What Waking Up at 5 A.M Did For My Productivity and Mental Health

Create time for yourself, rather than waiting for it

John Cooper
Mar 15 · 4 min read
Photo by David Mao on Unsplash

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember reading books. It was always something sitting in the back of my mind, waiting for me to gather the courage to put my insecurities aside and go for it.

The issue was, I never had time.

Well, that’s a lie. I had plenty of time.

My issue was, I was always competing with other things. Friends wanting to hang out, video games, Netflix, YouTube, anything and everything that could distract me, would.

I’d still write here and there, but it was hardly anything that I considered being real work effort. I was making progress, just… really, really slowly. The more I wrote, the more this became clear.

I knew it was something I wanted to invest in, to build myself towards. I needed to put in the time.

It wasn’t until I was deep into a YouTube binge that I found my answer.

This video by Casey Neistat gave me the inspiration to start waking up early:

Casey himself wakes up between 4 and 5 a.m. every morning. He talks about how influential having a rigid schedule based around productivity can be and how important those early morning hours are towards that.

I had woken up early before. It wasn’t a foreign concept by any means, as I had woken up at 4:30 and 5 a.m. for years to go to the gym. But waking up early to work or write seemed strange at first. But soon it unlocked a realm of productivity and progress I was convinced I’d never reach.

I made massive leaps in progress in my novel, writing twice as much in a few months as I had in over a year of trying to squeeze writing in when it was convenient.

Even now as I write this article for Medium, It’s 6:15 in the morning and I’m on my third cup of coffee (very important part of the process).

I’ve written almost every article I’ve published in the past few weeks during this time — it’s my dedicated writing time.


Why it works

You have nothing else to be doing.

As a father, a husband, an office drone with a 9–5 job, I rarely have time for myself. Spending time with my family is important, but it leaves very little room for me to stop and focus on my writing.

But at 5 a.m, my wife is asleep. My son is asleep. Dog is asleep. There’s no one up on Facebook to message me, there’s no one to talk to as a distraction.

It’s time that is completely and purely mine to do with as I please.

The sense of peace and lack of pressure helps keep me focused on my goals and stops me from getting distracted. I feel productive and satisfied having gotten work done already so early, and that sense of productivity lasts throughout the rest of my day. Even on days where I get little else done, knowing that I already spent time on my goals helps keep me motivated.

The act of waking up early not only helps with your productivity and personal time, but it helps you build discipline. This discipline will also carry on with you throughout the rest of your day. It will help fortify you to make better decisions and plan better for yourself and your goals.

This time has become cherished for me, so much so that on the rare occasion that I forget to set my alarm and wake up late, I’m legitimately disappointed. Yes, I got extra sleep (yay) but I’m also robbed of that personal and productive time.

There are a few downsides to this approach though, and most of them are sleep related.

Between putting our son to bed, shower, and time with my wife, I rarely get to bed until 11–11:30 some nights, leaving me with only 6ish hours of sleep. It’s sometimes more, sometimes less. For me that’s not an issue because that’s what I’m used to, but people who get a solid 8 hours won’t be so quick to adjust. It takes effort and discipline, but it is achievable and the pros far outweigh the cons.

I believe the quickest and easiest way to help achieve any goals you have for yourself, is to set up a dedicated time to work on them, and if you can’t find the time, then make the time.

If you have goals and things you want to achieve, whether it’s working out, writing, studying, or have trouble finding time to yourself, extra time in the morning when things are quiet and calm wonders for your productivity and your mental wellbeing.

John Cooper

Written by

Husband, Father and aspiring author. Join me in my quest to tell stories.

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