5AM Club – My Morning Routine

Getting up early for more productivity, satisfaction, and happiness.

It is not without reason that the saying “the early bird catches the worm” is so popular around the globe. One may like it more while others tend to get a little offended, especially after a rough night out when 5am becomes their bedtime and most definitely not the moment to put on their running shoes and hit the tracks.

I’ve always been somewhat of an early bird, much to the dislike of my parents: I would start bouncing around in their bed at 4.30 in the morning when I was a toddler. Even as I grew older, I hardly ever managed to stay in bed until after 9am. I was also the one who got tired very quickly during a night out with friends in my teenage years. With the only difference that back then, I didn’t use my natural rhythm as a superpower for an overall more fulfilled life.

Why routines are so effective

So, why should we implement routines in the first place? According to an article published by “Northwestern Medicine”, routines like your sleep schedule and bedtime habits affect your mental sharpness, emotional well-being and energy. “Maintaining consistent times for waking and going to bed can help you get better rest”, the article continues.

Another article by “Piedmont Healthcare” underlines what I would also perceive as the greatest benefit: Whenever you find yourself in a position to make a choice, you introduce a degree of stress into your life. According to a study featured in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the greater the number of decisions you must make, the more your self-control diminishes. Although it's impossible to completely eliminate decision-making from your life, establishing consistent routines can greatly reduce the uncertainty in your daily activities.

Small changes, big differences

Even though it seems like an insignificant change, implementing small routines of only 30 minutes can have a huge impact on your life. Just think about it: If you spend that time on reading a mentally challenging book or something that could enhance your career, you end up with 3.5 hours per week, which is 14 hours per month! That’s almost two working days dedicated to something you love, or you’d like to invest in.

For me, I feel the most “clean” and “neutral” in the morning, therefore I want to invest that energy in my self-development and my personal passion projects.

My morning routine

So what do my mornings look like specifically?

  1. I follow the mantra “early to bed and early to rise”. As the title already suggests, my day starts at 5am.
  2. The first thing I do is to give my body a proper stretch and then immediately take out my journal. I write down 4 things I’m grateful for out of which number 1 is ALWAYS health. It’s not all about health, but without health, everything else becomes nothing. I write down full sentences such as “I’m grateful for spring because I enjoy the blooming flowers.” After I wrote down my 4 things, I say them out loud and add a “thank you, thank you, thank you” for each of my points. After that, I move on to my daily journaling. I write down how I feel in a few sentences, whatever’s on my mind or what I’m looking forward to in my day. Next, I write down – usually just in one simple sentence – an easy way for how I can be of service today, mainly to my loved ones but sometimes when I really need it also to myself. Next comes my to-do-list. I separate it into 3 priority sections, with priority 1 being things that must get done that same day. Priority 2 is a list of things I should ideally get done the same day but it’s also fine to postpone them. Priority 3 are things that don’t need to get done that same day but that I just don’t want to forget about for a later point.
  3. Ideally, all of the above shouldn’t take me more than 20 minutes. The next approx. 20 minutes I dedicate to reading. Usually, I read two books at the same time, whereas the one in the morning is a bit more energy-consuming and the one for the evening or during the day is more for entertainment purposes. But that can vary, and I just allow myself to read whatever I crave. Sometimes it’s also a magazine.
  4. Next, I open all the windows in my apartment (unless they were already open during the night). No matter how cold it is and even if it’s just for two minutes: Fresh air is important and helps me “reset” my mind for the day to come. Side note: My boyfriend HATES this part of my routine during the winter months.
  5. At around 5.40 my “proper” day can start. I try to dedicate the next hour to a passion project (like this blog), studying OR to something that just makes me feel good such as going to the gym. My partner and I aim to work out 4 times a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are dedicated to strength training. We rent a little hobby room about 5 minutes from our house where we have our own little gym set-up. This is amazing as we are never restricted to certain opening hours or waiting time when other people are using the gadgets we need. On the weekends, usually Sundays, we go for a HIIT run to work on our VO2 Max.
  6. After our morning projects, which is usually between 6.30 and 7am, we go for a walk through the forest right behind our house. This is by far the best part of my routine, meaning the time of the day that really grounds me and allows me to slow down and be truly grateful for the life we get to live. We made a lot of friends within our neighbourhood community on these walks, mainly all the dog owners, as well as the local farmer we get to chat with almost every single day.
  7. We’re usually back between 7.30 and 7.45. Then it’s time for a quick shower, followed by a nutritious breakfast and we are set for the day.

I have to mention here that this routine is only possible because my partner and I get to work from home most of the time. Our office days look slightly different (certainly no gym and usually I’m busy getting ready properly which is something I don’t do when I work from home – who needs a face full of make-up when nobody sees it anyway). We also have to count in the commute it takes us to get to our workplaces as well as some food-prepping if we didn’t get the chance to do it the night before.

We’re very grateful for our work arrangements and the flexibility we have in our jobs. This allows us to have such a rich morning, which, in return, makes us better employees. I noticed that I’m much more resilient if I can stick to this routine and start my day prioritizing my passions and my health. This way, I much less feel like I’m “missing out” on something I’d “rather do” when I’m supposed to be working because I already got the chance to do it before.

If I had my own company, that’s definitely something I would encourage all my employees to do. I see how much better and also “clearer-minded” it makes me feel, why would I not want everybody around me (who’s also supposed to perform well for the company’s sake) to feel the same way? In that regard it’s a clear win-win situation.