The concept of the 5am Club is a simple one to get your head around. You rise at the ungodly hour of 5am whilst the rest of your household is sound asleep, all in the name of productivity and distraction-free self-development. During this time, you follow the 20/20/20 rule of twenty minutes exercise, twenty minutes planning or journaling and twenty minutes of study, supposedly setting you up for a smashing day ahead.
If that sounds a lot like violence to you, then we hear you. The very idea of getting up at the crack of dawn voluntarily for anything other than an airport Wetherspoons and a flight to Mykonos seems preposterous, alas a We Tried Getting Pissed at Gatwick probably wouldn’t take off.
One of the world’s top leadership experts Robin Sharma introduced the 5am Club concept over 20 years ago, based on a revolutionary morning routine that helped his clients maximise their productivity, activate their best health and bulletproof their serenity in this age of overwhelming complexity. After publishing his book in 2018, many people have pondered whether they too could elevate their lives and channel the success of world-famous entrepreneurs simply by rising with the rooster.
We get it, achieving your goals, prioritising YOU and forming healthier habits before the rest of the world is even out of bed is a sure-fire way to feel good about yourself, especially when you use that time to help causes like Move for Mind (Mind’s 30 day exercise and fundraising challenge).
But just how transformative can this early-rising habit be for our physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing? The Zoella team begrudgingly set about finding out.
It seemed like a great idea in the summer of ‘21…
Day one was a novelty. It had that early morning airport energy mixed with ‘Twas the night before Christmas solitude. I pottered about quietly bemused – and not so quietly smug – that I was awake before the rest of the world. The irony of course being that even if I wanted to stick something up on Instagram to say, ‘hey, look at me, look how carpe fucking diem I am’, no self-respecting person would be awake to congratulate me or call me a dick for showing off. Because they’d be in bed, in a warm pit of REM sleep and morning breath. As they should be.
So there I am in my sloth slippers, reading Wahala. It’s too early for coffee and if I put the big light on my elderly neighbour opposite will likely call 999.Lareese
So there I am in my sloth slippers, reading Wahala. It’s too early for coffee and if I put the big light on my elderly neighbour opposite will likely call 999. Lights don’t often get turned on in this house prior to 9am. I settle on candlelight and a bit of Dickens cosplay. The floor lamp goes on eventually because it’s still too dark to actually see my book. Well, this is nice. It’s quiet and I LOVE quiet. I’m constantly trying to seek out quiet but in Brighton, you’re never more than 6ft away from a screeching moped or a seagull.
After about an hour of reading, I find myself clock watching a little bit. I’m basically the opposite of a Sanderson sister waiting for the sun to rise so I can live and thrive like the involuntary early bird that I am rather than turn to dust on the sofa. At approximately 7.43am, I head out for a morning walk, Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place wedged between my ears. The weather is chef’s kiss which makes it hard to decipher whether it’s the buzz of the 5am Club or unprecedented January sunshine that’s responsible for making me walk like this: I appear to be bouncing on the balls of my feet and I say hello to strangers and mean it.
I’m back home for 9am having walked just shy of 8,000 steps and ready to thaw out in front of another candle. Dickens would never, not when they’re Diptyque.
Getting through the day is easier than I thought. I don’t begrudge the strangers dicking about in the sun so much because hahahah, been there done that at the crack of dawn lads. I predict I’ll feel absolutely crud around the 3pm mark but when it comes, it’s a bearable slump. An earlier bedtime would help, I think to myself. I’m a simp for my Bear/Wolf chronotype and if I’m to keep up this morning lark malarky (try saying that at 5am), then I need to stop fannying around on my phone and get to bed before midnight. I compromise with 11pm and wake up a little on the cranky side.
On day 2, I start the 5am club in much the same way as I did on Monday: Wahala, sloth slippers, blanket over the knees, only with significantly less festive spirit in my tank this time round. I fall back into one of those disgusting naps resembling a hangover and wake up thinking I’m late for my English language exam and I’ve forgotten to put knickers on. What have I become? The heating’s blaring, my tongue feels like I’ve made out with a moth, alas I’m awake for the second time at 5.45am. I think about ordering a McDonald’s breakfast but a) that’s not very Robin Sharma of me and b) lol. Of course it’s not open yet.
Once I get over myself, I recover fairly quickly with a pint of water, kill an hour by journaling and embark on the daily march before work. This time I’ve got happy hits between my ears and I’m charging towards the seaside like a blackbird towards a mealworm. I can confirm, Rusted Root Send Me On My Way always makes me overbearingly chipper.
I wonder when the novelty will wear off but annoyingly, it doesn’t. On the remaining days of the working week, I feel like I’ve found my way with this weird association – a gentle 20 minutes of Yoga with Adriene first thing, journaling, reading my book, and then off I go for the mad march before work. That, was my modus operandi.
And just like that, I stopped waking up at 5am…Lareese
But I have carried on waking up earlier, just not 5am early.
I completely understand how claiming that ‘me time’ and showing that level of commitment to yourself would be transformative. I’m constantly starting the day in a chaotic funk, switching between emails, Whatsapp messages, DMs, voicemails and every other form of communication, and the 5am Club offers respite from that toxic rush. It’s a pretty magic time to be awake.
