After Getting Up at 5 am Every Day for a Month I'm Less Stressed, More Productive and Generally Happier
I recently committed to waking up at 5:00 a.m. each day for a month. We read all of these articles about people claiming waking early is the best choice they have made. Naturally, I wanted to find out for myself. Special note: I've always been a morning person. I wake up refreshed and fast.
Although it was challenging at first waking up so early, I adapted quickly. The larger struggle was going to bed earlier. If I could fall asleep by 10 p.m. each night, waking up seven hours later was plenty of sleep and energy to take on the day. It was when I went to bed at midnight or two in the morning, on the other hand, that I struggled. This was hard to gauge with my spouse. She didn't enjoy it as much at first. I also had to go to bed at times while she wasn't quite ready for bed. But the experiment would live on.
With time, my schedule became more consistent. By the end of the month, I was happily falling asleep around ten each night. My wife was doing the same.
Taking a step back, I basically just pushed my days three to four hours earlier. I began functioning from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. as opposed to 9 a.m. to 12/1 a.m. Doing so dramatically increased my productivity.
Morning is the best time for work.
Think about how frequently you are checking your media devices throughout the working day. Doing so is a major distraction. While you can pledge to put your phone and email away while you work -- some people do so successfully -- it is very challenging when you have urgent responsibilities. You might need to be on your phone in case your kid gets sick at school. You might need to be in your email or Slack to respond to important messages.
Those messages and distractions are not coming in at five in the morning. That is your time to just work without distraction. You can accomplish a remarkable amount in three hours. I found myself knocking out more by the time many people wake up than I had been getting done in entire days before.
It also made me realize how valuable concentrated effort is. Being able to put all of your attention on the task at hand for an extended period of time, without distractions, is remarkable.
Related: 3 Ways to End Technology Distraction
I had more time for myself.
The night used to the time I made for myself. That is challenging, though, because there are many distractions at night. There are always good sports games on, my friends and loved ones are around to hang out, and I am drained from the day.
Transitioning this personal time to the mornings gave me a great chance to do the things I want to do. It became easier to consistently read, exercise and stay up-to-date with the news. Without any distractions in the morning, I was able to spend my time exactly how I wanted.
Carving out this personal time in the early morning is energizing for the entire day. I was much more focused on the tasks at hand and less anxious about my responsibilities. In the past, I often woke up scattered and in a rush to get to work, which left me no time to think about the day ahead and wrap my head around what I wanted to accomplish. The transition to the mornings has yielded much greater productivity and much less anxiety.
Less wasted time at night and the weekends.
I will admit, waking up at 5 a.m. has changed my social life. I am less inclined to go out on the weekends, and I am less available for activities late at night. That being said, there has been plenty of time to spend with others. It has just come in different contexts. During the day on the weekends, I am able to do whatever I want. After I return tired from work throughout the week, I have a few hours to spend freely.
This change has been healthy for me. I am more energized by relaxing and doing what I enjoy as opposed to 2 a.m. nights at a bar or club. I have found myself wasting much less time during the weekends and nights as well. Once it hits a certain time, productivity levels take a nosedive for me. That meant, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., I was accomplishing nothing most nights. When you start a business, it's key to figuring out what works best for you.
Now that time is spent sleeping. I am working during my most productive hours and sleeping during my least. While the amount of work vs. play has not changed drastically with this transition, the efficiency of both activities has. I am more productive when I work, and I am more relaxed when I am taking it easy.
I started sleeping better.
When I wake up at five I am exhausted by the time I put my head on the pillow at night. It has made falling asleep much easier. This is especially true since I no longer feel the need to do work before bed. Falling asleep was a lot harder when I was trying to settle down immediately after rattling off a bunch of emails or finishing a project. Now, I am able to wind down. I wish I had known sooner to take advantage of this decompression at the end of the day.
Overall, I slept fewer hours this month but have felt better. I believe a large reason has been the deeper sleep. I've tracked this with multiple apps and with my Eight mattress cover. I've used many apps and gadgets to sleep, this one seems to work the best for me.
One additional advantage: when I go to bed, I have not been anxious about all that I have to do in the upcoming day. I know I will figure it out when I wake up early. I have three hours of high-productivity in the morning before most people get moving. In addition to the deeper sleep, the decreased stress has led to higher levels of satisfaction in my life.