This Might Change Your Mind About Waking Up at 5 am

When adopting your hero’s productivity strategy becomes counterproductive.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Staying productive these days is a struggle. No thanks to the many distractions we have to navigate daily. As a result, many of us are seeking new tools and habits to boost our output.

Fortunately, we’re not short on the number of life-hacks and productivity tips promising to catapult us to success. Although, some of these tips sound helpful in theory; however, practising them can be counterproductive; and at times, lead to new problems.

What’s concerning is that these advices are often presented as one cap fits all solutions, when in reality, no one should follow them blindly. This is for the simple reason that what’s good advice for one person, might be bad advice for someone else. After-all, we’re all different and so are our situations.

For instance, you’ve probably seen a ton of articles or videos telling you that waking up at 5am is the secret to your success. They might have even included a long list of well known successful people, who swear by this habit, and have really impressive achievements under their belts.

Let’s be clear, am I saying that these articles and videos are all wrong? Far from it. Can waking up at 5am be the key to your success? Absolutely. “So, what’s the problem?” You might ask. Well, the problem with wanting to wake up at 5am is: Not first understanding the thinking behind it, and that it’s possibly not for everyone. It’s that simple. That caveat right there is crucial.

Before telling you why and when waking up at 5am might not be for you, let’s see why anyone will even contemplate it, considering the importance of sleep to our health and overall wellbeing.

Why successful people wake up early

Apple CEO, Tim Cook starts his day at 3:45am; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wakes up at 4am and Howard Schultz of Starbucks is out of bed by 4:30 in the morning. These are famous people who have achieved tremendous successes in their respective industries.

It’s natural to wonder if their achievements have something to do with the time of day they wake up. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Perhaps, there’s more to this. So, it’s worth taking a closer look at the benefits of starting the day early, especially if you’re also considering it.

  1. It gives you a distraction free time to focus on your tasks, since most people are still asleep and are less likely to interrupt your work
  2. It presents the opportunity to start and finish the day early. Imagine turning your 9 to 5 to 5 to 1? That’s interesting
  3. Since waking up at 5am comes with intentionality, you’re less likely to be idle and more likely to get things done
  4. It helps you set a routine, which puts some structure to your day and gives you a sense of control. Having a routine is a great way to improve your focus and productivity.
  5. It improves your self-discipline. It requires discipline to start the day very early. This discipline will likely extend to other areas of your life and help you increase your willpower
  6. It gives you time to complete tasks that get you ready for the day. Like Tim Cook, you may spend this time going through your emails or exercising, before starting your work day
  7. Because of the serenity of that time of the day, you can think clearly, reflect on the trajectory of your life and review the impact of your daily habits on your most important goals

As you can see, these are significant benefits. But what about the impact of waking up early on our overall wellbeing? These successful people can’t possibly be ignoring this; can they? The next section provides a bit of perspective and reasons why you may want to reconsider joining the 5am club.

When you shouldn’t wake up at 5am

As life-changing as the benefits above might be, the habit of waking up early should be approached with proper understanding. I believe the first consideration should be whether or not waking up at 5am will impact your quality of sleep. You should determine how realistic it is for you to sleep earlier than you currently do, based on your circumstance, especially at nighttimes.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults. In fact, professor of neuroscience and sleep scientist, Matt Walker, once said the following:

“Lack of sleep — defined as six hours or fewer — can have serious consequences. Sleep deficiency is associated with problems in concentration, memory and the immune system, and may even shorten life span.”

This implies that if you consistently sleep for less than six hours, you’re taking a huge risk. So, is this what these successful people are doing? Well, check this out:

When I heard that Mark Wahlberg wakes up at 3am, my instant reaction was, “why?” But later, I learnt that he goes to bed at 7pm. Just imagine trying to do the same thing, despite going to bed between 11 and 12 in the night? I’ll not only be miserable throughout the day, overtime, I’ll also be putting my health at risk. Needless to say, waking up at 3am is not for me.

Below are examples of when you might want to rethink waking up at the wee hours of the day:

  1. If it means you won’t have enough sleep. I’m sure you saw this coming
  2. If it’s likely to result in impaired concentration, loss of energy or if it makes you feel irritable for the rest of the day. If you’ve had one of those days, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about
  3. If the other people in the house will be awake at this time and will most likely distract you from your work
  4. If it won’t make you any more productive than you currently are. That is, if you do absolutely nothing with this additional time. You might as well tuck yourself back in bed
  5. If you’re more of a night owl and less of an early bird. In other words, you should know when you’re most productive during the day and stick to what works best for you

Final thoughts

There are two things I want you to take away from this piece. First of all, waking up at 5am or earlier is not for everyone. The second thing is that copying other people’s strategies can be a big mistake, if you don’t understand what their adoption is based on. It’ll help to know why they do what they do, their risk appetite and if possible, their unique situation.

Having said that, you can’t know if something will work for you, unless you give it a try. So, feel free to experiment with waking up at 5am, while keeping in mind the considerations above. If you realise it’s right for you, then go for it; and if not, you know what to do. But remember that it’s not about the number of hours you have in a day, it’s about what you do with those hours.

Just like waking up at 5am is not a prerequisite for optimum performance; there’s more than one way to achieve success. Your job is to find out what works best for you, and stick to it.

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Segun Ojediran, MSc

Segun Ojediran, MSc

Entrepreneurship & Personal Growth | Helping you get closer to your personal and entrepreneurial goals; one story at a time.