It must have been the winter of 2008. It was a cold one and my wife and I decided to break up the winter and head to Fiji for a week. So we packed up our 7 month old daughter and off we went. My outstanding memories from Fiji were a cockerel who crowed every morning at 5am (grrrr!!!), the amazing friendliness of the people, the beautiful island itself and a tiny book stall in the lobby of a hotel… the name of which I have altogether forgotten.
I have a passion for books and while my wife and daughter were having ice cream in the air conditioned restaurant I was able to indulge my passion browsing through the books. There was a mix of fiction, health and business and then my eyes settled on a title, “The Greatness Guide”. On the cover was the picture of a bald, slightly tanned smiley guy named Robin Sharma. I’d heard of him before because he also wrote, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” so I flicked through the pages and came across a chapter entitled, The 5 O’Clock Club. This immediately grabbed my attention because I used to belong to a 5 O’Clock Club back in Ireland. I was working for AIG in the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC), Dublin as a software developer and as 5 o’clock approached the emails and texts would start to circulate… Fancy a quick drink before heading home? Pint at 5? Are you on for a couple of ‘scoops’ after work?… and so on. They were great times and we were a close bunch who all worked well together.
This, however, wasn’t the kind of club Robin had in mind. Robin wasn’t talking about five in the afternoon… he was talking about 5 o’clock in the morning! You’ve got to be kidding, I thought. Who in their right mind, and didn’t own a pesky rooster (!) would willingly get out of bed at 5am? There were some interesting ideas in the book and it’s an easy enjoyable read so I bought it anyway. It wasn’t until many months later when I started to get frustrated that I didn’t have enough time in the day to do everything I wanted to get done. As many young fathers (and mothers) experience, your time is consumed by looking after the little bundle of joy you’ve been blessed with and with that comes many sacrifices… least of which is time. Not only was I frustrated with not having the time to do the things that were important to me I was getting out of shape, noticeably so… and something needed to be done.
The sun is new every day ~ Heraclitus
I decided to give it a go and so started my venture into a new kind of 5 o’clock club. Knowing myself a little too well I put the alarm clock at the far side of the room and if I was slow to move I got an encouraging kick from my loving wife. During those days I used my early hours to workout, teach myself shorthand (a miserable failure!) and study whatever was relevant to my work at the time. It didn’t take long before it became routine and I began to look forward to those extra couple of hours in the morning. My productivity increased immensely and I recovered the sense of balance that I was seeking. Since then I’ve continued to rise early whenever I need an extra couple of hours in the day. If you’re interested in giving it a go, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…
- Most people need about 7 – 8 hours of sleep and your ability to perform at a high rate will drop if you go into too much of a sleep deficit. Research also tells us that those who get too much sleep or too little sleep tend to have a shorter lifespan than those who manage to get the right amount for them. How much sleep do you need?
- It takes about a week or two to get into it.
- Whenever you take on something new most people forget that they may have to give up something in return. For me it was late night TV… something that wasn’t too difficult to drop. What will you have to give up to make this work for you?
- After years of experimenting I’ve found that I can function and perform well throughout the week when I rise early five mornings of the week and lie in (7am!) on the other days. What will work for you?
- Have something lined up to do. If you don’t have a plan it’s far too easy to roll over and go back to sleep. What are you getting up for?
Here’s a model that I enjoy using and I find it really sets me up for the day ahead (remember, most successful people start their day off with a routine). It’s called the “20-20-20″ and this is how it works.
- Divide the first hour of your morning into 3 blocks of 20 minutes.
- The first 20 minute block is used to kick start your day in an immensely positive way. Get out and go for a run or a walk (fast paced!). Fill your lungs up with that fresh morning air and say good morning to the odd neighbour you might meet on the road. Now you’re fully awake and you won’t want to go back to bed.
- The second block of 20 minutes is used to feed your mind. Pick up a book or an article relevant to your work or study or something that interests you, a biography maybe.
- The third and final block of 20 minutes is used to feed your soul. Put away the book, get comfortable and meditate. Just sit and relax and let your thoughts wash over you, let them float past you like little clouds… just observe them. There are many articles and web pages dedicated to meditation so I’ll let you explore these in your own time but the physical and mental benefits of regular meditation are well documented and cannot be disputed. If you’ve never done it before, give it a go… I wager after 2 weeks of consistent ‘sitting’ it will become part of your daily routine.
The 20-20-20 approach works well because in order to have a balanced, energised life we have to look after our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual/purposeful needs and this exercise helps achieve each of them… first thing in the morning.
Robin and I aren’t the only advocates for rising early, here’s why Richard Branson does it.
Knowing what you know now: How can you take control of your day? What would your 20-20-20 formula look like?
Knowing what you know now: What are the exciting things that you can accomplish in your life with an extra 2 hours a day or an extra 10 hours a week… or an extra 40 hours a month? My guess is a lot!