YouTuber and Myprotein ambassador Stan Browney has always been baffled by the attraction of waking up early. Some of the world’s most successful people — Michelle Obama, Tim Cook, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — are famous early risers. But why? Surely it’s just moving the time you go to sleep?
Sensing a challenge opportunity too good to sleep on, Stan decided he was going to wake up at 5am every day for a month, to see if there were really any benefits to starting the day early. Would he have his eyes opened to a new way of life, or will he soon return to a life of hitting snooze? Let’s find out.
In order to get seven hours of proper sleep, Stan would need to be in bed for about eight hours, to account for the time taken to nod off and waking intermittently throughout the night. So this called for a 9pm bedtime, a good three hours earlier than he’s used to.
This was the first problem. Twice a week Stan has football training that ends at 9.30pm. Realistically on these days he wouldn’t get to bed until gone 10.30pm.
Maintaining his social life would be another issue. Finding the time to hang out with his friends and girlfriend while getting to bed at 9pm. Sounds like Stan might struggle.
There were many obvious cons to the challenge. But what about the pros? Stan was sceptical of many of the claimed benefits of an early start, but he was intrigued by these ones:
- Increased productivity
- Fat loss
- More structured routine
- Showing up more powerfully in relationships
Oh, and he loves a challenge.
So it begins
The night before the first early morning, Stan lost track of time. (This becomes a common occurrence, as you’ll see.) He was wide awake at 9:20pm, already missing his 9pm bedtime. As the clock ticked on, he decided to spend the night at his studio. But he still managed to get out of bed on time the next morning. Start as you mean to go on.
Stan’s plan: wake up at home at 5am (duh) and do some microtasks to start the day right: 20 push-ups, open curtains, and make the bed. Then he’d head to the studio, get his cardio in on the treadmill, a cold shower and ready for the day: teeth, skincare, haircare, etc. Hydrate while checking his to-do list, have breakfast at 7am, and then get to work. He’d complete his daily tasks and go to bed at 9pm (if all goes to plan) or by 10pm at the latest.
Another issue soon became clear: Stan’s a workaholic. At the beginning of the challenge, he found himself working from 5am until 9pm. That's one long day. But by day 10, he'd found a proper routine and stopped working so late.
There was also one other issue: getting to bed on time at the weekends. Stan did skip the early bedtime on a few days of the challenge but still woke up at 6am or 7am so his morning routine wasn’t too disrupted.
And because Stan wanted to get a full understanding of life rising at 5am, he continued the challenge while on a family holiday. But he found it pointless. Not able to get to the studio early and get things done, he had four hours in the morning with nothing to do while missing out on evening fun and games with his family. He soon realised there was absolutely no need to be so dogmatic about early starts when on holiday.
So was it worth it? Yes and no. At the end of the challenge, Stan was conflicted. Undoubtedly there were benefits, but there were also considerable downsides.
Being awake so early, he felt like he was getting stuff done before it needed to be done — there was plenty of time to complete his work.
The challenge 100% helped him to build a routine, which in turn helped his productivity. Two clear successes.
What about losing fat? Stan says if this is your goal, this challenge won’t help. It’s all about calories in and calories out, so just focus on that.
And his relationships? Big no. By the end of the challenge, Stan was feeling the effect on his relationships, with his girlfriend in particular disliking the challenge.
Take home message
The real power of an early start, for Stan at least, was the more structured routine and improved productivity. But still, why 5am? If getting up this early works for you and you enjoy it, go ahead. But if not, you can get up later and still have a structured and productive day. It’s all about personal preference.
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