Getting up at 5 AM: The First 30 Days

Getting up at 5 AM!

5am challenge

The first 30 days of getting up at 5 AM is bittersweet. It’s awesome, but it can really suck at the same time. It’s not just mentally and physically exhausting, this seemingly minor life change bleeds into and affects almost every area of your life.

Work performance changes, friends and family all react in different ways, priorities change both long-term and short-term. 5 AM makes you see things that you would otherwise never notice, therefore you start to view the whole world a different way.


But, it’s important to keep in mind:


“Change is good”


My wife didn’t like it at first…

My wife and I are inseparable. Best friends. We do everything together. We are the type of couple that are stuck in the honeymoon period even though we got married years ago. That said, when my 5 AM challenge started we needed to adjust a few things.

One Friday night we were on our way home from dinner, it was about 8:45 PM, and we got a text message from some good friends. They were all out at a local bar drinking and invited us to join. Usually, this would be a no-brainer decision for us. We would go out, drink with them, see where the night took us, have an awesome time, be in bed around 1 AM, and have a nice sleep-in the next morning.

But this time, I didn’t want to go. I knew that going out drinking would make it very difficult for me to get up at 5 AM the next day. I wanted to prioritize my 5 AM challenge.

My wife on the other hand wanted to go out! Friends are a priority too. And, why not?… We always had a great time out drinking with them.

After a small argument, she decided to go out, and I decided to stay in.

The next day, we had a long talk. We discussed the reasons why we both did what we did. And we noticed something pretty cool:


Reasons to go out Friday night (Wife):

  • Had a long and exhausting work week.
  • Wanted to make the most of life
  • Didn’t want to miss out on anything that night.
  • Going out makes her happy

Reasons to stay in Friday night and get up at 5 AM (Joel):

  • Had a long and exhausting work week.
  • Wanted to make the most of life
  • Didn’t want to miss out on anything the next morning
  • Getting up at 5 AM makes me happy


As you can see, the reasons behind our decisions are almost exactly the same. We have the same motivation and drive in life, just go about it in different ways. This realization made it much easier going forward.

My wife and I learned a lot about each other in the first 30 days of my 5 AM-ing. Ultimately, I think our relationship got stronger because of it.

What about bedtime and her hearing the alarm at 5 AM?….   

We still go to bed at the same time. Somewhere between 9.30 and 10.30pm. I usually fall right asleep and my wife stays up reading. As the days go on she has begun to sleep through my 5 AM alarms, not even hearing them. And I’ve learned to stay quiet when getting up in the morning. I sneak around the house like a cat. A stealth, vigilante cat, of course.


Friends, Parties, and Saying No: 

The late night drinking example above is very common. In fact, it’s too common. In the first 30 days of getting up at 5 AM, I got invited out drinking at least 10 times. What I quickly realized is that only 1 of those events was a special occasion.

  • Fri night: drinks at pub for no reason
  • Sat night: drinks at friends house, no reason
  • Tues night: drinks after Volleyball game, no reason
  • Fri night: drinks at bar, no reason
  • Sat night: Friend’s 30th birthday party. **OK, good reason!**
  • Thurs night: Dinner/drinks with co-workers, no reason to stay past 8pm
  • Fri night: Happy hour at new bar that just opened. Pub crawl afterwards, no reason.
  • The list goes on and on!!


It’s important to go out and be with your friends. But it’s not important all the time.

This text message string says it all:

A text between me and a buddy

My relationships with friends have changed a lot. All in all, for the better. After 30 days of prioritizing 5 AM get ups, here are some other observations and notes:

  • My friends respect my time more. Instead of inviting me out to every single little event, they mostly just invite me to the ‘important’ late night events.
  • Some friends wake up and join me in my 5 AM activities. (Surfing, hiking, walking, accountability texts)
  • Most of my friends are on my 5 AM email list, and enjoy reading my crap each morning. They not only support my new lifestyle, they are inspired by it!
  • And sadly, some of my friends I never see anymore. Such is life.

I always remember this when someone invites me out to drink:


“Nothing good happens after 9 PM”


Side note: Cutting out late night drinking has also reduced my annual spending. I used to spend over $10k/year on Alcohol and that’s reduced to less than $3k. And I still drink almost every day. (More on that later)


 Don’t just get up and work!:

Dog park, things to do at 5am

My first few weeks of getting up at 5 AM I usually thought about work immediately after getting up. There are times when being a workaholic is necessary, but it’s a slippery slope. Opening a few emails turns into some quick replies, which turns into problem-solving, which leads to online research… and so on. Before I know it, it’s 8 AM and my morning is completely gone.

