How To Get Up At 5am
5am, the hour that Legends are waking up, or going to sleep….
It’s a quote I stumbled across recently and one that strongly resonates with me.
And it’s not because I’m one of the seemingly superhuman people that’s actually able to achieve this mammoth feat, although it’s not for lack of trying.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite….
For over four years, on and off, I’ve been trying to force myself to wake up at this totally unreasonable hour and I had just about given up all hope of being able to do it.
After having watched what feels like 1000’s of hours of Youtube videos giving you the “simple” steps of how to wake up early like it’s nothing – until recently, I was still nowhere close to any sort of consistent “early bird” routine.
But then, at the beginning of this year, something changed.
After trying all kinds of “success routines” promoted by globally renowned entrepreneurs – including the world-famous Miracle Morning created by Hal Elrod – I discovered the formula, at least for me, that has enabled me to finally join the 5am club and do so with a fair degree of consistency.
In this article I’m going to give you my top five “real life” tips that have truly helped me to start getting up far earlier and making some serious progress on my goals.
I also want to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about the topic – at least from my own experience.
In certain parts of the self-development world, you could be forgiven for thinking that if you can’t get up at 5am, you’re destined to live a life of missed goals and unfulfilled potential…
If that sounds familiar, I hope that you can use my experience to help you get one step closer towards achieving the sometimes life-changing status of being an “early riser.”
Here we go…
1. Get To Bed Early (Enough)
On almost every video you see that promotes waking early, one of the first benefits mentioned is that you get “two hours extra” every single day.
It’s not true.
I’ve found that perhaps the most challenging part of being able to wake early, is hitting the sack early enough the night before.
If you’re trying to get up super early now, without going to bed any earlier to subsidise the sleep time you’ll be losing – I’d hedge a hefty bet that you’re not going to make it happen.
If you need 8 hours of sleep to function at peak performance when you wake up at 7am, you’re going to need the same amount of sleep if you’re waking up at 5am – so you need to be getting to bed two hours earlier.
That’s a big change to your daily schedule and one that not everybody can commit too.
Yes, legends of the “sleep-less, do more” world such as Margaret Thatcher who supposedly got four hours of sleep each night and Arnold Schwarzenegger who encourages you to “sleep faster” and get six hours in would all perhaps disagree but that doesn’t work for me.
If I don’t get around seven hours in, I will feel it the next day.
So, if you’re not getting any more hours into the day – what’s the point of going through all the effort to wake up earlier?
I use my “early” time to get in a good gym session and complete my daily journal to get my mind and priorities set for the day.
I just don’t have the energy at the end of the day so for me it’s about realigning my daily schedule to accommodate where I need to exert the most energy.
It means that before the rest of the world has woken, I’ve got my blood flowing and my workout for the day is complete so no matter what happens from that point onwards, I don’t have to worry about hitting the gym.
That’s a pretty amazing feeling and my gym routine hasn’t been as good as it is now since perhaps my teen years.
You wouldn’t put a top of the range Lamborghini engine (your brain) into a clapped out, falling apart at the seams Ford Escort (my body when I don’t hit the gym) so exercise is important to me because it keeps me in good shape and keeps my mind on-point too.
Plus, getting regular exercise really makes a difference to me throughout the day.
I feel far more energised and the midday “lull” that hit’s me like a brick wall when I don’t get my workouts in is non-existent.
So, tip number one done and dusted.
Get to bed early enough to give yourself the sleep that your body and brain NEEDS to function at peak performance.
I think it’s fair to say that much of your success in life comes down to how much you are prepared to sacrifice to get there.
Is binging on a couple of hours of Netflix each night really adding any value to your life or would that time be better spent working on an securing your future for yourself and your family?
Input equals output.
2. Kerb Your Phone Addiction
This is a challenging one – but it made a huge difference for me when I nailed it.
Perhaps for most of us, we’re now firmly set in the habit of checking our phones before going to sleep.
Catching up with a last-minute dose of LinkedIn, checking up on the football scores, reviewing the delivery status of your latest online order – we’re all guilty.
The trouble is, when you’re nice and relaxed in bed winding down after a hard days’ hustle, what was originally going to be a “quick check” quickly evolves into an online binge and before you know it, you’ve wasted 45 minutes fascinated by what celebrities used to look like when they were younger – you know exactly what I’m talking about…
There are two sleep depriving pitfalls of falling into the trap of checking your phone last thing.
First, the blue light emitted from your phone screen confuses your brain into thinking that it’s still daylight which prohibits the production of melatonin – the chemical that gives your body the indication that it’s time to go to sleep.
So not only is your sleep pattern massively disrupted, that 45-minute online over indulgence means there’s no chance you’re going to be getting up bright and early in the morning because you’re now almost an hour later switching off that you’d planned.
Like any habit, not looking at your phone before you go to bed takes some serious discipline and it feels awkward getting your head down without paying it some attention – almost like losing a limb, it’s a strange feeling.
But, trust me, hang in there and after the first few days staying strong and committed to your future, you’ll soon get the hang of it and start to wonder what was so difficult in the first place.
