HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: I joined the 5 am club. Now what?
Our kid is an excellent sleeper. Always has been. We have been blessed with never having to have that conversation about how many times we wake up a night, or if he bugs us for random bottle feeds, or just cries randomly at 2 am for no reason. He has a set schedule that has never changed, although since he has been in daycare it’s been slightly amended. Because he is so active in the day, it means he goes to bed even earlier and he let's us know: he grabs his favourite blankie, pacifier and soft toy and points to his cot. So by 5 pm he is tucked in and by 5:30 pm he is sound asleep, which means we have some extra time for work, planning the next day and sleeping by 9 pm at the latest.
Some nights, we go to bed when the sun’s still up. And it’s not because we have to wake up early. We’re just knackered. And want to go to sleep.
He rises at about 6:30 am, has a round table conference with his teddy bears and is ready for his porridge and yoghurt at 7 am. This is just a side bar but sometimes when we walk into his room to get him, a few of his teddies have been chucked out of the cot and I think it’s because they misbehave during his meeting so I’m really proud of him for being assertive (but I also don’t want him to be a patriarchal misogynist, so there’s that).
But back to the 5 am thing. There is absolutely no reason for me to be waking up at this time in the morning, is what I’m saying. I don’t set an alarm to be woken up that early, it just happens, and so now, without any say or control over it, I am part of this club by proxy. And I like it but I also hate it.
Here’s a quick explainer on what this club is, for those who don’t know: The 5 am club was developed by Robin Sharma and it involves a 20/20/20 structure. You wake at the crack of dawn, depending what season it is, do 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning and 20 minutes of studying. The main takeaway, or rather question that Sharma asks followers to ponder on involves the “studying” part and this question is: “What one skill could you learn right now that would have the biggest positive impact on your life and income?” And when you have that answer you use 20 minutes studying this.
I obviously do all of this because I wake so early but not necessarily in this structure. I wake up at 5 am and so automatically I have joined the club, but I didn’t know about the “rules” until I read up on them. I plan my day – this does not take 20 minutes because I already in some cases plan months in advance or at least the night before, so my personal planning involves making a list in my diary and checking things off. I do not exercise at 5 am. I go straight to the gym to play tennis or do another workout at about 8:30 after I drop my kid off at daycare. It makes sense, it’s on the way back from his school. So there’s not only 20 minutes “wasted” at 5 am but in my case an hour. I find that 20 minutes of exercise is good at the very least but I always aim for more. So I guess you could say those 20 minutes of the morning is reserved for writing and deadlines. I complete all of these and on most days, again because research and planning and the structure of the piece is done way ahead of time, I am done before I take the tot to school.
As for the studying part, well, I don’t know. I don’t want to learn another language, I probably should want to, but I don’t. I want to improve my tennis skills but I am already doing that in my own time. I am trying to focus on getting off caffeine and I am on week three. It’s horrible and hate it but better for my health but there’s only so much time I can spend on studying a cup or two of rooibos tea, so some time is dedicated to research and planning for a book I am currently working on. I do no actual writing on the book at this time because I have already filed up to a thousand words and, well, it’s a lot to ask to just carry on writing and swap over from one piece to the next consecutively. I’m sure some writers possess this wizardry. I do not.
Basically, what I’m saying is that by 8:00 am, I am done with the day. Which is great. It’s very productive. Many studies say very intelligent and successful people do this but after about 3 months of it, I still feel only moderately intelligent and I don’t see or feel any major successes, especially not in my economic situation. There is no more money coming in than if I had to wake up at 11 am for example.
It’s productive. But… It. Is. So. Boring (imagine me clapping my way through this statement like an angry woman from Brooklyn).
Sharma’s takeaway line from the 5 am club is: “Own your morning. Elevate your life”. Okay… I’ll give you a win on the “own your morning” bit, Sharma, but my life has only been elevated by a whole bunch of “what now?” for the rest of the day.
Sharma also urges: “Join the 5 a.m. club. Your most valuable hours are 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. They have the least interruptions”. One hundred percent agree. I cannot fault this fact. But then, for the rest of the day I am miserable, tired (which is not helped by the lack of caffeine - which would probably make me better at concentrating on writing more of the book during the day but I’m not one of those people who can force it either) and I also spend a lot more time endlessly scrolling through social media with zero joy. By the time I have to fetch our kid I am so tired from being tired.
I did not sign up for this. To be frank, I would swap this membership for more stress, more sleep and less success. But then again, would I?
I’m clearly terrible at this but I have no choice, my body clock is just dictating my life.
What to do? What do you do?
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.
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