5 AM Challenge

5 AM ChallengeA few weeks ago I challenged myself to wake up at 5 am for two weeks after reading Jeff Sander’s The 5 AM Miracle.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to wake up early, but was never able to get myself out of bed. In his ebook, Jeff challenges readers to take “The 14-Day Domination Challenge” to wake up at 5 am for two weeks, using the tips he provides. Something clicked and two weeks seemed doable, so I decided to give early mornings another shot.

I’ve completed my two weeks of 5 am mornings (although I took the weekends off), and can’t believe what a positive experience it was! I never imagined that waking up at such an awful hour would have such a benefit. By the time I started work, I had already been awake for 3-4 hours and accomplished some of my most important things of the day. Early mornings also allowed me to relax better in the evening because I wasn’t stressed about all I had to do before bed.

Why did I decide to wake up early? A big factor was that I needed to take time to take care of myself. I’m trying to be more intentional with my health — physically, spiritually, and mentally. For so long, I was ignoring these areas in different ways, and I suffered for it. It wasn’t until I really started to spend time restoring myself that I realized the damage I had been doing.

There were four main things I wanted to use my extra morning time for: yoga, scripture reading and prayer, breakfast, and other reading. All of these things I sometimes did, and sometimes didn’t, but knew I need to include more in my life.  Here’s a little peak at what my morning routine looked like initially:

4:55 – wake up + check social notifications + emails
5:00 – check into Five Club, turn on space heater, get up, brush teeth, put contacts in, set up for yoga
5:15 – yoga practice + prayer
5:45 – scripture reading + prayer
6:15 – make + eat breakfast + pack lunch
6:50 – read
7:30 – get dressed + review to-do list
8:00 – leave for work/start work from home

I intentionally scheduled extra time so my morning didn’t feel too rushed or strict. I enjoy the time to move a bit slower — a change of pace from waking up 15 minutes before I need to be at work 😉 And now I crave those quiet morning times.

Here are a few tricks I used to help get me out of bed bright and early:

  • Planned out my mornings the night before. I scheduled what I was going to do when, so I was prepared to jump into my routine right away and wouldn’t go back to sleep because I was “booked.”
  • Wore my yoga clothes to bed. It’s freezing in my room at 5 am, so not having to get changed removed one of my mental blocks to getting out of bed. Also, yoga clothes are comfy.
  • Checked Instagram (or the like) first thing. This probably goes against what a lot of productivity gurus suggest, but I found that the bright light from my phone helped to wake me up and distract me from going back to sleep.
  • Used Five Club as an incentive to wake up promptly. This app gives you one minute (from 5:00 to 5:01) to check in and records how many days in a row you check in. It may seem silly, but the mental need to check in stopped me from hitting the snooze button a few days!
  • Got “ready” first. Putting my contacts in and brushing my teeth signaled my body that it was time to wake up. And falling asleep with contacts in can be an unpleasant experience so I didn’t want to crawl back in bed (as bad).
  • Started with yoga. I’ve tried before to get up early to read, but I was rarely able to keep my eyes open.  By starting out with yoga, I was able to wake up both my body and my mind. I could tailor my practice to be as intense or relaxed as my body needed at the time.
  • Drank water or tea. I didn’t do this at the start of the challenge, but I integrated it later and it definitely helped wake me up. Reading with a warm cup of tea is a great way to start the day.

Am I still waking up at 5 am? No. Well, sort of. I’ve shifted my routine to waking up between 5:30-5:45 because my body needs more sleep than I am usually able to get waking up at 5 am. But setting two weeks as a goal and then allowing myself to re-evaluate gave me the motivation I needed during the week (only a few more 5 am’s left!). Do I like waking up early? Not when that first alarm goes off. But I get out of bed because it’s bigger than how I am feeling in that moment, which is why I am making an effort to continue waking up early. I’m not too hard on myself when I don’t wake up on time or sleep in (I can’t believe I consider 7:30 am sleeping in now). The other night, I was up until 12:30 am, and knew I needed more than 5 hours of sleep. Life happens. But you set the tone.

Starting my day early and intentionally gives me confidence to tackle the rest of my day — regardless of what happens, I’ve got most of the things important to me accomplished before the rest of the city is up.