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How to Sleep Well, Get Buff, & Launch Your Passion Project

What does it mean when you wake up at 5 am? It means you might be crazy. Just kidding. It means you want to try to be more productive and get more things done but without feeling burned out.

I have been playing with the idea of waking up at 5 am for a few years now. I’ve read that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the famous book Eat, Pray, Love, starts writing at 5 am. She said that she wants to get her writing done before she gets interrupted by calls and notifications by 9 a.m. Robin Sharma, the author of the book The 5 AM club, also does a great job of showing how awesome it looks to wake up super early in the morning.

In 2020, our country was in lockdown most months, so I thought I’d give it a try. I was also suffering from major Zoom fatigue. I needed some quiet time for deep work.

✅ Benefits of Waking up at 5 AM
Is waking up at 5 am good? I would say, heck yeah. There are tons of benefits of waking up at 5 am.

Time for deep work without interruptions
Feeling more fulfilled at the end of the day because you’ve accomplished so much
Extra time to work on side or passion projects before you start your day job
Extra time to invest in yourself by reading or exercising
These were just a few of the benefits of my experience. I’m sure you’ll discover more once you give waking up at 5 am a try. What worked for me was trying it out as an experiment and focusing on a passion project. In this article, I’ll take you through the steps I took, so you can also start waking up at 5 am and make your creative dreams come true too.

Decide which project you want to focus on.
Have you been planning to write a novel, start painting, or pick up on an old hobby? Whatever it is, make sure to pick one and stick with it for the next few days or a couple of weeks.

When you have a purpose, it’s much easier to wake up at 5 am. My passion project was writing during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which happens every November. The goal was to write a 50,0000-word novel. I’ve always loved the idea of writing a novel and participating in NaNoWriMo. So, in 2020, I finally joined for the first time. There was nowhere to go anyway, and it kept me busy.

Commit to a timeline for experimenting waking up at 5 a.m.
Have you been wanting to join the 5 am club, but you’re hesitant to commit? Then, don’t commit. Just experiment with it. And just like any experiment, you should set a deadline. Can you try waking up at 5 am for the next 5 days? Sounds doable, right? There’s really no ideal timeline. Choose what works best for you. But make sure you get enough data during this experiment. Doing it for two days might not give you enough information as to how you feel and what you can truly accomplish when you become a morning person.✅ Create a to-do list for the extra 1–2 hours you have.
Okay, so now you have a timeline, the next step is to have a specific to-do list for that extra one or two hours you’ve gained. For example, if you usually wake up at 7 am, you now have two hours of alone time. These two hours are precious, so you need to make them count. If you’re planning to complete a passion project, what are the daily actions that you need to take? As for me, my goal was to write 500 words every single morning.

Adjust your sleeping hours to at least one hour earlier.
Is it unhealthy to wake up at 5 am? This is one question you might be worried about. And the answer really depends on your sleep schedule. If you decide to wake up at 5 am but don’t adjust your bedtime a couple of hours earlier, then it might be unhealthy for you.

So, how to wake up and not feel tired? Adjust your bedtime at least one hour earlier. Start with one hour and continue adding 30 more minutes. Before I started waking up at 5 am, I went to sleep at midnight and woke up at 7 am. My husband and I usually watch a movie or a TV series from 10 pm to midnight. When I did the 5-am experiment, I tried my best to sleep at 10 pm. During the first few days, I ended up sleeping at 11 pm. As the days went by, I was able to fall asleep at 10 pm.

Prepare something that makes you excited.
Now, sleeping earlier might be a challenge. But it’s more challenging to actually wake up and get up. It’s always too easy to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. What I usually do is prepare an exciting dessert that goes with my coffee. I love pairing a sweet treat with my black coffee. I love the exposition of taste in my mouth. So, during the experiment, I prepared chocolate brands that I haven’t tried before. You might not be a sweet tooth like me, so you might want to try something else. Are you a health nut or a gym buff? Maybe try a new green smoothie or invest in a piece of new exercise equipment that you’re excited to test out in the morning.

⏲ Set a daily alarm a few minutes before 5 am.
So, if you want to actually get up and start moving at 5 am, you need to set the alarm at least 10 minutes before 5 am. I had many situations where I set the alarm at 5 am, but I actually ended up getting up at 5:45 am. So, those 45 minutes were wasted! I tried not to beat myself up and just tried to get up much earlier the next day.

Set success indicators for the experiment and for the completion of your project.
So, in any experiment, you need to understand when to call it a success. For me, it was a success if it was sustainable to wake up at 5 am and if I was able to write 500 words for my novel each day. I also checked how I felt. Did I feel fulfilled or dissatisfied? Just like anything else, some things work for other people, but they might not be the right fit for you. Make sure you’ll have some indicators of whether or not the experiment is successful. If you feel like you don’t have enough data, you can always extend the experiment.

‍♀️ Exercise or try Yoga.
You might probably roll your eyes at me now. Not only am I asking you to wake up at 5 am, but now I’m asking you to exercise. But it’s true though. There is plenty of research proving the correlation between sleep and exercise. I personally just do 10-minutes of standing Yoga. I’ve said goodbye to chaturanga when I got diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Do what works for you. Even just a 10-minute stretch will do wonders!

‍♀️ Include mindfulness meditation in your morning routine.Including mindfulness meditation in your daily routine will not only help you become calmer but will also help you sleep better at night. Since I started using Headspace, a meditation app, I was able to fall asleep much quicker. There is nothing more dreadful than to be in your bed desperately wanting to fall asleep, so you can wake up early, but not being able to actually fall asleep. You only need five minutes if you’re using Headspace thanks to their super-short burst of meditation sessions.

❌ Don’t drink caffeine after 3 pm.
Multiple studies have shown that drinking caffeine after 3 pm (or six hours before your sleeping time) can affect your sleep. If you really need a boost of energy in the afternoon, try non-caffeinated beverages, such as tea and a warm cup of water. When I badly need coffee in the afternoon, I would brew just a little bit to have that lovely coffee smell, but don’t actually drink the coffee. I would freeze it as a batch for when I want iced coffee. You have to do everything to make sure that your sleep schedule is not affected, so you are energized when you wake up at 5 am the next day.

Take a nap!
Listen, this is the best tip of all! If you want to remain functional for the rest of the day, take a quick nap — even for just 20 minutes. I have mastered the art of napping during the pandemic. I nap when my kids are napping. My one-year-old naps for 2–3 hours in the afternoon while I try to get 20–30 minutes. I’m lucky that I work from home, so I can nap in my own bed. If you’re working in the office, you might have to get a little creative in terms of your napping schedule.

Review your experiment and decide on the next steps.
After the experiment, take the time to review your experience. Ideally, write it down. You can even write a journal of your 5-am journey, so you can see your experience evolve right in front of you. Did you like waking up at 5 am? What did you accomplish? Is it sustainable for you to wake up at 5 am? And more importantly, do you consider it as a successful habit that makes you more productive?

Waking up at 5 am is just one of the success habits of top remote leaders. I’ve curated 19 more success habits that help remote professionals stay sharp, from journaling to showering with cold water, and more.

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