Wake Up At 5 am Every Day? Nope. This Is My Daily Routine After A 30-Day Experiment

For someone who has a day job and a side hustle…

“person operating black audio mixer” by Laurent Perren on Unsplash

I Am “Not Allowed” to Get up at 5am.

There’s a popular practice of getting up at 5am, well described by Benjamin P. Hardy.

I believe that. I just can’t do it.

Because I live with my mom in Singapore.

Hey, it’s not that uncommon in Asia.

Located in the most expensive city in the world, our apartment is small but cozy.

With one problem — what we do will affect each other. I can’t really go to bed until 12 midnight because my mom will be moving around.


“MacBook on coffee table” by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

She is actually wonderful, though.

She is willing to work around my schedule most of the time. But asking her to go to bed at 9 pm (which is what getting up at 5 am would require) can be a little too much. Besides,

You know what it feels like talking to your mom about “daily routines”.

She would ask,

“Does that mean we should eat fish every day?”

So, I get up at 8 am every day.

The Most Difficult Part Is the Worry.

It is 10:45 am, I have a meeting with my boss at 2 pm to talk about the market strategy.

I don’t have a plan yet.

But 10:45 am is when I should reflect on book notes. I can’t quite focus on it right now because I’m worried about the meeting later.

Very annoying.

Today is Day 25. I need to find a solution.

It Started Here. I Put All Those “Success Theories” into Practice.

July 23, 2018. Day 1. Version 1

8:15 am — 8:45 am: meditate
9:15 am: leave for work, read on the train
10 am — 12 pm: (in office) write for one hour, and spend the next hour studying the course about writing
12 pm — 1 pm: have lunch with colleagues
1 pm — 2 pm: read another book
2 pm–5 pm: routine work (of my day job)
5 pm–6 pm: work on my long-term career goal — identify opportunities in China

The design is based on the following theories:

  1. As Maarten van Doorn wrote in Is It Really Possible To Complete A 1-Year Goal In The Next 3 Months?, the less time you have, the more productive you will be. So, I only assigned 3 hours for my day job.
  2. Do the creative work in the morning. So, I write first thing in the office.
  3. By 5pm, I will be pretty tired of the routine work. Why not work on my long-term career goal?

The results:

  1. I can’t work on my long-term career goal consistently at 5pm. My energy level is usually too low after a long day. I procrastinated at least 50% of the time.
  2. After reading connecting, applying and using the ideas from books by Ryan Holiday, I wanted to dedicate some time to reflect on my book notes. This task is mentally demanding — so I should do it in the morning. How do I find time for it in the morning?

So, I replaced “follow the writing course” with “reflect on book notes”, and replaced “have lunch with colleagues” with “work on my long-term career goal”:

August 8, 2018. Version 2

8:15 am — 8:45 am: meditate
9.15 am: leave for work, read on the train
10 am — 11 am: write
11 am — 12 pm: reflect on book notes
12 pm — 1 pm: work on my long-term career goal
1 pm — 2 pm: read another book
2–5 pm: routine work
5 pm: follow the writing course, or learn a new skill

“Graphic Design now book on black plate” by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash

The results:

The reality is, although scheduling all of the routine work in the afternoon has increased my productivity, I often worry in the morning about whether I can finish my job today on time. Things will be worse if I need to rush something out for the afternoon.

Should I do some of my day job in the morning?

If that’s the case, how can I find time to reflect on my book notes again? I don’t want to leave it to the afternoon because another popular theory says — do the three most important things within three hours of waking up.

Reflecting on book notes is one of them. My long-term career goal is also one of them — how the heck am I gonna find time for yet another baby in the morning?

Ah, annoying!


August 15, 2018. Version 3

8:15 am — 8:25 am: meditate (shortened to 10 mins)
8:25 am — 8:30 am: morning journals
8:55 am: leave for work, read on the train
9: 45 am — 10:30 am: write
10: 30 am — 11:00 am: reflect on book notes
11:00 am — 12pm: do the most important/urgent part of the day job
12 pm: follow the course, learn a new skill
2 pm — 2:15 pm: work on the long-term career goal
2:15 pm — 5 pm: routine work
5 pm: research and marketing (for my side hustle)

I Can Finally Stick to This Schedule.

I can’t finish all the important tasks in the morning. I just can’t. I accept it.

The #1 most important thing is actually stop worrying. So the most urgent part of my day job has to be resolved first.

Then, I work on the important but “less creative” long-term career goal in the afternoon. Because it’s in the afternoon, I would mentally assign a low priority for it. As a result, I start to procrastinate again.

Finally, the way to clean up the mess is embarrassingly simple: shorten the time allocated for the task!

For so long, I was unconsciously fixated on the idea that I have to spend ONE hour on the task.

Until I was inspired by James Clear’s The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get the Most Rewards.

To improve 1%, I only need 15 mins.

The time commitment (15 mins) becomes so little that you will laugh at yourself if you put it off.

Instead of spending 1 hour on my long-term career goal, I now spend 15 mins.