Unmasking the 5 AM Myth 🕔💤

This week’s newsletter is all about the 5 am club. Personally, I’m not a member - what about you?

Thankfully Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks & Rec agrees!


It’s no secret the entrepreneurial world is chock-full of “secrets for success.” From podcasts, newsletters, and books *clears throat with a realization these are all things I’ve done,* we are constantly bombarded with advice without considering if that advice is something that could actually be implemented into our lives. One popular piece of advice that I’ve seen everywhere is that waking up at 5am is a crucial factor in creating success. But, is this rooted in fact or just a biased opinion?


I think it’s a false narrative - shockingly I have an opinion, I KNOW!


“Back in my day, when people worked hard and got to work at 6am” - sound familiar?


Here’s the thing that Grandpa Jim won’t say: he wasn’t the operations manager of his home and, whether or not he was running a business, he didn’t have email, a cell phone, or instant access to his work in the palm of his hand. He woke up early, because that’s when the sun came up. 


There is ZERO data on the connection between waking up at 5 am and happiness. None. There are tons of studies and lots of data about the connection between maintaining consistent sleep schedule and overall mental health and wellbeing. Once again, that is NOT specific to 5am. 


Here’s another cold hard fact - lack of sleep can mirror the impact of intoxication. In a study completed in June 2020, after 24 hrs of wakefulness they sent drivers behind the wheel and the sleep deprived people (men moreso than women, but still) had much slower reaction times than those who had been drinking, and coffee didn’t help at all. So, your cognitive function doesn’t give a sh*t about Sober January if you aren’t going the f*ck to sleep. It also doesn’t matter if you get up at 5 am, if you’re not sleeping you’re going to be tired AF. 


*Steps off soap box.*


Your peak productivity time is different than every other entrepreneur or go-getter. Known as our circadian rhythm, these are physical, mental, and behavior changes that we experience wthin a 24-hr time period, and yes, light and darkness have a huge impact - but so does: food, stress, physical activity, social environment, and temperature. 


What are some ways you can figure out your internal body clock setting? 


Take a reality inventory:

  • If you can try to wake up without an alarm. See what time your body naturally wakes up. The average sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, and the average person gets about 5 full sleep cycles. Starting at your wake time, work backwards about 7.5 hours to find your bedtime. 


If your natural wake up time is 9am, but you need to be up at 6am, because you have to take your kid to school - you have to fight your internal clock. There’s no way around it. But what you can do is put habits and systems in place so that you can, ideally, go to bed between 10 and 11pm to get roughly 7-8 hrs of sleep. Then, here’s the big thing: CONSISTENCY


If you’re into journaling or tracking data, another great option is to track your mood what what activity you’re doing throughout the day. This can also help you figure out when you’re most productive. (This section is called “Truth” in my book, The Possiblity Project.)


It’s a chicken and egg concept, because without consistent sleep, creating habits and systems is very hard to do, and without habits and systems, you can’t get consistent sleep. In order to have a consistent sleep schedule, not only do you need morning habits, you also need bedtime habits. Yup - you read that right, this means you might have to actually go to bed earlier. But, once you have it down, it opens you up to so much possibility, including that thing you’ve been putting off doing for yourself in the mornings. 


Seriously though, think about what it would be like to have a less hectic morning - how could that impact your productivity and creativity for your business or your job? A small victory of consistent sleep gets you out of hustle culture and back into the business of purpose and possibility. 


Let’s “circle back” to Grandpa Jim…


If you’re goal this year is to work with a coach or mentor, or if you are already working with a coach or mentor, it’s not one size fits all. Blindly adhering to recommendations or advice could lead to ineffective strategies, though they may have worked for someone else. Find a mentor or coach who is “in the ring” with you, they are someone whose been there and done that, probably has the t-shirt too. Why keep listening to dudes who spend their time at the golf course and tell people they will make millions if they just wake up at 5am. Shift your focus to those who understand the impact of not just your job and your business, but all the other things you take care of or want in your life. 


Remember, it doesn’t matter what time you wake up; it matters that you are scheduling your priorities not prioritizing your schedule.  This week notice what’s working and not working in your sleep schedule, and ask yourself what new habits or systems can bring positive change and possibility back in? That is where success is cultivated. 

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