Reading Length: 9 minutes
I used to think think of myself as a “fixed night owl.” Never in my life I dreamed of becoming an early riser. I thought early risers were crazy people who hated sleep and enjoyed pain. But I realized they got up early in order to deliberately manage their time to do what they wanted on their own terms. And I wanted to join in on that.
I also thought that the best college lifestyle for me was cramming, pulling all-nighters and finishing up assignments with my tears. But now, all my friends call me a grandma for becoming a morning person. Yet, I have no regrets because I feel such a great difference in my energy levels, productivity and just overall life satisfaction. So here’s some tips to how the “The 5AM Club” by Robin Sharma helped me deliberately manage my time better:
1. Be free from distractions.
One of the first rules is to be free from distractions in order to have better focus, clarity and creativity. We’re often trapped in digital distractions and waste our time on zero value activities.
Robin states that we need to reserve at least one hour for ourselves to do meaningful and high value activities. He suggests to strip away all the layers of complexity from our days, simplify and streamline everything. We need to focus on just a few projects instead of putting our attention on multiple things at once. Remember that less is more and remember to prioritize quality over quantity.
I began implementing this by first identifying what was stealing away my attention in the mornings. And of course, it was always my phone. So I intentionally turned off my phone notifications and and uninstalled all the apps that I was wasting my time on and that wasn’t really adding value to my life. I said goodbye to Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. It was weird not having as many apps to check but I began to feel like I was actually beginning to pay attention to…life.
I also kept the apps that I actually needed the most and organized it into one folder. I set a time block on my calendar for when I would check these apps which was about 2-3 times a day (15-30 mins each time). That way, I wouldn’t open the apps unless it was my scheduled time.
2. The 60/10 Rule.
The rule 60/10 rule is: After every hour of work, take a 10-minute break. So I time blocked my most important activity for 60 minutes in the morning with a 10-15 minute break in between. This allowed me to focus on finishing my assignments, study for an exam or write up blog posts like these in the mornings. For my focus sessions, I used an app called Forest. This is an app that rewards you for productivity by putting more trees in the world. During my breaks, I usually cleaned up the house a little, stretched my body and sometimes chatted with my mom.
3. Don’t listen to 95% of people.
Too many people resist change and settle for complacency. Our parents, teachers, friends, and media may call us crazy or weird for wanting to do something that is not ordinary. Without getting political, if you look at the state of the world right now, ordinary is also not working that well at the moment. The key is to form the habit that average people don’t like to do. Spend time with people who spark joy in your life.
When I told my family and friends that I was going to start waking up at 5AM, as expected, they gave me weird looks and questioned why I would do such an insane thing. Some of them even tried to talk me out of it, saying that it was unnecessary and a waste of energy. Some called me a try hard or too extra. Although I love them, I knew I didn’t have to listen to them. I knew what I wanted was more time for myself. I didn’t think that was so weird and crazy. That was the goal that I set for myself and I intended to accomplish it.
4. Change is hard. Consistency is key.
Change is never easy. Everything that we used to find hard before, we find easy now. It’s easier to wake up early maybe one or two days. But to make the habit stick is another story. According to research, it takes around 66 days for any habit to become automatic.
Robin suggests to jump straight out of bed before your brain can tell you to go back to bed. Set up a reward for yourself for rising up early such as treating yourself to dark chocolate, taking a nap later on, buying a book you always wanted, or a book you never wanted. I don’t judge. The way to deny temptation is through repetition.
When I was trying to get this habit, I struggled to wake up almost every morning. I hit snooze and slept in countless times. I said “Just 5 more minutes” but that turned into 5 hours. The small things such as placing my phone far away from me, splashing my face with cold water, and setting my clothes near me really helped me establish this habit.
5. Experience stillness in the morning.
When we wake up early in the morning, our cortisol levels (stress levels) in the brain decrease. Our dopamine and serotonin levels (award system) increase. It allows us to experience the flow state which is linked to engagement, awe, and lost track of time. In order to experience this, there needs to be silence.
