The 5:00 AM challenge (26/30)

It’s 9:00 AM as I write this and I hate to admit but I seriously missed the mark today! Wow. When my alarm went off at 5:00 AM I was exhausted. I got up, shut off my alarm, and went back to bed and slept for another 3 1/2 hours. Even when I woke up again at 8:30 I was still pretty wiped out.

As I think about my condition when I woke up this morning and what might have caused it, I’m reflecting on something I’ve written about in the past: I’ve noticed that when I wake up at 5:00 AM there are three possible states I wake up in:

  1. Awake. I’m good to go. This one’s my favorite state to wake up in, and my most immediately productive. (And sometimes I wake up before my alarm, which I love).
  2. Groggy. I’m a little fuzzy in the brain but not seriously tired. If I get up now, I can shake it off in about 15-20 minutes and I’m good to go (but if I go back to bed I will sleep).
  3. Sleepy. I’m wiped out and basically I need to go back to bed because if I try to write, I’ll end up writing crappy work and spend most of the time deleting mistakes and false starts.

The groggy state is the most common state I wake up in. I used to go back to bed when I woke up in this state but I’ve noticed over the course of this 5:00 AM challenge that I have gotten much better at staying up when I wake up in that state. So that’s good!

When I go back to bed in a state of grogginess, that’s just laziness and procrastination setting in so overcoming those negative habits has been of great value in this challenge. But this morning I woke up in a state what was very, very sleepy. It was not laziness or procrastination, it was a clear physical need for more sleep, which prompts me to wonder what caused it, since I got the same amount of sleep that I usually get.

So, as I analyze why that might have happened, I trace back through my day yesterday to consider some possibilities that could have impacted my sleep:

  • I got a lot of great work done yesterday. I was very productive, which, on its own, might not be a factor contributing to the requirement of needing extra sleep but may have contributed to a cumulative effect.
  • I wrapped up a huge project that I’ve been working on since November and it’s been hanging over my head and causing an increasing amount of stress. I finished it yesterday, which felt awesome.
  • My workout was CRAZY yesterday. It was harder than usual, I was almost unable to finish it (although I pushed through and did finish), but the muscle burn was greater and lasted for longer.
  • I missed my pre-bed routine. I’ve been doing really well at working through a pre-bed routine that steps down my thinking and creativity and body temperature and gets me ready for bed. Although I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed, I wonder if a lack of a pre-bed routine had any impact on the quality of my sleep.

Of course I don’t have a definitive answer but if I were to try and make an educated guess about the factors contributing to my level of exhaustion when I woke up this morning, I wonder if some or all of these played a part in demanding more sleep from my body.

What I’m working on this week (May 25 – 29, 2015)

My focus for the past couple of weeks has been working on some books for clients and one for myself. I’d love to have 5 books published before I head off to a conference in the middle of June. I know I can write that amount but what will determine the actual publication is whether my clients can review these books that quickly. I think they can (and they certainly want to) but review can be pretty intensive so we’ll see.

To that end, I published one book already, I sent a second for review to a client last week, I’ll have the third one to a client on Wednesday. The other two are following up behind those but on track right now.

What hampers my ability slightly is that this week is SO busy with some other stuff: I have to gather a bunch of stuff for my accountant, I have two presentations to give, I’ve got some video editing to do for a project my wife is working on, there’s some end-of-the-month payroll and invoicing work to be done, and there’s also the regular work (like blogging) I do for my clients.

Thanks to some changes I’ve made in my business in January and during my 5:00 AM challenge this month, I’ve never been more consistently productive… but the calendar is working against me right now!

That’s okay. I love being busy, and since bringing an assistant back into my business earlier this year I’ve been able to push a lot of the really detail oriented stuff to them so I can focus on the more critical work.

But if you need anything from me, you’ll probably need to wait until next week!

The 5:00 AM challenge (25/30)

Any challenge is about making adjustments. Yesterday I learned that lesson for my challenge to wake up at 5:00 AM.

On Saturday night I made sure my alarm was set (in the dining room, where I charge my phone overnight) and then I went to bed. The temperature was very warm so I turned on the fan in the bedroom. I had a great sleep but woke up at 8:45 in the morning! Turns out, my alarm sounded but I slept through it because the fan’s whitenoise drowned it out.

