
Helped mum out with some moving furniture in the early hours of the morning before it got to 43 degrees. Got everything done by 8:00am, and the rest of the day I could relax. Felt great throughout the day. This is just so good!
We had a garage sale. It was easy to prepare for it as I was up early and could get everything ready for 7am. Went to bed a little earlier as we have a big drive tomorrow.
We drove from Adelaide to Canberra (~12 hours). The drive was okay, I was feeling pretty tired by the end of it, which was most likely from the drive itself. The smoke from the NSW bushfires made my eyes sting as we were getting closer, which didn’t help the situation. Now that I’ve ended any holiday period, my sleeping hours will be much more scheduled.
After a pretty good sleep after the long drive, I’ve felt perfectly fine all day. I woke up and spent 45 minutes writing future blog posts before my partner got up. It was great to get that in and finished before the day really started.
It’s quite easy to get up at 5am. It’s just like getting up at any other time — set an alarm and get out of bed. The only difference is when you get up it’s either light or still dark. I love waking up before it gets light and have the opportunity of seeing the sunrise. Although at the moment in Canberra, due to the smoke, I can’t really see the sunrise properly.
The biggest benefit of waking up at 5am is it gives you a small chunk of time in the morning to get some work done. That has been my favourite part. Or even just having that alone time to do whatever I want. I have noticed myself waking up earlier than my alarm and checking the time. For three days in a row now, I’ve looked at the time and it’s somewhere between 4:30–4:45. I’d say that I’m adapting to the earlier wake time.
This morning I used the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins to get out of bed. Essentially, when you have an instinct to work on a goal or do something, you need to make a move within 5 seconds otherwise your thoughts, doubts, or procrastination will kick in. Count down from 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. and move!
This worked really well, I got up straight away, so there was no chance of falling back to sleep or just wasting that time. I was on my laptop with a coffee at 5:10am and started some work. Amazing.
Did a few more hours of work on the video before work. I was thinking about it throughout the whole day…
I worked a lot on the above video in the morning which was great. It’s taking me longer than expected, mainly because I’m learning how to use premiere pro, audition, and photoshop. I’ve got the hang of it now at least. So good to have the first hour of the morning interrupted so I can do some ‘deep work’ — a term described in Cal Newport’s book titled Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
At this point in time, getting up at 5am just seems normal. I can get stuff done before work, relax, could even watch a movie if I really wanted. Although, I did get told off this morning for putting the kettle on to have a coffee when I wake up as it’s pretty loud. I’ll see how I go without a coffee until 6am. It doesn’t cause me to wake up more, it just tastes amazing and I like to sit at my laptop with a hot drink. I could probably go for a small walk and listen to an audiobook. Man that sounds like an amazing idea! I’ll do that tomorrow as I’m not currently editing any videos. I’ve just finished Mel Robbins the 5 second rule and I found it really good. I definitely use the 5 second rule every time I wake up. Next up on the audible list is The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. I’ve heard of this many times over the years, but it was eventually Tim Ferriss’ podcast episode #400 on his 4 must-read books.
Unfortunately my plans of an early morning walk and listening to my audio book couldn’t become a reality due to the above-hazardous levels of air quality in Canberra. Instead, I used the first hour of the morning for business development through social media. This morning felt particularly hard to wake up — unsure what it was. I think perhaps my ritual of getting up, heading to the kitchen and making myself a coffee provided that bit of time to become fully awake. I’ll see how it goes next morning.
The morning was used to get some video footage of me heading to the gym, to go in the video that will accompany this blog. It was pretty fun, but also awkward holding the camera and recording myself open doors. It’ll make sense when you see the video. I also went to the gym, and was in and out by 6am which is just awesome! That’s probably the number one thing I like about waking up early — you can get so much done and it’s still pretty dark outside.
Nice hour of editing some video collected the day before. The rest of the day was pretty normal — however, I think I may need to get to sleep earlier than 10pm, perhaps 9:30pm. I’ll try to do that over the next couple of nights.
If anyone tries waking up earlier than usual, my top key would be to set 2 alarms. It’s really easy to accidentally fall asleep after the first alarm. I haven’t had to rely on a second alarm yet, as I’ve been using the 5 second rule to get out of bed, but it’s a good back up just in case. That, and also by placing your phone out of arms reach, which forces you to get out of bed and turn your alarm off.
I’ve been going to bed slightly before 10, which has been working out fine. Most times I’m not really even tired, but to make sure I get enough hours of sleep in, I just head to bed and hope for the best. I’ve never had issues with falling asleep outside of the random few occassions. Actually, multiple times now I’ve been kept awake at night thinking of all the challenges I could do for Nathan Challenges Life, how to make them into videos, camera angles, scenes, what I would say etc etc…
This morning I used as some good research time into VPNs. 30 minutes later and I’ve made a choice: Surfshark. Consistently ranked among the top 5, and a really good price compared to others (2 years for $66 aud). Thought I’d give it a shot and see how it goes.
To make sure that I’m super quiet in the morning, I had to resort to using a thermos to make my coffee
This actually worked really well. I can wake up, have my coffee, and get some work done all without leaving my room. Pretty neat. Hmm, I wonder if I can make up a thermos full of coffee, and what that will taste like in the morning? I may investigate.