I get to experience this sense of stillness, solitude and peace when I take my morning walks outside in silence. Sometimes I just let my mind wander or focus on the present moment. Or, sometimes I’ll think about my life, brainstorm some content ideas or think about how I can improve my school work load. Or maybe I’ll cringe at that time I said or did something stupid. Actually this one always happens. Regardless, I’m just letting my mind breathe and think. I think we keep shoving information into our minds to the point we don’t ever really make time to just think in silence.
6. Follow the 20/20/20 Formula.
The 20/20/20 Formula
- Pocket #1: Move. Begin your day with intense exercise. This allows you to think better and process faster. This includes doing intense exercise, hydrating ourselves, or breathing deeply. For me, this is 10 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of various exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, squats, sit ups etc. And an extra 5 mins of me just wheezing and fainting from exhaustion.
- Pocket #2: Reflect. Reflect on who you want to be and reflect on your values and life. State out your ideal day ahead. Take at least 10 minutes to write out your perfect day. You can also journal on your best experiences and what you’re grateful for. During my walks, I do my deepest reflections and I’ll try to journal or jot down any ideas that come to mind.
- Pocket #3: Grow. Work on becoming more valuable. Review your goals for your life, week and day. You can read books in your field, listen to audiobooks or podcasts, engage with an online training course, watch documentaries or read autobiographies of successful people.
7. Have a Pre-Sleep Ritual.
Robin states that when you start this ritual, you should turn off all your devices and keep them away from the bed. Try to isolate yourself from over simulation. During your shut down time, maybe talk to your loved ones, listen to an audiobook or podcast or meditate. When you prepare to sleep, make sure your room is cool, dark and technology-free. Here is my own shutdown routine:
- Journaling and tech shut down (15 mins)
- Guitar playing (1 hour)
- Dinner (1 hour)
- Chores and cleaning (15 mins)
- Skincare routine (15 mins)
- Reading (30 mins)
8. Implement Traffic University.
We waste too much time commuting. We can replace the radio or music with something more productive during our commute. We can make use of this time productively by thinking of creative ideas or listen to a podcast or audiobook.
Sometimes when I have an upcoming exam, I’ll replay some of the professor’s lectures in the car. But if the professor sucks and I have to rely on myself, I’ll listen to YouTube videos related to that subject. My favorite educational channel is CrashCourse. When I don’t have exams, I’ll theme my days based on the topics that I want to learn about. Weekends are my favorite. Here’s an example of how I’ve been theming my days so far:
- Mondays – Marketing podcast
- Tuesdays – Spanish podcast
- Wednesdays – Self improvement podcast
- Thursdays – Spanish podcast
- Fridays – Health related audiobook
- Saturdays – Unintelligible Screaming Podcast
- Sundays – Existential Crisis Podcasts
- 1. Be free from distractions. Reserve at least one hour for ourselves to do meaningful and high value activities. Focus on one or few projects at one. No multi-tasking. Simplify and streamline everything.
- 2. The 60/10 Rule. After every hour of work, take a 10-minute break.
- 3. Don’t listen to 95% of people. Too many people resist change and settle for complacency. Form the habit that average people don’t like to do. Spend time with people who spark joy in you.
- 4. Change is hard. Consistency is key. Research states it takes about 66 days to form a new habit. Be consistent with early rising.
- 5. Experience stillness in the morning. Our stress levels decrease and award systems increase. We engage in flow state. Have some silence in the morning.
- 6. Follow the 20/20/20 Formula. Move the body with exercise. Reflect on you, your life and your day ahead. Grow by listening to educational content.
- 7. Have a pre-sleep ritual. Turn off all devices and isolate yourself from stimulation.
- 8. Implement Traffic University. Use commute time productively by listening to educational content such as podcasts, audiobooks, lectures or just brainstorm ideas.
Becoming an early riser was definitely not an easy journey. Although I faced plenty of setbacks, resistance, and tears, I have no regrets about changing my routine. Thankfully, we have plenty of resources like this book that can help guide us to make the process less painful. Let me know if any of you guys have started the path to early rising and how the process has been like for you.
Join the weekly newsletter for more blog posts like these!
Check out this video I made on this blog post! Please like and subscribe! 🙂