I’m Challenging Myself To Wake Up At 5:00 a.m. For The Next 100 Days

I’m in a 100 day challenge to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every day.

Join me on this journey as I wake up early (or try to!) and share my successes (and failures) with you. Plus, I’ll share tips, tools, and strategies to help you wake up as early as you want to.

HERE’S WHY I’M DOING THIS 5:00 A.M. CHALLENGE

I’m frequently asked by people why I’m challenging myself to wake up at 5:00 AM… and I’m asked this especially by people who know me and have known that I used to keep really late hours.

So here’s why I’m doing this challenge: I’ve never been a “morning person”. For most of my life I’ve stayed up late, woke up late, skipped breakfast, and defined myself as a “night owl”.

And as a writer, that tendency really showed itself in my daily work: I’d frequently stay up late to finish projects.

Unfortunately, this created a couple of problems: First, I sometimes wouldn’t even START work until the rest of the world was winding down for the night, which messed up my social schedule, my workout schedule, my eating schedule — you name it! Second, my wife has “normal” hours so I didn’t get to see her as often: She’d sleep while I worked and then I slept while she went about her day. She was very forgiving about it but I knew it wasn’t cool.

So I decided to make a change in my life.

Earlier this year I read all the research on sleep that I could get my hands on, and I learned A LOT about the role of sleep in our lives and how to “hack” sleep to have a better rest and to be more productive when you wake up.

Then I did a 30 day challenge to wake up at 5:00 AM everyday. It was challenging at first… and then it was awesome. I loved it and I immediately discovered that I was QUANTIFIABLY more productive by waking up in the morning and working than if I worked the same number of hours at night. Plus, I was healthier and had more free time… it was amazing. (Specifically: I was 4 times more productive by working from 5am until noon than I was by working from 9pm to 4am, which was pretty typical for me.

Unfortunately, that change didn’t stick. As much as I loved waking up early, I had a crazy summer of traveling and deadlines, so I defaulted back into my less-productive and less-healthy patterns of sleeping late and staying up late.

So I decided to restart this habit in my life but this time to do it for a longer period of time — 100 days — to try to embed the change more deeply into my life… and along the way I would record my progress to help me deepen the habit even further.

INTRODUCING MY 5:00 AM CHALLENGE — DAY 1

So here is the first video from Day 1 of that challenge…

These videos will provide not only an ongoing account of how I’m doing, they’ll also be some accountability as I share the days that I’m doing great… and the days I’m not doing so great! You won’t always see me at my best! But, if you stick with me, you’ll (hopefully) see progress and maybe even get inspired to wake up early yourself.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s what I would recommend:

1. Bookmark this link — http://aaronhoos.com/tag/5am-challenge/ — and check back because this is how you can find my 5:00 AM challenge updates easily

2. Read my blog post How I Mastered My Sleep To Become More Productive, where I talk about the research I did into the science of sleeping and waking up. This popular post summarizes a lot of the lessons I learned and applied to change how I sleep.

… And if you decide to participate in a similar challenge, give me a shout-out on Twitter (@AaronHoos) because I love to hear about people who are inspired to do the same challenge, and I’ll do my best to give you some encouragement, too!

Lessons learned from waking up at 5:00 AM every day for the past 30 days

A month ago I set a challenge to myself to wake up every day at 5:00 AM for 30 days. I started on May 1 and the challenge went until May 30.

That was the intention. The result was a little different. So my blog post title was a bit misleading. The goal of the challenge was to get up at 5:00 AM every day but the result wasn’t quite every single day.

DAY BY DAY RESULTS

Things started out pretty good. In the first 9 days, I got up at 5:00 AM 7 times…
Friday, May 1 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 2 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Sunday, May 3 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Monday, May 4 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Tuesday, May 5 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Wednesday, May 6 — Got up at 7:45 AM
Thursday, May 7 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Friday, May 8 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 9 — Got up at 8:30 AM

In the middle of the challenge I went on vacation so I knew (ahead of time) that these 3 days wouldn’t count…
Sunday, May 10 — N/A
Monday, May 11 — N/A
Tuesday, May 12 — N/A

Vacation’s over. Back in the game! It was a bit of a struggle at first…
Wednesday, May 13 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Thursday, May 14 — Got up at 8:00 AM
Friday, May 15 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 16 — Got up at 9:00 AM
Sunday, May 17 — got up at 8:30 AM

… But then I got into a groove for a week and it went pretty well…
Monday, May 18 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Tuesday, May 19 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Wednesday, May 20 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Thursday, May 21 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Friday, May 22 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 23 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Sunday, May 24 — Forgot to post. Woke up around 8:30 AM.
Monday, May 25 — Got up at 5:00 AM