It was great to dip my toes into the club and I’m keen to reunite with the concept in Spring – someone mentioned it takes 66 days for your body to recalibrate which sounds about right. As for January, it’s hard enough to seize the day without getting up at an ungodly hour to be your best productive self so I’m officially freezing my membership for a few months. Come back to me in March when it’s light at 6am and Robin might have found a new recruit.
It’s worth saying you don’t need to follow the exact routine Sharma has laid out in his book to make the 5am Club work for you. After all, what good is a routine that makes you begrudge getting out of bed to do it? Very few people would want to jump out of the sack and straight on a treadmill, so my advice for anyone keen to join the club would be to ease yourself in with some journaling and meditating. Modify the 20/20/20 rule to work for you, and then do the exercise part when you’re actually present and awake. You’re running the club – you may as well make it a nice place to be!
If you’ve got a goal you’d like to achieve this year (learn a language, write that novel, become a yoga teacher, or fundraise for the Move for Mind campaign) but seemingly no spare time to do it, then the 5am Club is a great way to make sh*t happen!
So. In theory I love this idea. I (as well as probably every adult out there) always feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to work, socialise, meal prep and relax at the end of it all, and so being able to carve out a couple of extra hours when the rest of the world is snoozing certainly sounds appealing. Before the pandemic I was very much a morning person but I have to say 5am is a bit of a stretch in terms of my normal wake-up comfort zone, and since 2020 I definitely find myself feeling more fatigued and in need of rest with so much going on in the world! As well as this mental fog, I’ve also had Covid twice in the past 6 months and my oh my I am always tired. Me of 2019 would have thrown myself into this challenge without a second thought, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit sceptical about how my already mentally and physically weary body (god I sound about 80 years old) would cope with this new way of living.
January has been spent entirely working from home, and I think not having anywhere to be or get ready for made it even harder to be motivated for a 5am start because it just didn’t feel all that necessary! Charlotte
I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, I lasted 3 days of the 5am club, and on one of those days I ended up back in bed at 7am to catch some more Zzz because I was falling asleep reading my book. January has been spent entirely working from home, and I think not having anywhere to be or get ready for made it even harder to be motivated for a 5am start because it just didn’t feel all that necessary! The snooze button became even more tempting, and I found I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my extra time that wouldn’t involve waking up my other housemates too. Putting a wash on, doing a workout or cleaning all felt like I was at risk of annoying them, and the quieter, relaxing activities like reading or some morning yoga just made my body more tired. How can I do a morning meditation and not drift back off when my eyes are closed?! I sometimes struggle with switching off and getting to sleep in the evenings, but I think perhaps if I nailed down the fundamentals of when I get my sleep and altering my routine to accommodate this then a 5am start would feel like less of a killer. Unfortunately I found I wasn’t able to get into bed much earlier than for my normal 8am wake up call, and I definitely felt that 3 hour difference both mentally and physically.
I also think the 5am club doesn’t exactly best represent the realities of living with mental or physical health problems that mean rest is such a priority. I struggle with chronic pain and sleeping is such a respite for me, meaning I actually felt anxious about getting up earlier and potentially spending more time feeling unwell or drained. I find more than ever I am practicing lenience in listening to my body, and committing to a 5am start every day just didn’t fit in with this intuitive way of giving in to what my body needs. Perhaps it’s because I went in with a preconception that everyone getting up at 5am is fitting in 5k runs and working on their side hustles whilst drinking a green juice, but I definitely felt pressure to make this time productive and not just do sometime nice for myself. Old perfectionist habits die hard!
The winter months are definitely not my favourite either, and the dark, cold mornings are hard enough regardless of time for me! Giving the 5am club another bash in the height of summer certainly isn’t off the cards, when I know mentally I’ll be feeling brighter, and a 6am sea swim and smoothie before work does in fact sound great…
Overall I can totally see the benefits and appeal of these precious morning hours in maximising productivity and feeling like you have more time for the things you’re passionate about doing daily, but I’ll be honest, the time in my duvet cannot currently be beaten.Charlotte
From the offset I was pretty convinced I would hate everything about getting up at 5am as a self-confessed night owl. So I set my alarm for 5am rather reluctantly but also intrigued to see how I would actually feel waking up at that sort of time. Luckily I own a Lumie alarm clock so I can be woken up to some sort of light, which I believe made a real difference. So I wake up at 5am (snooze till 5:30am whoops) and I actually feel quite energetic at this time? Weird. Not what I was expecting. I decided to loosely use the 20/20/20 rule and found I quickly got into a routine of doing 10 mins of journaling, 10 mins of meditation, 40 mins of reading and then a 40 min walk. Being able to read and go on a nice walk before work felt like a real novelty and I enjoyed the extra time this new sleep schedule gave me. First day I hit a slump around 2pm, but that was nothing that caffeine couldn’t fix, but I must admit I felt way more productive throughout the day.