It might not be possible for all of us but to minimise the temptation of wanting to check my phone, I’ve deleted Facebook, Instagram and any other apps that I suspect may be fighting for my attention and putting a roadblock on me getting to where I want to be in life.
I also set my alarm before I’m in bed so there’s absolutely no need for me to break past the screen saver and give in to the temptation.
So, top tip number two – do what’s best for you, your goals and your body and ban yourself from checking in with your phone last thing at night.
3) Re-Program your Brain
A simple exercise that comes straight out of the playbook of self-development master, Tony Robbins, has had a huge positive impact on my ability to get up and get at it.
On my journey of self-development I found myself in possession of some old school audio tapes from the world famous Guru.
The audio may be almost three decades old but the message and impact of the exercises included is just as powerful today.
Tony preaches that there are only two reasons we make any decisions in life – to move away from pain or to move towards pleasure.
Whatever actions in life our brain associates the most pleasure or least pain to is the path that we automatically choose.
So, if there’s a habit that you want to change in your life, the first step is to re-programme your brain to associate more pleasure to doing your new habit or (and) more pain to not doing it.
Tony argues that the three keys to introducing positive habits into your life, or eliminating bad choices are:
A) Get leverage on yourself – so get yourself to the point where you are convinced that things MUST change.
You can’t be “it would be nice if this part of my life changes” – that’s not enough leverage to give yourself the strength and resolve to make it happen.
To make powerful, lasting changes you have to be at the point where there is simply no other option but to change, it is a MUST.
It’s why so many people fail to get any traction on their New Year’s resolutions.
If it was that important to you, you wouldn’t wait until the New Year to make the change.
B) You then interrupt your current pattern of associations (i.e. how you link pleasure to the current habit you want to change or the pain you associate with changing the habit.)
C) Finally, you condition a new empowering association which overrides your previous associations and forces your new positive habit to be the dominant choice.
It sounds quite complicated but the exercise to make this happen is simple.
It doesn’t involve hypnotism, havening or any other behaviour changing techniques – you just need a pen, some paper and some thinking time.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but it has most definitely made a huge difference to how capable I am of forming new positive habits that will take my life in the direction I want them to go.
Even writing this article is a result of the changes I’ve made thanks to the following steps.
i) Decide on the change that you would like to make.
That would be waking up at 5am.
ii) List all the negative things that you’ve associated with this new habit.
Why aren’t you already getting up at 5am – what’s stopping you?
List everything that comes into your mind – having to wake up tired, not getting enough sleep, being tired throughout the day, not being able to perform at my best, having to get out of bed in the freezing cold, waking up in the dark etc.
iii) List all the pleasures that you get by NOT following through on your desired action.
What are the benefits to staying in bed and not waking up early?
I think we’re all pretty aware of those – more time sleeping, more time in a warm cosy bed, getting to watch TV in bed, being able to stay up later and binge on Netflix etc.
iiii) In a paragraph, describe what it will cost you if you don’t follow through with the new habit.
This is where you start to get some perspective on your current choices.
Taking the time to work out what you are missing out on, not just in the short term, but for the rest of your life, is when things start to sink in on a deeper level.
For me, not getting up at 5am meant that I would forever miss out on getting back into a regular gym routine, it would mean my health and my body deteriorating, it would see me not be able to implement the discipline or will power required in my life to get me to where I want to be which would affect me and my family for years to come etc. etc.
When you think about it, the small actions you are doing regularly now can have some huge long-term implications.
This exercise really gets you thinking about the bigger picture.
At this point we’re beginning to “disrupt” our previous pain and pleasure associations to help form better habits.
v) The final step for installing a new positive habit is to list all the benefits you’ll gain by taking action in this area right now.
This is where it really hits home.
When you list everything that you’ll be gaining in life both short-term and long-term vs what you’re gaining by not taking the action right now, the latter usually pales into insignificance.
If you have spent some quality time completing the above, you should have at least sparked the beginning of a new positive, life changing habit.
It’s worth keeping your notes with you, or close by, so if you ever feel yourself slipping back into old ways, you can slap it right out of you in one fell swoop by skimming over the exercise you’ve completed above and remind yourself of what you’ll be missing out should you feel the temptation to go wander back to the dark side.
So now when my alarm goes off at 5am and I’m self-talking myself out of getting up, I can quickly interrupt that by reminding myself that it may be another hour in bed – but it’s actually costing me my health, my confidence, my fitness and it’s seriously holding me back from ever reaching my full potential.
Most of the time, that’s enough to get me going.
Tip number three summed up is, in layman’s terms, re-programme your brain to associate more pleasure to getting up at 5am compared to the pleasure of hitting the snooze button and the pain of sleeping your future away.
4. Have Everything Prepped
If I’m waking up at 5am, I don’t want anything to distract me from getting out the door.
Any preparing of clothes, filling of water bottles or any activity that’s not related directly to me getting straight out of the door and into my car is simply not on the agenda.
I’ve found that the more distractions or activities I place between getting out of bed and getting into my car, the less likely the chances are that I’ll get there – and when you’ve made the effort to get up at 5am and then fall at the last hurdle, that is painful.
