Welcome to the first post in Erratically Addictive; where I make my life an experiment for the sake of making it better. This time I took on the 5 am Challenge presented to me by Noah Kagan. The challenge is simple, wake up 5 days in a row at 5 am. This may sound trivial, but the transformation I experienced in my life was more than just transitioning which hours of the day I slept. Let’s talk about it.
Let me start by saying I am not a morning person. My daily schedule before this challenge was drastically different. I would go to bed around midnight and wake up around 8 or 9 am. So waking up at 5 am not only seemed like a ridiculous notion, but I assumed it would absolutely ruin my day having such a big shift in my usual schedule. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s only a few days that could possibly have a large positive impact on my life moving forward. I think I can spare a nap here and there.
- Discover what you’re truly passionate about
- The world is yours for a few hours
- Learn when you are most productive and creative
- Can finish the day’s work by noon and have the afternoon off
Discover Your Passion
The major shift I discovered through this challenge was my outlook on each day. To wake up at 5 am is not natural. It takes drive to wake up at that time. It takes a reason. I had to dig down and search within me for what would literally get me out of bed each morning. What was I passionate enough about to forgo a few more hours of lovely sleep? If I couldn’t answer this question, then this challenge was going to be a failure.
Well this type of self-insight does not come easy. So I created a system that would allow me to have proper self-reflection. The simple system of a morning routine. Wake up, make tea, stretch, and write. After all, I now had all these spare hours of the day to myself. What better way to start spending them than on the most important person in my life? Me.
The World Is Yours
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
– Winston Churchill
And that is what I did. I shaped my morning to be a positive addition to my life. Now I live in that positive addition every day. Instead of dreading getting out of bed, I am excited. The world around me is completely mine. No texts, emails, or any other notifications. Just me, my tea, a pen, and some paper. From there, I get active. I go for a run, do yoga, or both. Then I make breakfast and read a bit. Now to start my work day, and it is still only 7 or 8 am. To officially “start” my day with already accomplishing some writing, reading, cooking, and exercise is a huge boost.
Even if you don’t discover your passion, have deep insights, or any other potential benefit from waking up at 5 am, this initial boost every day is well worth the challenge.
Learn When You’re Most Productive and Creative
As I previously stated, before this challenge I would wake up by 8 or 9 am every day. Right off the bat, I’m bombarded by emails that need “immediate” attention. I’m thrown into the work day, without a moment to catch my breath. By the afternoon I am burnt out. It is not until late at night that I would get motivated to produce and create. But by that point, my energy is low and I am already thinking about the next day.
Now I take all of that evening motivation, write down the top 5 things I want to do tomorrow, then go to bed. When I wake up at 5 am, I don’t have to take up head space plotting how my day will look. I already know how it will unfold and I can focus on the present. All of the sudden, my mind is free to explore. I’m alone, the world around me is quite, and I have an open notebook in front of me. I no longer feel pressure to have to create. I freely go to that space every morning.
Finish the Work Day Early
At some point in recent human history, we decided as a society that it is normal to work 40 hours a week and those hours of work are usually conducted between 9-5, Monday through Friday. Well what happens if I wake up at 5 am and produce some of my best work of the day for a few hours? How does my day look then? Should I feel pressure to work until 5 pm still?
Hell no! Now that you’ve discovered when you’re most productive, take advantage of it. Be content with not working in the afternoon. Maybe by doing this challenge you discover that you actually are the most productive and creative at night. So shape your day around that. Each and every one of us is unique. Make sure your day is shaped for your benefit and not dictated by external pressures.
For me, I love to cook. So waking up at 5 am allows me the time to make a substantial breakfast instead of something quick on the way out the door. Not only do I eat healthier because of it, but I get to relish in one of my passions every morning. How great is that? So I still work into the afternoon most days because I take a few hours off between my morning work and my afternoon work. If it is a beautiful day and I want to hit the beach in the afternoon, I now have the freedom to rearrange my schedule to meet my desires.
In Noah’s podcast when he presents this challenge, he mentions having an accountability buddy. Someone you can ping at 5 am displaying to them that you are awake. Someone to hold you accountable and give you that extra push. To give you a reason to show up. Unfortunately, not everyone knows someone who wakes up that early, let alone feeling comfortable enough asking them for this favor. It’s a bit of a strange request. So to fill that gap in your life, I’ll be your accountability buddy! Email me at 5 am @ firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know you are up and have a routine in mind.
What Would YOU Do at 5 am?
Allow me to eliminate some barriers to entry for you. Here is a set of questions you can ask yourself and write about when you wake up at 5 am. This is now your time and no one else’s. Use that time to your advantage. Write free of judgement, because the only eye witness is you. These questions were presented to me at the end of an amazing article, titled Religion for the Nonreligious by Tim Urban. The goal in question is your life goal. What are you working towards with every decision you make? Don’t know? Well now you can figure it out. I promise you that if you wake up at 5 am, get yourself situated with whatever caffeine beverage you require, and take the time to honestly reflect on these questions, you cannot help but grow to be a better version of yourself.
- What’s the goal that you want to evolve towards?
- Why is that the goal?
- What does the path look like that gets you there?
- What’s in your way?
- How do you overcome these obstacles?
- What’s in your way?
- What are your practices on a day-to-day level?
- What should your progress look like year-to-year?
- How do you stay strong and maintain the practice for years and years, not four days?
- Name the framework, make a symbol, make a mantra