I just don’t ever have the motivation that early on to sweat it out at the gym or at home, my peak gym time is around 6-7pm and even the 5am routine couldn’t change that.Darcey
The second day was pretty easy again too, this day I added a short 15 min yoga to my routine and enjoyed it, but yoga is about as far as I’ll go in terms of exercise in the morning. I just don’t ever have the motivation that early on to sweat it out at the gym or at home, my peak gym time is around 6-7pm and even the 5am routine couldn’t change that. I also thoroughly enjoyed getting washing on and hung before I started work, that felt like the epitome of productivity! Again I hit a slump at 2pm, but I always hit a slump at around 4pm when I was waking up at 8am, so really it’s no difference just slightly earlier. Coffee sorted that out again of course.
Getting to sleep earlier bizarrely wasn’t too difficult too, I usually go to sleep about midnight, so being asleep for 9-10pm was a big change for me but my body seemed to welcome it. The third day was the hardest and also when I realised that 5am was potentially too early for me. We start work at 9:30am and with no commute due to WFH, 4 and a half hours is a lot of time to fill. Because of this I started to get up at 6am instead, this still gave me enough time to do everything I wanted, it just meant I had to do it a bit quicker which was more than okay with me.
Day 4 and 5 didn’t feel like a chore, it felt like a natural routine for me being up at 6am, journaling and meditating, reading for a while and then going for a stroll. I actually quite enjoy being up when it’s dark out still too, something about it feels very peaceful, I think really it’s the same comfort I get from being up late too. I do however think as the mornings get lighter I will be able to use my time more wisely, having to wait until 7:30-8am to go for a walk now is quite annoying, but in all honesty it doesn’t feel safe as a woman to be out while it’s dark alone. This affects me a lot in the winter with my steps because once work has finished, it’s dark again and I then don’t feel safe walking on my own then too. But moving is so great for mental health and so getting those steps in before work feels really good. For anyone struggling with steps motivation too, the Move for Mind challenge is a great way to encourage yourself while fund-raising too!
Overall I really felt the benefits of waking up at 6am and this will definitely continue to be part of my routine, 5am was just slightly to early for me and my work schedule. I’ve just had bunion surgery (potentially an overshare) so my sleep pattern has been out of whack having a cast on my foot and being uncomfortable majority of the time, however once this cast if off 6am starts will resume.
If you are thinking of trying this out definitely go for it, this is something you can adjust to suit you as dreading waking up for a morning routine is no way to live, but you might be surprised how those extra few hours in the morning can benefit you and increase overall productivity.
So I’ll let you know up top that I FAILED quite miserably at the 5am club. Quite frankly I have enough hours in the day to do what I’m productive enough to get done so an extra 2 hours of being awake in the pitch-black dark, tiptoeing around my house wasn’t particularly useful. However, I did have some positive learnings, so I’ll take you through my feeble attempt anyway!
On day one my alarm went off at 5am and it honestly felt like the MIDDLE of the night except I wasn’t going on holiday or doing anything remotely fun.Danielle
On day one my alarm went off at 5am and it honestly felt like the MIDDLE of the night except I wasn’t going on holiday or doing anything remotely fun. I opened my phone and finally got out of bed at 5:30, my body cannot wake up and get up immediately it physically won’t do it! I decided I’d use this time wisely and go to the gym where I attempted a gruelling “lower body blast” (please read: left me incapable of walking for the next two days). I then had a swim, came home and walked the dog and I STILL had ample time before I started work. I actually felt pretty normal for the rest of the day and didn’t feel a massive slump, nor was I out like a light by 8pm.
I realised on a trip to the loo in the night that the previous day’s workout had rendered me in a severe amount of pain and I realised I wouldn’t be getting to the gym the following morning! As my alarm went off at 5am I immediately stopped it and changed it to 6am without any kind of guilt or shame whatsoever. At six I woke up sat on my phone for a bit and eventually hobbled out of bed to do my morning routine. I walked the dog on a particularly long route and realised how nice it was to be out without any kind of morning time limit. When I got back I cleaned my kitchen and my office before starting work and once again I didn’t really have any kind of slump, in fact, the moments when I felt the most tired was ironically when my alarm would go off at 5am.
On day three after not getting the best night’s sleep when my alarm went off at 5am it was incredibly easy to make the decision that sleep was simply more important than ANYTHING I could of done this morning and it was on day 3 I realised that having a schedule and routine is great but sometimes you just have to listen to your body, which often requires rest.
Waking up at 6am means I never have to rush or panic about getting to my desk on time and I can do some of my boring adult chores meaning I get to enjoy my evenings a little more.Danielle
It took just 3 days for me to realise the 5am club would not be for me especially when I was working from home, but I have started getting up at 6am most days which feels a lot less abrasive despite it only being an hour later. Waking up at 6am means I never have to rush or panic about getting to my desk on time and I can do some of my boring adult chores meaning I get to enjoy my evenings a little more, I’ve always been more productive in the morning and now it finally feels like I’m taking advantage of that, I’ve cracked the code! I think if you’re struggling with time in the day and you’re a natural early riser you should give the ol’ 5am wake up a go, but maybe wait to start until the sun rises earlier to take the plunge!