Why joining the “5 am club” could boost your productivity and wellbeing

A rooster in front of a sunrise.

What time do you usually wake up? Some of the world’s most successful people – including Oprah Winfrey and Tim Cook – attribute their incredible achievements to their early alarms.

The concept of the “5 am Club” was popularised by Robin Sharma’s book of the same name. Thousands of people around the world now rise an hour before they usually would, claiming that the early start boosts their productivity and improves their mental health.

Read on to discover the benefits and drawbacks of joining the 5am club, and whether it would be the best choice for you.

Can waking up earlier improve your productivity?

Sleeping in until the last possible minute can be a negative way to start your morning. Running out of the door to battle rush hour traffic leaves you feeling stressed and panicked, which can put you on edge for the rest of the day.

At the very least, giving yourself extra time to wake up and prepare yourself for the busy day ahead provides you with a much healthier and relaxed transition into your mornings. But Sharma also suggests you start your morning by doing something productive, so you can ride the wave of motivation for the rest of the day.

He came up with a 20/20/20 formula, where you spend 20 minutes exercising, reflecting on your goals, and learning a new skill every morning.

Dedicating an hour to your health and activities you love – for example, by going to the gym or indulging in your favourite hobby – can help you feel more satisfied with your life.

And these happy feelings don’t stop once your morning routine is over: devoting time to yourself every day will help you feel more energised and productive all the way to bedtime.

It can also improve your self-confidence, as you can be proud of yourself for achieving something incredible immediately after waking up.

Should you join the 5 am club?

There are some drawbacks to the 5 am club that mean an early start wouldn’t work for everyone.

The main factor that should affect your decision is your sleep schedule. To get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, you need to be going to bed at 10 pm at the latest. Late working hours, family commitments, or social events can stop you from getting the sleep you need, which could lead to problems with your mental and physical health.

A focus on productivity over your health can also have a negative impact on your life. Pushing yourself too hard to be more productive at work or in your personal life can lead to burnout, which can lead to a loss of motivation and making simple tasks much more difficult.

Finally, you need to question your motivations for waking up earlier. If you want to join the 5 am club to improve yourself and reach your goals, you will likely have the long-lasting passion to continue, even on hard days.

But if you want to hop on a trend because other people’s lives look better than yours on social media, then there are other things you can do to quash those feelings of envy and self-doubt.

Tips to joining the 5 am club

Focus on your goal

Forming a new habit is incredibly difficult. There’s no timetable for such a huge change to your life – some people will be able to adapt to their new morning routine immediately, while others will need more time to adjust.

Recording your progress and rewarding yourself for staying on track can help you stay motivated, but don’t beat yourself up if you hit the snooze button. Everyone has setbacks, but as long as you push through them, you’ll achieve your goals.

Decide on your morning routine in advance

Removing as many obstacles to your new routine will make it easier to adjust. Whether you’re following Sharma’s 20/20/20 formula and spending your morning doing yoga, journalling, and learning a new skill, or you want to try something completely different, decide the night before.

Planning your morning the night before will also translate into better discipline and ensure your morning is as relaxing as possible, leading to even more rewards for your hard work.

Avoid distractions

Part of the reason Sharma recommends waking up at 5 am is because of how quiet the world is so early in the morning. Your family, friends, and coworkers are all likely to be asleep, so you know that this time is yours and yours alone, with no responsibilities to other people.

If you know there will be regular interruptions to your sleep or morning routine – for example, a crying baby or dog you need to walk – then factor this extra time into your morning. Wake up earlier to fit more into your morning or go to bed earlier so you know you’re getting enough sleep.

Stick to a sleep schedule

The best way to transition into your new sleep schedule is to wake up in earlier increments to avoid shocking your system. Try waking up at 7 am and 6 am before starting to wake at 5 am so you can wake up rested and ready for the day instead of groggy and confused.

Although it can be tempting to stay up later on the weekends and lie in, you need to stick to your routine. Changing the time you go to bed and wake up will throw off your circadian rhythm, which will make waking up on Monday morning a nightmare.

Adjust the rules

If your lifestyle would make it impossible to wake up at 5 am, don’t despair. Adapting the rules of the challenge to best suit you is a brilliant way to participate without burning yourself out.

Sharma chose 5 am because it’s an hour before most people would wake up for their 9-5 workday. If 5 am doesn’t work for you, then try waking up an hour before you usually would so you can have a pleasant morning without sacrificing sleep.

To reduce stress in the mornings, there are plenty of smaller things you can do to improve your mood and productivity. Something as small as preparing for work the night before – such as making your lunch or cleaning your house – can give you extra time to take care of yourself in the morning.