Although I was very productive during these 5 AM working sessions, I quickly realized that I was ripping myself off. Robbing myself of the personal time that I worked so hard to get in the first place!

Even today, I need to constantly remind myself why I get up in the morning:


“I don’t get up for work. I get up FOR ME


If my personal finance studies have taught me anything, it is to always Pay Yourself First. Just as the first few dollars out of every paycheck go to ME, the first few hours of each day go to ME before giving time to anyone else.

Working hard is in my blood. If I do feel like working when I wake up at 5 AM, I’m now learning to work for myself. Personal projects, learning new life skills, starting businesses, and solving problems in my personal affairs.

Need ideas for what to do at 5am? Check this list out: 101 Things to to at 5 AM!


Holding myself accountable at 5 AM:


I’m not going to sugarcoat it, getting up early every single day is hard. Sometimes it absolutely sucks. New Year’s day after a long night partying = SUCKS. The morning after Saint Patrick’s day when I drank 9 pints of Guinness and had a pounding headache at 5 AM = SUCKS. I have fairly good self discipline, and even still it’s extremely hard to get out of my cozy bed at 5 AM.

In the first 30 days I found an accountability partner. A buddy of mine also wanted to wake up at 5 AM daily, so we agreed to send each other a text message as soon as our alarm went off each morning. It became a game of who could send the first text message, and how quickly the other one would reply. But this only lasted a few weeks. Eventually I was the only one sending him messages at 5, and I wouldn’t get replies until 8 or 9 AM… if at all. I don’t hold it against him- like I said, getting up at 5 AM every single day is very very hard. And ultimately, I’m the one that failed by not holding him accountable.

*Side note, this is an excellent book on accountability and ownership. (this is an ANZ affiliate link)


The 5 AM list begins:

Shortly after I started this journey the 5 AM email list was born. Feel free to join it. Today, hundreds thousands of friends, family members, coworkers and even strangers hold me accountable for getting up every morning. If I don’t get up at 5 AM and send my email out, everyone will notice!

So if you’re looking to make a change and get up at 5 AM every day, think about finding yourself an accountability partner. Hold each other to your commitments! (And If you ask me nicely, I might be your 5 AM text message buddy – I’m in the Pacific time zone)


The sun shines on those who are outside:

Dawn patrol surfing at 5am sunrise

In my first 30 days I tried to walk outside for at least 20 minutes every morning. One of the things I noticed was there were more people awake during 5 to 6 AM than I thought! It may be because I live in an old neighborhood, but there were at least a few houses on each street with their lights on inside.

A lot of people do get up very early. Most people are older in age, reading the paper or eating breakfast already. I’m no creeper, but I will admit it’s fun looking into people’s houses as I walk down the street!

Many people are out jogging, speed walking, or taking their dogs out. I also occasionally see other young guys, looking just like me, wandering around with their headphones in, probably doing exactly the same thing I’m doing.

Let me ask you this…: How many beautiful sunsets have you seen in your lifetime? OK, now, compare that with how many sunrises you’ve seen in your lifetime. Since I started getting up at 5 AM I’ve learned that sunrises are more beautiful than sunsets. Others seem to agree. Feel free to disagree, but don’t be so quick to judge until you’ve gotten up and enjoyed the sunrise for 30 days straight. 🙂  


Energy Levels:

If you’re not going to bed early and constantly getting up at 5AM, at some point during the day you’ll hit a wall and get tired. I recommend keeping up with sleep by taking a quick nap. The first few weeks of 5 AM-ing it was pretty tough to get my sleeping habits down. Obviously I couldn’t nap at work so I had to stick it out through some very long office workdays. But as far as my energy levels, they remain pretty consistent.

For me, my high or low energy is more directly related to what I eat and how much I work out.

If you’re a fellow new 5 AM-er out there, i’d love to hear your feedback and observations from your first 30 days. Shoot me a note, leave me a comment, or send me your stories!

Make it a great day,



*Sneakers pic up top by Ryan Plomp!

7 thoughts on “Getting up at 5 AM: The First 30 Days

  • Thanks for always holding me accountable to do the things I want to do… but am too lazy to push myself to do consistently (A.K.A. Getting up at 5am).

  • I absolutely love this Joel! I am so inspired by you. I feel like 6am is my sweet spot, but you know what they say. Lean in to the uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. Maybe I can get my act together and actually start getting up a little earlier. If I had an hour more of me time every day, that would be a life changer!

    • Overall yes. It’s easier to obey my self control and say no to sleeping in. But it’s still very challenging for some reason. No matter how much sleep I’ve had, when the alarm goes off at 5 I still naturally want to sleep more. I thought by now I’d be getting up at 5 without an alarm. But I still need it!

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