I came across Robin Sharma’s 5am club the way I do most things these days, on Instagram. Ever since reading Sharma’s hit book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, I’ve followed the life coach on social media enjoying the positivity his posts pepper throughout my day. The eight Talisman letters located on the back of the book are passages that hit the nail on the head when it comes to caring about what matters most, and act like a compass for life when you need your priorities realigned. I don’t have a guru per se, but if I had to pick one, Sharma would probably be it. So, when he released a book called ‘The 5am Club’ about a revolutionary morning routine that can change your life for the better, I decided to give the 20/20/20 (movement, reflection and learning) method a shot. I read the book, bought a morning journal, and set a week’s worth of 5am alarms on my phone. Armed and (naively thinking I was) ready, here’s a take on how it went so you can see if it’s right for you.
Painfully obvious, but trying to join the 5am Club without reading the book and by just reading the below will feel like a baptism of fire. I know because I tried unsuccessfully to ‘hack’ my induction by reading multiple reviews online. If you’re like me and still insist on trying before reading, all you need to do is set your alarm clock for 5am, exercise intensely for the first 20 minutes, meditate/write a journal/plan goals for the second 20 minutes and learn something new for the last 20 minutes.
Early to bed
Setting your alarm at 5am when your usual bedtime is around 11pm or midnight (like mine) can be painfully hard. It goes completely against everything we’ve learned about getting eight hours sleep and is unrealistic if you have a baby dictating your evening routine or a job that doesn’t allow you to switch off. I averaged about six hours sleep a night during the week but felt the ‘sleep for me time’ swap was worth it. Using the first 60 minutes of my day for personal preparation made my entire day more productive and intentional, but I had to make significant shifts in my social calendar and evening routine to make it work.
Early to rise
The tag line of ‘The 5am Club’ is ‘own your morning, elevate your life’. It’s a big claim, but one that makes sense as it puts you in control of your day and cultivates self-discipline. When my first 5am alarm went off, I pressed snooze so hard I’m surprised my phone didn’t break. I mindlessly pulled on my leggings and workout top, grabbed my skipping rope and worked out intensely for 20 minutes per Sharma’s advice. I then sat down at my open journal and spent 20 minutes writing morning pages and quarterly goals, before reading a wellness tourism whitepaper for 20 minutes. Because I had prepared everything I needed to move/meditate/learn the night before it made it easy to flow through the routine. The problem was that I was completely exhausted, as I hadn’t mastered going to bed early.
Sharma’s magic morning routine formula can be broken down into three parts, the first of which is working out intensely and sweating for the first 20 minutes. No one ever regrets exercising and the clinically proven benefits of moving more are undisputed, so this is a no brainer. In the words of the productivity master, “Sweating releases BDNG, a brain chemical that actually grows neural connections. Working out also releases dopamine which makes you feel happy.” I would skip, go for a short run, do a HIIT workout or a quick Vinyasa flow at home before settling down with a cup of warm water with lemon and some coffee for the next step of the routine.
If time is money and health is wealth, then the 5am Club is definitely worth joining. Not only did I have a lot more time and space to get through my daily to-do list, but I was so much more productive than usual. It also ensured that before my day began, I had time to take care of my priorities and be proactive rather than reactive as the day went on. Waking up so early and dedicating time to workout, meditate, journal, plan, reflect and learn was a game changer and proved to be the biggest takeaway from the experiment. I got through my to-do list faster with zero distractions, didn’t feel obliged to look at my phone or email until the workday began, and in general felt a lot more in control. It was good for me physically and mentally, and my business also benefitted.
The second and third parts of the morning routine include 20 minutes of ‘pocketing’ (which can include journaling, meditating, visualising, goal setting and planning) and 20 minutes of learning (reading non-fiction, listening to podcasts, learning a language, etc.). My favourite ‘pocketing’ routine involved 5-10 minutes of morning pages where I write everything that comes to mind down with no structure or plan. I then write down my annual goals and break them down into bi-annual and quarterly steps before pinpointing one important task I can complete that day, which will bring me a step closer to my goal. Setting aside time to do this was quite powerful first thing in the morning. Spending 20 minutes learning something new was also a game changer.
After a week of waking up at the crack of dawn, I decided to adopt the 5am Club morning routine but condensed it and shifted it a little bit to suit my schedule. I don’t believe that rigidity suits everyone and I like picking bits and pieces from different methodologies and incorporating them into my life in a way that works for me. I prioritise getting seven or eight hours sleep over waking up at 5am but still set aside ‘me time’ in the morning to sweat, reflect and learn as I loved the morning routine and found it helped to create some much-needed space in my day and enhanced my productivity and overall wellbeing. I’d recommend giving the 5am Club a shot, but don’t be afraid to set your own rules.