Things started to fall off the rails near the end as I got sick…
Tuesday, May 26 — Got up at 8:30 AM
Wednesday, May 27 — Forgot to post. Didn’t wake up at 5:00 AM
Thursday, May 28 — Got up at 6:00 AM
Friday, May 29 — Got up at 5:00 AM
Saturday, May 30 — Got up at 8:30 AM

My challenge was for 30 days and I got up at 5:00 AM only 17 days in total. That’s not a great number, although there were 3 days in there (during my vacation) when the challenge was placed “on hold” and I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t even try to get up at that time, so that’s a bit better.

LESSONS LEARNED

I learned a lot during this challenge. Here are some of the lessons:

  • Getting up at 5:00 AM is WAY easier than I used to think it would be. In fact, even though there were circumstances that kept me from getting up every day, I’m really proud of the 17 days I did get up at 5:00 AM!
  • I am SO much more productive between 5:00 AM and 12:00 PM than I am at any other time of the day. When I get up at 5:00 AM, I get all my work done at this time and that gives me the afternoon and evening to do whatever I want (work, play, whatever).
  • This challenge also helped to connect my brain to my body a bit more. By that I mean: I realized that I can have a productive morning if I wake up alert or if I wake up groggy, but if I wake up really sleepy then I’m of no use to anyone and my writing is garbage. Therefore, I have 2 possible “tracks” to take in the morning (alert/groggy, or, sleepy), so now I need to figure out how to increase the likelihood of waking up alert (or, at the very least, groggy) instead of sleepy.
  • Routines help: When I follow a pre-bed routine, I am more likely able to wake up at 5:00 AM than if I skip my routine. Although I don’t have exact numbers on this, it seems like my pre-bed routine has potentially greater impact on my sleep quality (and on how I feel when I wake up) than how much sleep I get.
  • Environment helps: Before this challenge I tried waking up at 5:00 AM and failed miserably (which is what prompted the challenge). What helped was: for this challenge I moved my phone into the dining room so I had to get up and walk through my house to turn my alarm off… and while I passed through the kitchen I turned the kettle on. That environmental shift made it so much easier to get up and stay up.
  • Accountability helps: There were 2 or 3 days during this challenge when I didn’t really want to get up at 5:00 AM but I also didn’t want to admit on my blog that I failed. So I got up and stayed up.
  • Activity helps: I try to do a bit of activity (most squat thrusts and stretching) in the morning to help get the blood pumping. It makes a big difference.

Even though the results weren’t as consistent as I hoped, I really liked this challenge a lot and I can’t express enough how much more productive I am when I wake up at 5:00 AM versus any other time of the day. So going forward I’m going to continue this practice.

The 5:00 AM challenge (29/30)

Good morning! It’s 5:30 AM and I got up at 5:00 AM this morning! (Whew) Even though I’m a little under the weather, I am feeling a bit better and I definitely didn’t want to fizzle out on the last couple days of my challenge to get up at 5:00 AM. So I knocked back some Neo Citran (my “drug” of choice when I get a head cold) and went to bed REALLY early yesterday. Had a fantastic sleep and woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go today. Awesome. Yeah, I’ve still got a bit of a sore throat but not as bad as yesterday. Which is good because I have A LOT to do in the next few days!

Gotta run.

Stay productive!

The 5:00 AM challenge (28/30)

Good morning! It’s 6:20 AM and I got up 20 minutes ago. For three frustrating days, I’ve failed at my challenge to wake up at 5:00 AM.

But now I have an answer why…

On Tuesday, I woke up at 5:00 AM and was utterly exhausted. I shut off my alarm and crawled back into bed and slept for hours. I blogged that wasn’t sure what the reason was for how extremely tired I was.

Yesterday, the same thing happened and I missed blogging about it altogether. But I started to get some clues: I was achy, tired, there was something in my throat, and it was a struggle to get any work done. I went to bed early.

Today… yeah, I’m sick. Sore throat. Aches. Pretty tired. I was still able to get up early-ish (6:00 AM) because I went to bed early last night and had a great sleep. But I could easily go back to bed, which I might do after my deadlines.

Normally I try to push through this stuff but I’ve got a lot of demands on my time and my body coming up in the next couple of weeks and I need to be operating at my best to deliver. So I’m going to do whatever I need to do today to get through and then probably head to bed with some hot lemon water.

Okay, gotta push through on some projects until I can call it quits for the day.

Stay productive!

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.