Waking Up At 5AM Changed My Life – Win The Morning, Win The Day
Throughout the majority of my life I had been an early riser. Whether that was in my youthful years to watch cartoons or get ready for the endless sports games I was involved with on the weekend as I got older.
That continued into my university years as I’d get up at 6:30AM everyday to head to the gym or to run before classes. Even after late nights out partaking in the standard post-secondary bar adventures I’d be up by 8:00AM, maybe 8:30AM at the latest.
After entering the working world and life as an office dwelling professional had begun, my alarm time continued to be push later and later. My old habits of using the gym or going for a run in the morning were dying off. What used to be a 6:30AM alarm became 6:50AM then 7:15AM before getting all the way up to 7:50AM. That left me approximately 30 minutes to shower, change and eat before heading out the door for my walk to work.
Slowly I started to notice some negative drawbacks on my energy levels, mood, productivity at work, relationships, monthly budget and general wellness. I was slipping into a pattern and would trudge through my mornings at work like a zombie.
Making A Change To Win The Morning
I started to notice some consistencies in the podcasts, books and other content I was consuming. The majority of the productive, unique and successful people featured in this content were waking up much earlier than the general public and tended to have a set routine for their mornings.
From the guests on the Tim Ferriss Show to books profiling millionaires and business executives or documentaries on successful athletes or wellness leaders, that pattern seemed to hold true.
Get up early, develop a routine and focus on productivity.
They all spoke about the benefits this had on their mindset, money, productivity and success. The Huffington Post shared an article highlighting when successful people wake up. As Tim Ferriss said in his uber popular 4 Hour Work Week book and other interviews, “win the morning, win the day”.
Enough was enough. It was time to experiment.
A New Routine
In April 2016 I decided to make that drastic change for myself and now set my alarm for 5:00AM.
Wow, the first couple of weeks were tough. Leaving the comforts of my bed felt like I was being pried from a warm, pillowed heaven and thrust into a dark foggy haze. Shuffling my feet across the floor to get changed and stumble through a run or workout.
However, in time that initial tiredness was lifted and I started to feel great, really great.
Slowly and surely the benefits started to compound.
My health, mind, finances, mood, career and relationships were seeing positive impacts. It’s been two years now and I’ve settled into a nice routine that has been truly benefiting me across these different areas of my life.
Waking up at 5AM has changed my life.
Preparation, Prioritization & Routine
Every night I do a few basic things to set myself up for success and productivity for the morning ahead. These night before tasks generally include:
- Wash all dishes to ensure an empty sink and countertop
- Package up my lunch for work so it’s ready to grab on my way out
- Place the items I need to make coffee beside the coffee machine
- Prepare my pre-workout snack or drink
- Arrange my breakfast items towards to the front of the fridge and/or cupboard
- Hang and layout the clothing I need for the gym (or a run) and work
- Spend 5 minutes reflecting on the day that was and what I accomplished, failed on, enjoyed, disliked and am grateful for
- Followed by 5 to 10 minutes listing out key priorities for tomorrow in both my personal and professional life
- This includes priorities for the 5AM – 8AM window pre-work, my day at work and then post-work time
- I then plug all these tasks into Todoist – the amazing app and web platform for organizing, planning, setting reminders and so forth
Everything outlined above helps ensure that when I wake up I can be as productive as possible and maximize the limited time I have. I don’t need to worry about planning or prioritizing, my mind can remove that burn and spend the energy elsewhere.
I am certain I could improve this system to drive even further benefits. So I am continuing to look for additional tips, resources, best practices and examples.
The morning is now “me time”. There are no distractions coming in. No text messages, emails, phone calls or conversations to inundate my mind with the needs or requirements of others.
As I run the streets or lookout the window from my computer, it’s a good feeling to see almost no life or action. No cars buzzing around. No apartment lights. I feel like I am a step ahead of most people and for a short period of time each day, the only priorities are my own.
The majority of the rest of my day is spent with incoming emails, phone alerts and so forth. My personal and professional priorities can shift depending on the context of these emails, text message, phone calls or conversations.
Mornings have become my haven for me time.
My Todoist list for the morning is generally broken into three sections and the priorities under each are determined the night before:
- Health & Fitness
- Side Hustling
- Work Prep
These are where my focus steers every morning.
Health & Fitness
The first part of the morning routine now consists of throwing on the workout gear, eating my pre-workout snack and stretching for 5 minutes. Then the final piece right before stepping out the door is flipping on the coffee machine.
Depending on the day and time of year, the next 30-45 minutes will feature a workout in the gym or a run.
Living in Toronto can provide some weather issues from November to April in terms of being able to run outside but that just adds to the challenge. My preparation the night before will include drafting a quick fitness plan for the coming morning. That supports in giving me a sense of direction and clear mind to concentrate elsewhere than planning a workout at 5AM.
Following the workout, there’s a quick shower and then time to eat breakfast.
By the time it is 6:00AM, I now have reaped the positive rewards of working out and eating a decent breakfast with my whole day ahead of me. My energy levels, focus and mood have improved 10x since implementing this consistently into my morning routine.
Bodybuilding wrote about 8 benefits to working out in the morning including focus and mood plus the many of the other specific health benefits.
Next up is the computer desk with my coffee and spending the next 70 to 100 minutes focusing on something outside my career work.
