So far, I’ve mostly failed at waking up at 5:30

Takeaway: Waking up early is hard, and I’ve failed at my productivity experiment to wake up at 5:30 every morning a lot of days. But I’m experimenting with a bunch of ideas to fix that.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 53s.

Go away, 5:30.

I’m a part of a weekly meditation group, and every week we get together for a group sitting meditation, walking meditation, and then listen to a dharma talk (a talk about Buddhism). One of the things that Jack Kornfield said during his prerecorded talk last week surprised me – that he’s going through a divorce. How the hell could a world-renowned meditation teacher, of all people, be getting divorced?

The thing I loved the most about his talk was how he wasn’t afraid to present an authentic, vulnerable version of himself to whoever happened to be listening. If you flip through the pages of Men’s Health, People, Fortune, or even through a book written by a “self help guru”, you might assume that those people are perfect at what they do. That every person in Fortune is rich, every person in Men’s Health doesn’t struggle to stay fit, and every person in People is effortlessly beautiful.1

Unfortunately, though, vulnerability doesn’t sell magazines.

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I obviously don’t consider myself a “productivity guru” – sure, I’m obsessed with this stuff, but I’m just 23 and I struggle with productivity every day. That’s one of the reasons I created this project.

So far my productivity experiments have gone swimmingly, with the exception of waking up at 5:30 every morning. And I’m trying very hard at it, too. This morning I woke up at 6:45, after hitting snooze a bunch of times. Yesterday I woke up at 5:45, but I was so tired that I needed to take a 45-minute nap at around 9. And this pattern has repeated, backward through time, since the day I started the experiment. I’m going to struggle with this experiment a lot, but that’s okay.

Over the next several months I’m going to be experimenting a lot with waking up earlier, and writing about what I find. I’m going to try things like:

  • Rewarding myself for waking up at 5:30
  • Creating a nighttime ritual so I can get to bed on time
  • Shutting off my electronics an hour before bed
  • Exercising earlier on in the day
  • Cutting off my consumption of caffeine past a certain time

And of course,

  • Keep trying and experimenting every day until I succeed

It’s going to be a fun ride. And you better believe I’m going to be honest about what works and what doesn’t.

Image sources: 5:30.


  1. The only exception to this, of course, is Eva Longoria, who is sexy regardless of how her day is going. 

  • Jay

    You are on the right path with your experiments. I get up every day at 5. Took some time to get used to, but it rocks. I get my exercise over with and never feel guilty about missing a workout because life gets away from me. It does mean having a night time routine, and giving up late nights. But totally worth it! Look forward to seeing how you progress with this!

    • Chris

      Thanks a lot!! It’s a wild time right now – last weekend I volunteered for four days, this weekend I’m off to a wedding, and next weekend I’m moving, so I’m excited to see how I can reach a new equilibrium. It’s going to get a hell of a lot easier once I’m done with the things that will make routinizing waking up earlier so difficult! Thanks a lot for the encouragement :)

      If you had to give one tip for waking up earlier, what would it be?

      • Jay

        Honestly, my one tip would be – just keep at it. It takes a little bit of time, but eventually, your body settles into the rhythm. After about 3 months, I no longer had an overwhelming urge to hit the snooze button. And within a few more, my body was waking me up a few minutes before my alarm.

        So I guess the tip is iron your will and don’t hit snooze! :)

        • Chris

          Ah, three months! That’s crazy. Thanks a lot for the tip. I knew I would struggle a bit with this experiment, and knowing that it might take a month or more to settle into a new groove is encouraging! Thanks.

  • Keep going with it Chris, I know how you feel. I recently changed my wake-up time to 6am instead of 7. It’s difficult and I have to admit there’s been days where I’ve just completely slept straight through to 9am.

    Writing a productivity blog is funny sometimes, I’m sure you’ll feel the same way, but I ask myself, “Why am I writing about productivity when I can’t even keep it up myself?”

    But there’s always those days. It’s inevitable that they’ll happen, it’s just about pushing through I suppose!

