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It's 5am Somewhere
How I Didn't Become A Morning Person
BEEP BEEP BEEP
There’s no noise worse than my morning alarm permeating my lucid dream state. Despite this, I decided to double down on this audio torture for a month by attempting to wake up before the sun.
In 2020, during the COVID lockdowns, I read The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma. The title here tells you the underlying message. Wake up at 5:00am.
I loved it. So much so that I bought into the idea that I should wake up at 5:00am. “Own my morning, elevate my life,” I was sold.
This was a bit radical for me, a self diagnosed night owl. Back when I was in university, during exam week, I would walk home from the library as the sun came up and often ran into my roommates at Collegetown Bagels. They would be getting coffee and breakfast to start their day while I was grabbing a chocolate croissant as a treat before walking home to collapse on my bed.
In 2020, though, I was determined to change. I was working remote for the first time and had full control of my schedule. At the same time, I had come face to face with my shortcomings. My company was slowly making my teammates disappear and it was evident that my job was on the line.
Since I was convinced I was the problem at my job, I believed I was struggling because I hadn’t been as productive or as industrious as I could have been in my first six months. My plan was to become a better worker and see if I could prevent myself from getting fired.
Looking back, it’s easy to see that I was in a vulnerable state of mind, desperate to find a quick fix between the pages of a self help book.
For a month, I tracked my wake up times and I never managed to wake up at 5:00am for two days in a row. I’d usually get out of bed after a few hits of the snooze button, ruining my sleep for an hour or two before getting up “early.”
At first, I beat myself up for falling short. I felt as though I was confirming to myself that I was undisciplined. When I paid attention though, I realized something important.
I didn’t like it.
Even when I was up early, I found the mornings to be cold, dark and boring. It was eerie to me and all I could ever think about was going back to sleep.
The only thing I enjoyed was that I was finally waking up before the chipper bird that seemed to have made a home outside my bedroom window. Eliminating thoughts of bird murder first thing in the morning was a more positive start to my day.
Other than believing it was good for me, I didn’t have a reason to wake up early. In the morning, I would do some journaling and a little bit of yoga, which was nice, but I never felt any spark or burst of enthusiasm that early in the morning.
It was hard for me to admit that the 5:00am-ish starts weren’t working for me. I thought maybe, I could change, force myself to become a morning person. The 5AM Club made it sound like enough willpower would get me there. Maybe it could have.
Then I realized, that wasn’t the point.
When I paid attention to my mind and my body, I found that while some people may prefer early mornings, I never enjoyed mine.
For one, I hadn’t admitted to myself that my work anxiety was affecting my sleep. I rarely got the sleep required to wake up that early because I would have nightmares about sales deals falling through or my clients getting angry.
Also, I felt completely different at nighttime. The magical muse would meet me at sunset. I would start churning out email sequences to send clients in the morning and often find myself lost in flow1.
Recognizing this, I switched my schedule to work later into the night and allowed myself to sleep in until my first Zoom meeting.
Trying to wake up at 5:00am and join the elusive 5:00am Club was one of my first real stabs at becoming a more productive person. While I was still ignoring a lot of problems that were going on in my life, I’m happy that after that first month, I checked in with myself and decided the 5:00am Club wasn’t for me.
I learned an important lesson during that time. It’s alright to test and experiment new habits, but just because Robin Sharma dedicated a whole book to it, doesn’t mean it is the right fit for me. More importantly, that’s completely fine. There’s no need to beat myself up if my morning routine doesn’t match someone else’s.
Since reading The 5AM Club, I’ve read around 35 other books I’d consider as part of the “self help” genre. I’ve learned to be open to new ideas or habits, but I also test and filter everything to see what works best for me. When something isn’t a fit, I no longer feel guilty when I reject the idea and move along. It’s rarely a binary, there’s often something that intrigues or inspires me, but I no longer feel the pressure to fit into someone else’s mold of productivity.
This has worked well for me. When I look at myself, I see that I went from someone who felt undisciplined to someone who is a doer. However, this wasn’t because I perfected each and every single productivity hack. The secret was separating the confident “shoulds” of each book with what I observed was best for me.
During my sabbatical, I turned off my alarm clock and let my body wake up when it needed to. I needed a couple months to catch up on my sleep debt, but once I did I noticed a change in my sleeping schedule.
I found that my natural circadian rhythm combined with crappy blinds resulted in a sleep schedule that mirrored the sun cycle. In the summers, I started to gradually wake up earlier each morning, opening my eyes to the sun peeking through my window.
The peace I’ve felt in those early mornings has been incomparable to the bleary, stressed filled mornings in 2020.
Sometimes, I even wake up to the birds singing. These days, I have no desire to murder them.
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Sales emails are such a waste of muse.