Since I started waking up at 5AM, I’ve spent this time in the morning doing freelance marketing, content management, database management and writing work. I use Upwork and direct relationships to source 10-15 hours of freelance work each week that I complete in the mornings, evenings and weekends. This freelance work has also helped me expedite my debt repayment and retirement saving.
The side hustle work I’ve done in the mornings alone (not including evening or weekends) over the last 2 years has earned approx. $14,500.
Waking up at 5AM changed my life and a big part of that is the financial rewards this extra time has provided me. If you’re looking for side hustle ideas, check my post 35 Rewarding Side Hustles (Almost) Anyone Can Do.
As of early 2018, this morning routine now includes working on Making Momentum. Whether it’s writing a blog post, doing some research, scheduling my social media, accruing content for the Weekly Roundup Momentum’s Finest or ideating on future opportunities.
I’ve really enjoyed my time working on Making Momentum. It’s impacted my short-term side hustle earnings but I am playing the long game with the blog.
Focusing on being productive on work outside my 9 to 5 career has been a godsend. Its allowed me to use other parts of my mind.
- Problem Solving
- Digital Marketing
- Monetization Strategies
- Creative Writing
- Quantitative & Qualitative Research
These are just a few of the skills I am developing from the side hustles and blog. Waking up at 5AM to work on other projects has sparked my mind and boosted my bank account.
As I get changed and ready for work, I revisit the list I made of priorities the night before on Todoist for work. This allows me to shift my focus from health and fitness and side hustling to my career.
- What are my top 3 priorities today?
- Do I have any key meetings?
- Are there any small ‘to do’ list items that I can’t forget about?
Previously, in my 7:50AM wake up and rush to work days, I would spend almost no timing considering the priorities at the office for the day ahead. I would show up in a daze since I’d barely been awake for less than an hour and stumble through my morning with no real purpose or sense of direction.
Waking up at 5AM has allowed me the time to arrive at the office with energy, focus and a sense of what to accomplish in the day ahead.
Since implementing these changes in my life over the past two years, my salary has increased 34%. That is in part due to seniority and gains in experience to secure promotions but also a focused mindset and increase in performance.
The health and mindset benefits I’ve gotten from waking up at 5AM have compounded into supporting my career growth.
Walking To Work
There are only a few steps remaining in my pre-work morning routine.
One step is grabbing my lunch I had already set aside the night before (which was also likely bulk meal cooked on Sunday). Toss it in the bag and I am set for my daily nutrition needs, I don’t need to worry about that at work or touch my wallet.
Another step is downloading a podcast or two for the walk. If you know me, you know I love podcasts.
The amount of free knowledge I’ve enjoyed from podcasts is astounding. It’s like sitting in on the private conversations of some of the most respected leaders, thinkers and successful people in their respective industries. Check my post Top 75 Podcasts To Improve Your Life, Finances, Business, Health & More for some recommendations.
Then it’s out the door and only the walk to work remains.
Waking up at 5AM has allowed me to enjoy and reap the benefits of walking to work. I don’t feel rushed and the other items I’ve accomplished earlier have me feeling good on the walk. I can intake the information from the podcasts I am listening to and let my mind wander about the day ahead or grander things.
I’ve written in more detail about my walk to work before in my post Walking To Work 4 Years – The Money, Health & Mind Benefits.
Other Benefits Of Waking Up At 5AM
- Financial: Preparing my breakfast, coffee and lunches at home, instead of buying on the way or once at work, has saved me thousands of dollars.
- Purpose: Waking up at 5AM has helped give me purpose in the morning and sense of direction to work towards something bigger.
- Time Gained: waking up at 5AM as opposed to 7AM for 30 years worth of weekdays creates 15,600 hours. That’s 15,600 hours to do something productive, healthy or just live my life. 15,600 hours is 650 days or almost 2 full years of extra living.
- Discipline: sticking to this 5AM routine and seeing the positive results has shown and taught me the principle of discipline. Investing in something will deliver the outcome intended when you’re dedicated and consistent.
I can wholeheartedly say that waking up at 5AM has changed my life.
Personally and professionally I’ve seen great results from consistently practicing this routine. From the health and wellness benefits to the positive impact on my wallet, this system works for me. It took time to beat that early morning haze but after waking up at 5AM was ingrained in me, those benefits started to compound.
Will this change in the future when I have kids? Potentially but I would hope to still continue this routine in some fashion.
In the meantime I am going to keep reaping the rewards and improve my system.
Do you wake up early to accomplish elements of your life? Let me know in the comments below.
What do you spend your mornings doing or do you have any productivity hacks? I’d love to hear them.
Here are some other posts you might want to check out:
- 30 Small Wins Challenge – Make Momentum With Your Money And Life
- 55 Great Online Udemy Courses For Millennials, Entrepreneurs And Side Hustlers
- The Personal Finance Resources And Content That Saved My Financial Life
- Walking To Work For 4 Years Straight – The Money, Health And Mind Benefits
- Top 75 Podcasts To Help Improve Your Life, Finances, Business, Health And More
Join 350+ Momentum's Finest Subscribers
Sign up to the Momentum's Finest Newsletter to help take control of your money and life.
The June Giveaway is a $25 Amazon Gift Card.