    Cheers.

    • Chris

      Thanks a lot Sam! You hit the nail on the head – writing about productivity is useless if you don’t live it, and admit when you fail. I’ve been pretty successful at my other productivity experiments so far (meditating an hour/day, using my smartphone for only 1hr/day, and writing 200,000 words), but there’s definitely more room to learn with this experiment, so I’m excited. :) Thanks for the comment!

  • I love the approach Leo Babauta takes in Zen Habits (www.zenhabits.net): moving my wake-up time earlier by 5 minutes every few days has made it easier to succeed. And then, as you say, Chris, I’m learning to be more honest with myself and to lower my expectations.

    • Chris

      I love that – that might have to be one of the things I try if I’m having a bit of trouble. You’re right, waking up earlier is a pretty big change, and I just might be jumping in too deep, too fast! I think self-honesty and managing your expectations is key to this stuff – don’t want to turn into a robot or anything :)

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  • Janet Ziegler

    Experiment with vipassana. If you haven’t already done this 10 days of meditation and waking at 4am sets a great routine.

  • Janet Ziegler

    Experiment with vipassana. If you haven’t already done this 10 days of meditation and waking at 4am sets a great routine.

  • Nayt

    How is this going? I recommend going to sleep earlier, even if you don’t feel tired, and having a specific thing that you look forward to, first thing in the morning.

    • It’s going well! I hit the 5:30 mark when I aim for it, but one of the things I’m realizing is that there isn’t a huge correlation between my wakeup time and how productive I am. That’s something I’m experimenting with over the next few weeks (I’m charting my energy levels over a typical day for a productivity experiment), so I’m excited to see what I find from that experiment, and whether I’m naturally more of a morning person or a night owl.

  • Nayt

    How is this going? I recommend going to sleep earlier, even if you don’t feel tired, and having a specific thing that you look forward to, first thing in the morning.

    • It’s going well! I hit the 5:30 mark when I aim for it, but one of the things I’m realizing is that there isn’t a huge correlation between my wakeup time and how productive I am. That’s something I’m experimenting with over the next few weeks (I’m charting my energy levels over a typical day for a productivity experiment), so I’m excited to see what I find from that experiment, and whether I’m naturally more of a morning person or a night owl.

  • Ross Kenneth Park

    I actually find I’m more productive working later hours, Chris. The problem is that my boss works 9 to 5, so noon to 8 doesn’t fly particularly well! Do you think that one can change their posture from a morning to night person over time? *Side note: this is my first post, and I really enjoy the content you are creating on this site. Keep up the epic work!

    • Happy to have you here brother! (Sorry for taking so long to respond; I’m hunkering down to work on a big New Year’s project right now!)

      I personally think the best thing to do is to embrace how much energy you have throughout the day instead of trying to fight against it. That said, I’ve found that you can do quite a bit to mask your natural mental posture throughout the day, like by consuming caffeine, but at the end of the day that really only masks your behaviour. Have you stumbled upon my article about calculating your ‘Biological Prime Time’? Might be up your alley!: http://alifeofproductivity.com/calculate-biological-prime-time/

  • Ross Kenneth Park

    I actually find I’m more productive working later hours, Chris. The problem is that my boss works 9 to 5, so noon to 8 doesn’t fly particularly well! Do you think that one can change their posture from a morning to night person over time? *Side note: this is my first post, and I really enjoy the content you are creating on this site. Keep up the epic work!

    • Happy to have you here brother! (Sorry for taking so long to respond; I’m hunkering down to work on a big New Year’s project right now!)

      I personally think the best thing to do is to embrace how much energy you have throughout the day instead of trying to fight against it. That said, I’ve found that you can do quite a bit to mask your natural mental posture throughout the day, like by consuming caffeine, but at the end of the day that really only masks your behaviour. Have you stumbled upon my article about calculating your ‘Biological Prime Time’? Might be up your alley!: http://ayearofproductivity.com/calculate-biological-prime-time/

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