Don’t risk it.
Keep everything as simple as possible.
Prepare your kit the night before, have your shoes ready by the door so you’ve not got to search about in the dark, if you take a drinks bottle, fill it the night before and focus 100% of your attention as soon as you step foot out of bed on getting out the door.
Videos I’ve seen recommend going as far as sleeping in your gym gear but I’ve tried that and things can get a bit hot and sticky – especially if, like me, you train in joggers and a hoody.
Not to mention the fact that you’ll be clearing out the gym with some serious stink.
I go to the extent of having all my gym clothes hung out so I’m ready to dip into them as soon as I wake, I’ll keep on the same underwear and I don’t brush my teeth for fear of waking up the whole house (I do when I get back, FYI) – but that’s as extreme as I’ll go.
A quick spray of Lynx when I get to the gym and I’m ready to roll.
After all, I’m not there to make friends, I’m there to work out, get my sweat on and power towards my goals.
To summarise this top tip, have everything prepped the night before and keep it as simple as possible so all you have to do is pull on some clothes, tie your shoe laces and you’re off!
5. Just Sit Up!
The most crucial part of this whole waking up routine is the very first few seconds after my alarm has buzzed.
Every time, even now, I still feel my body and mind resisting my determination to get out of bed and trying to tempt me into just hitting snooze for another ten minutes, which then becomes twenty, then thirty and all of a sudden, it’s an extra hour in bed….
The best method I’ve found for overriding my lazy brain is to sit bolt upright in bed as soon as my subconscious mind registers the sound of my alarm going off.
Don’t think about it, don’t consider it, don’t even give yourself a chance to realise where you are or what time it is, just sit up – you’ve got time for all of that later!
It won’t be long before it becomes an automatic reaction.
Once you manage to cross that all important first hurdle, you’re pretty much dead cert to get out of bed and bask in all the glorious benefits that come with being up before even the crack of dawn.
So, my fifth, but not yet final, piece of advice is to sit up as soon as you hear those alarm bells ringing and don’t give yourself the opportunity to sabotage your new routine of discipline before you’ve even had a chance to get going.
Bonus Tip – Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself (At Least To Begin With)
Here’s a bonus tip for you.
Even the most disciplined and successful business people, sporting elite and anyone else you admire and look up to have “off” days.
They might not admit it publicly of course because that would spoil their well-crafted public persona.
Here’s the thing though.
The Universe will throw all kinds of curve balls at you to try and knock you off course and test your commitment to your goals and your future – and sometimes, it wins.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do not manage to get up at 5am every single day.
I’d say 8 days out of 10, I’m on it – and that’s enough to make a huge, positive impact on my life’s trajectory.
I have two young kids that need tending to, two dogs that need feeding and walking, a partner, a busy job and all kinds of house chores – we all have busy lives that can sometimes throw a spanner in the works.
And sometimes, I might decide just to have a good old lie in and wake up with my family or have an evening off and just watch some TV.
The important thing here is not to be too harsh on yourself, especially if you’re just starting out.
Whether you make it up in time or not, you still have the whole day ahead of you.
You only making things worse by investing energy into dwelling on the fact that you didn’t get up at the time you wanted to.
Tomorrow is a new day and with it comes 24 beautiful new hours so you have the opportunity to reset, adjust your routine and try again.
We all want to be successful and aspire to reach achieve our wildest dreams.
But if you don’t enjoy the journey – you might find yourself disappointed when you finally get there.
I could live an insanely disciplined life where my whole existence is based around achieving my business and success goals.
Would I get to where I want to be in life financially and materially – that’s probably a given.
But what would I have sacrificed to get there – my relationship with my family, my children, my health, my friends and who knows what else.
I’m not prepared to make those sacrifices because I know for sure that one day when it’s too late, I’ll regret not having invested time and energy into the things that are just as important to me as business.
Some people are OK with making those sacrifices and I say good luck to them, in the best possible sense.
I don’t think it makes you a better or a worse person where your priorities lie – we all value different things in life and it’s each to their own.
Life is to be lived.
We’re getting deep here and this has been a pretty heavy read so I think it’s time I bring to a close my top tips that have helped me to become part of the 5am crew – something that I thought was nigh on impossible.
I hope that my years of trial and error and eventual success help you do the same.
If just one person is able to take something from this article (which is admittedly far, far longer than I had originally imagined) and use it to help them get closer towards their goals and life’s ambitions then it will have been more than worthwhile my efforts.
And if you do use any of the tips to help you with your ambitions, I would absolutely love to hear about your success – please message me and tell me all about it. There’s no better feeling to me than having helped someone to become a better version of themselves.
And I will leave with these parting words, if I can do it, anyone can.
Go to bed early, ditch the phone, re-programme your brain, get everything set the night before and make a move as soon as your alarm goes off.
You’ll be well on your way towards perhaps the biggest benefit of all of this…
…watching your colleague’s jaws drop in admiration when you tell them with a quiet sense of pride that you got up at 5am this morning.
Persistence beats resistance, so stick with it.
I KNOW you can do it.
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