This morning, I didn’t have anything particular to work on, so I ended up finishing a movie instead (Motherless Brooklyn) I started the night before. Another benefit of getting up early!
I also tried my thermos filled with coffee — it was okay, it lost a little flavour but it definitely worked!
I only recently remembered that I hadn’t yet written my Year In Review for 2019. I have done this in the past for both 2017 and 2018. Essentially, this involves me writing about how 2019 was in terms of career, relationships, wealth/money and anything else I can think of that was interesting. It’s really just for interest and to look back on when I need to. It’s not supposed to be about what I did and how I could make it better (similar to my goal summary), more so just to write out significant events of my life such as getting a new job, moving to Canberra, etc. It’s really fun! So I started writing some words in the morning — there is a lot to write, so it’s taking some time.
Finished off my 2019 Year in Review. Also got to fit in a run up the nearby hill with my partner, which was great to get in before work. This is a really nice run, especially in the morning or evening with the sunset.
I have definitely adapted to the 5am to 10pm schedule. I stopped feeling tired at points throughout the day after roughly Day 5. I’m really enjoying the time in the morning if that wasn’t already mentioned multiple times — it’s just so good to be able to get even one thing done in the morning before work. I do have a goal to do this for the whole year, and I think I’ll definitely aim to do that.
Nothing to really report. It’s going very well. I don’t feel any sort of tiredness throughout the day and I feel very well rested and full of energy. I’ve been going to sleep around 9:45pm. My thermos of hot water so I can make a quick coffee silently has been working perfectly!
I’ve been saved by my second alarm clock on some mornings, I do try to do the 5 Second Rule as mentioned earlier but it really is quite a challenge to do that and get out of bed instantly. It really works though if you do it. If you don’t it’s so easy to accidentally fall back to sleep. I always set two alarms just in case — 5:00am and 5:05am.
This morning I got up and started working on my next 30 day challenge (hint: it involves languages — stay tuned). Like I’ve mentioned so many times before, it was so good to do a solid hour of activity before starting the day.
There you have it. It’s currently 5:20am on January 30th. That means that I’ve completed this 30-day challenge. I’ve loved this challenge and everything about waking up early. See below for my final thoughts.
What I enjoyed:
- Simply just having more time by myself to work on my projects before the day gets started and having distractions (both in terms of having to go work and it literally still being dark outside).
- You get a good 1–2 hours of uninterrupted time to yourself to read, workout, relax, watch tv, watch movies, meditate, the list goes on.
- The fact that it’s still dark at 5:00am gives your mentality a little boost by knowing that you were up before the sunrise.
- I’d say this is different to my first point, but having time in the morning rather than at night to work on things is much better. I feel very focused in the morning compared to if I was trying to do these things at around 10pm where I would feel tired and sluggish.
- By waking up early, you actually feel tired at the end of the day so you can comfortably go to sleep at 9:30pm without still being wired.
- No one on the road when you drive somewhere
What I didn’t enjoy:
- Getting out of bed is difficult — really difficult, and sometimes I just wish I could gently drift off back to sleep when I didn’t have a project to work on (more on this below).
- Due to the nature of it all and with everyone else sleeping you need to be pretty quiet with everything you do — unless you live alone and in a separate dwelling.
My tips for waking up early:
- Have a project or something planned for the next morning. I was motivated to wake up early because I had planned what I was going to do — it was usually writing blog posts, working on videos, business development, going to the gym, or anything else. The days where I didn’t have a plan and just woke up early were the days I just wanted to go back to sleep.
- To get in the routine, just wake up earlier one day. You will probably notice that you will feel tired before you normally would, which will help you sleep earlier. Then you’re just in the earlier wake/sleep cycle. If you don’t feel tired until 1–2am, just try keeping to that routine if you wake up earlier. It won’t be easy.
- Set two alarms — many times over the past 30 days I’ve accidentally slept through or gone back to sleep after my first alarm at 5:00am, to be woken up at 5:05am. I actually use my smart watch as an alarm which is silent and vibrates on my wrist, which is pretty hard to sleep through.
- Do not hit the snooze button. Once you do, it’s progressively harder to wake up. If you get into the cycle of waking up on time and keep it consistent for a number of days, you’ll begin to naturally wake up around your alarm time. About a week into this challenge, I started naturally waking up at 4:55am or just a few minutes prior to my alarm. This will help to reduce sleep intertia, whereby hitting snooze only leads to and worsens this problem.
- If it won’t bother other people, put your phone alarm out of arms reach when you go to sleep — ideally somewhere at the end of the room. This forces you to wake up and get out of bed to turn your phone off. This makes it a lot easier to just stay out of bed when you wake up.
- Lastly, something that I came across which really helped me to tackle a few of the above problems was to follow the 5 second rule (see Day 9 for information). Essentially, if you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it. When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something, count 5–4–3–2–1-Go and move towards action. This just propels you out of bed and gets you ready. This worked for me many times.
I hope my account of an early rise provides you some motivation or thought into your own wake time. I did stop waking up at 5am after the challenge, but I still loved my experience and I definitely think everyone should try it out, or at least get up a little earlier than usual (30–60min) — you will get a lot more stuff done!