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What It's Like To Wake Up At 5 a.m.

It’s now day 8 of the #5amwakeupchallenge and in many ways, it has not been what I expected. So far, I haven’t broken any rules. I’ve gotten out of bed before 5:02 every day, and I haven’t taken any naps. In case you haven't seen it, here's what I'm doing and why.

My Observations So Far

The Good:

I’ve actually found that I’m more awake during the day recently than I typically am. I suspect it’s because getting my day started in such a peaceful but productive way gives me the momentum to carry that throughout the day. Then again, it could just be because of the nice weather or all of the other exciting things that have been happening recently, so we’ll have to wait to find out for sure. All I know is that my 3 p.m. slump doesn’t hit nearly as hard.

Getting up is getting easier. I’m a morning person, but 5 a.m. is still pretty early. For the first few days of the challenge, I was out of bed by 5:02, but I’d immediately flop myself onto the couch and scroll on my phone for fifteen or twenty minutes before I could get up and do anything at all.

Over the last few days, I’ve easily gotten up and out of bed by 5:02 and sometimes even earlier. Instead of parking myself on the couch, I’m able to wash my face or make some tea and coffee before grabbing my laptop to do some writing. Turns out, you get better at things the more you do them. Who knew?

On that note, I’ve broken my morning scrolling habit! That was way easier than I thought it would be! Ever since I’ve had a phone, my mornings have started off with a good twenty to forty minutes of checking every social media site in existence, as well as whatever’s happening on Reddit at the moment. It's unproductive and makes it really hard to get up. Plus, I don't really want social media to be the first thing I consume each morning.

I thought I liked checking my phone first thing. I thought there was no way I could immediately get up and go do things. I thought I wanted a “slow” wake up that would be easy on my brain. Turns out, it’s actually way easier to wake up if you just get up. Checking your phone just prolongs the process. Just getting up right away is difficult for about seven seconds, and then you’re up. No more scrolling for me!

I’ve been reading The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins, and it’s reminded me of the trick I used to use to get myself out of bed when I first started waking up early a few years ago. The basic concept is that you count down 5-4-3-2-1, and when you get to 1, a switch flips in your brain and you just do it. No hesitation, just take action.

The 5 second rule can be used to get yourself to do anything. It eliminates the hesitation so you can’t stop yourself from acting. Mel goes more into the science of how it works, and what you can use the rule for in the book. It’s one of the best and most useful books I’ve ever read, and as a self-improvement junkie, I’ve read quite a few self-help books. Here’s a link if you’d like to grab a copy for yourself.

(Disclaimer: I may make a small commission from purchases made using my links. I only recommend books that I've found truly valuable. If you can, support your local library.)

The Bad:

So far there haven’t been too many bad aspects of this challenge. The worst has been that I’m sometimes so worried about oversleeping and accidentally failing to get up at 5 that my brain freaks out and wakes me up at like 3 a.m. because it thinks we’ve slept through the alarm. No, brain, it is fine. The alarm will wake us up. You’ve never slept through an alarm before. Just let me sleep.

Bennett also isn’t thrilled that I go to bed so early because he wants more time to hang out with me, but he understands that this is what I need to do right now. He’s such a sweet and understanding man.

Everything Else:

Before we get into what exactly it is that I do at 5 a.m., here are just a couple more things I've noticed about getting right out of bed at 5 a.m. that aren’t really good or bad, they’re just observations.

As absolutely ridiculous as this sounds, I think I want to get up earlier sometimes. I think the 5 a.m. crowd is right. I go to the gym around 7—a habit that I’ve kept from my office job days, for you 9-5ers out there—and getting up at 5 gives me enough time to spend some time working on something before I have to get ready for the gym at 6:45, but not enough time to get really absorbed into it.

That hour and a half or so is enough time to get some work done, but it’s not quite long enough to truly get into a good flow and do the kind of work that comes from being deeply focused. If I were to get up earlier on some days, I could have a full two hours to focus on what I’m working on and let myself become immersed in it.

Mornings, especially before the gym are my most productive time. It’s easiest for me to focus when the world is quiet and dark, and there’s no one awake to have a conversation with. Extending that time would give me the ability to get even more of my best work done every day, which, at least right now, is what I need.

That said, I’m also totally looking forward to sleeping in once this challenge is over. I’m not a robot. It’s likely that I’ll continue to get up at 5 pretty often, and I’m definitely going to keep the habit of getting up immediately instead of spending time on my phone, but sometimes you just need to sleep in and enjoy a lazy Saturday morning.

My 5 a.m. Morning Routine

What is it that someone who gets up at 5 a.m. does with that time?! I love morning routines. If you’re going to get up early, you need to have an idea of what you’re going to do with that time, otherwise it’s going to be quite difficult to stay out of bed. I’m not super strict about my morning routine, but here’s the gist:

As you’re aware, I get out of bed at 5. The first thing I do is head to the bathroom and wash my face. I feel like a dehydrated slug when I first get up, and washing my face helps to wake me up and make me feel like a person again.

After that, I typically make some tea or coffee. I don’t handle caffeine well at all, so it’s pretty much always decaf. Yes, even at 5 a.m. I also get myself a giant glass of water. In case you hadn’t heard, we’re dehydrated when we wake up. Sleep means you’ve likely gone a good seven to eight hours minimum without any water, and our bodies do not like that at all. Getting some water into your body as soon as you can each morning will make you feel much better and more awake.

Next, my warm beverage and I head to the couch where I’ve left my laptop charging overnight. Most of the time, I spend the next ninety minutes or so writing. For me, 5:15 to 6:45 is prime writing time. I live in an apartment so sometimes it can be noisy during the day, and it’s much easier for me to focus early in the morning when there is nothing to distract me.

At some point between 6:45 and 7, I peel myself away from my laptop and go get ready for the gym. I try to get out the door by about 7:05 and home from the gym at roughly 8:45. Then it’s time to shower, make breakfast if I want it, and meditate.

After all of that, it’s 9:30, and time for me to get back to work and get on with my day.

If you'd like to be more involved in the #5amwakeupchallenge, follow me on Twitter, @lifebygrit, where I tweet my oh-so-exciting 5 a.m. thoughts every morning! And since I get to watch the sun rise every day, catch me on Instagram, also @lifebygrit, if you want more sunrises in your life.

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