Lesson learned! Made some slight tweaks last night before bed: I turned up my alarm and moved it to closer to the bedroom.

Result: I heard my alarm today and got up at 5:00 AM no problem.

I love this challenge and now that I’m only 5 days away from completing it, I’m thinking about what I’ll choose to do when it’s over. It’s likely that I’ll continue getting up at 5:00 AM on Monday through Friday since I’m SO ridiculously productive during those morning hours. But on the weekends, I’m not sure. Saturday is another great day to be really productive so I might get up early then, too, but Sunday is an entirely different animal and worth thinking about. So we’ll see. But if I get up at 5:00 AM six days a week… well, that’s pretty good in my books.

Stay productive!

Book review: ‘Curtains’ by Tom Jokinen — a fascinating book on death and funerals


I love reading. I love reading everything I can get my hands on. Most of the time, I end up reading books that contribute in some way to my work, so they’re usually about copywriting, real estate investing, business, and so on. I do read “non-work” books (that is: fiction and non-fiction that I read purely for pleasure and not for any professional reason) but usually just a chapter or two every evening.

But this book is the exception. It has no professional relevance but when I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down and I ended up reading the entire thing in 24 hours.

The book is Curtains by Tom Jokinen.

I would have never picked up the book or even noticed it in the library but my wife belongs to a book club and they chose to read this book. So she brought it home, I noticed it on the counter and started reading it. I couldn’t put it down and I devoured the book in just a couple of sittings over a 24 hour period. Then I just had to tell you about it even though it’s not the subject matter I typically write about.

Wow! What a fascinating book!

The author spent a year working in the funeral industry and sharing his discoveries. I wouldn’t call him an investigative journalist (I tend to view them as combative and having an agenda) but rather let’s call him an “experiential journalist” where he truly devoted a full year to studying the funeral industry.

His work is funny, fascinating, and disarmingly honest as he reveals a part of the industry that most of us never see. He shows what happens when someone dies — basically the steps that happen and the processes they go through as the deceased are moved from deathbed to grave. (Spoiler alert: A lot of it is gross).

Because of his approach (he’s actually working IN the industry, not just reporting from research and interviews) he has a hands-on perspective that I don’t think you can get from anywhere else, while at the same time he has an outsider’s perspective because he’s not “in” the industry in the same way that someone else might be. For this reason, Jokinen seems uniquely able to share everything about the funeral industry in a way that is accurate and compelling for outsiders.

And he shares everything! The book opens with a mistake he makes while transporting a dead body (he drops the gurney); he talks about how bodies are embalmed; he discusses the industry itself — how it’s made up of big players and independents; he talks about cremation and burial and the processes required to make each happen; he talks about grief and coping, funeral sales, the challenges of operating a funeral home in a highly competitive industry… and more.

Underlying his entire book is an exploration of mortality and, perhaps more fascinating, an exploration of society’s approach to death — some cultures ignore it, others embrace it.

I have always been fascinated by the funeral industry. In my undergraduate degree I learned a lot about the industry during some of my religious studies courses. And with my mix of skills, I actually think I’d do pretty well in the funeral industry (but up-front in the funeral home dealing with those suffering from loss; probably not so much dealing with dead bodies and all of the steps involved in embalming). And I’m weirdly interested in how our world views death — we do everything we can to hold it at bay and when it inevitably happens, we do everything we can to ignore it.

This book was a real surprise. I was interested in it because of the subject matter but once I started reading it, I was drawn right in as the author shared this hidden world. I can see why it is a book club choice — it’s a great read and has prompted many discussions in my house as my wife and I reflected on what we read.

Even if you’re not as fascinated by the funeral industry as I am, you will still be impacted by the book’s message because of its relevance to all of us.

The 5:00 AM challenge (23/30)

Good morning! I woke up at 5:00 AM and I’m ready to get to work!

Actually, I woke up before my alarm, around 4:40 AM and just laid in bed until my alarm went off. It was nice but also a little baffling because I’m not sure why I woke up before my alarm (if I knew, I’d replicate it). I didn’t do anything different last night to cause this earlier wake up this morning. Maybe it’s my body finally adjusting to the new schedule (which will become evident if it happens again regularly) or maybe it’s something else. Who knows. But I’ll enjoy it as a small victory in my challenge!

Stay productive!