5 Key Takeaways From Joining the 5am Club

I won’t lie, joining the 5am Club and voluntarily adding another wakeful hour to an already long day in lockdown was questionable to begin with for its timing. I’m not commuting right now, nor in need of that extra time alone before the ‘world wakes’. But after reading Robin Sharma’s book, I still decided to set waking up at 5am every morning as my February challenge for its mindset and personal growth benefits.

What is the 5am club?

In his book, Robin Sharma explains that the first hour of each day should be divided into three equal blocks, known as the 20/20/20 formula.

In other words, this is known as the “victory hour” focusing on 20 minutes of movement, 20 minutes of mindfulness and 20 minutes of mastery.

I fully believe what Sharma says in that “the way you start your day powerfully shapes how productively you live it.”

I’m sure you’ll also agree, waking late for something and feeling rushed, or allowing something to negatively affect your thought patterns in the morning, results in a downward spiral from there, influencing how you behave, and feel, for the rest of the day.

Along with wanting to set the tone right first thing, another massive driving force behind this month's challenge was because I’ve been wanting to create an online course for BITB, focusing on overcoming challenges, rewiring our brains, building lasting resilience and cultivating strong mindsets (more on that soon!)

It’s something I put on my list of goals towards the end of last year and declared I would do ‘eventually.’ But I knew that to actually achieve this goal, I needed to find the time to consistently write, and develop a better daily routine to do so. Not only that, but I also know that these little 30-days chunks to ‘try out’ certain habits are the only real way I can stay accountable to actually ticking things off my list.

Read also: 30 Challenges to Try for 30 Days

My 5am club journey

First of all, I didn’t always wake at 5am. There were some days, particularly in the beginning, when I was so exhausted from my new start time, and would go to sleep at 8pm feeling like I was simply switching my day around by doing nothing at all in the evenings.

As a result, I began to wonder whether waking up at this time was actually a help or hindrance to my productivity, and overall energy levels. But regardless of my morning alarm time, I did always manage to replace my usual Instagram scroll, or check of my emails first thing, with the 20/20/20 formula; prioritising exercise, reflection and learning before anything else, and the difference to my days has been monumental.

The 20/20/20 formula

As a little overview of Robin Sharma’s 20/20/20 formula; the first 20 minutes are dedicated to movement such as an intense sweat session. Rigorous exercise has been shown to release BDNF, a chemical in the brain that grows neural connections and reduces depression and anxiety (I). Exercising also releases dopamine and serotonin, leading to an increase in overall motivation, and feelings of happiness. 

The next 20 minutes are dedicated to quieter activities, such as journaling or meditation, to focus on what’s important to you, gain clarity over goals, express gratitude and get in the right frame of mind for the day. By incorporating journaling into our days, we can better understand our thoughts and feelings, as well as our interpretations of certain events. And by doing so, we allow ourselves to become aware of our thoughts patterns and any unhelpful or pessimistic habitual responses, that influence our energy states and keep us from taking desired action towards our goals. Regular journaling has also been linked to better sleep, more effective coping, reduced stress, enhanced recovery from traumas and improved immune functioning.

The final 20 minutes are dedicated to mastery, and are reserved for personal growth. Whether that’s listening to a positive podcast or reading a few pages of a self development book, in this 20 minute section of daily growth “me-time” you give yourself permission to become a better version of yourself, and develop on a personal and professional level, which is a habit most successful leaders have adopted (I).

Whilst I won’t be setting my alarm for 5am again anytime soon, perhaps aiming for 6am instead, the principle of this ‘power hour’ first thing is one that I’ll continue.

What I learnt from the 5am club

Here are my 5 key takeaways from joining the 5am Club in February, and adopting the 20/20/20 formula:

1. Messages and phone checking can wait.

In order to wake at 5am, I often went to sleep around 9.30/10pm and always aimed to turn my phone off an hour before bed to avoid the direct blue light at night, and the sleep disturbances this can cause (I). For the first few days, as soon as I woke, I felt instantly drawn to immediately check my phone as usual, and see what I’d missed for all those hours. What I quickly realised is that it wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait an hour or two longer. It became freeing to leave my phone turned off in the other room, and simply start each day focused on myself, and my own journey, rather than waking up to instant comparisons from a harmless scroll of others lives on Instagram, or unimportant message demands.

2. Far more quality time to think and reflect.

Rather than waking rushed or late for something, or to the instant demands of daily life, dedicating the first hour of the day to movement, mindfulness and mastery increased my overall feelings of happiness and contentment. At the start, it felt wrong in some way to sit and read a few pages of a book with a coffee first thing, or to journal in the morning instead of my usual evening habit. But overtime, that dedication to myself before anything else made such a positive difference on my mindset and energy state, ultimately influencing how the remainder unfolded.

3. A positive morning means positive personal choices.

I’m frequently guilty of putting off a workout due to time constraints, snacking late at night, and using my phone right before trying to sleep. However, waking earlier replaced all of these bad habits by working out first thing, sleeping through the cravings and adopting an actual bedtime routine to assist with the early starts. I discovered that a better morning routine leads to a host of other positive, personal choices. 

4. Improved productivity and creativity.

Although the 20/20/20 formula resulted in a generally brighter start to each day, the act of waking up early also meant that I could focus on writing my course, and channelling other creative BITB pursuits, before doing anything else. According to Sharma, you should dedicate the first 90-minutes of your day to working on your most important projects, as this is when you have the most energy, focus and willpower before all those other distractions creep in.

5. Better sense of calm and fulfilment.

Waking early to focus on myself, and dedicate my most productive hours to my goals, meant I was actually able to follow through and complete a project I’m now incredibly proud of. Not only that, but because of the principles of the 5am Club, I was also able to do this in a much shorter time frame, compared to initially feeling overwhelmed at the scale, which had me holding off altogether. The self-discipline I learned, and the sense of achievement gained, is definitely something I’ll carry forward to the next project or goal.

Whilst I didn’t always stick to the 5am club, by adopting the 20/20/20 formula, I discovered that committing yourself to anything which is a physical and mental challenge, can bring with it huge amounts of personal growth and change if you allow it to.

Follow me on @beautybrainuk to see how it’s going, and let me know if you’ll be joining with a 30-day challenge too.

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