21 Early Days: Why I’m Getting Up At 5 am

21 Early Days: Why I’m Getting Up At 5 am

You may have noticed the 21 early days hashtag popping up on my Instagram. This is a challenge of getting up everyday at 4.30am for three weeks – which is approximately how long it takes to form a habit.

4.30am seemed just a teeny weeny bit TOO early for me, so I opted for 5 am instead. It’s not much better, but the extra half an hour in bed helps a lot.

The idea of getting up that early has never appealed to me. Then again, does anybody really want to get up at that time? I love sleeping. I love my bed. Given the choice, I’d spend all of my time there. I like to get a minimum of 8 hours sleep in whenever I can.

So why on earth would I choose to get up at 5 am?!

As counselling was drawing to a close, I started to think about the next steps. I needed to think of ways to take care of myself, and live the life I wanted. One of my biggest concerns was that I would become a hermit. More often than not, counselling would be one of the only times I’d venture out of the flat.

All of these plans came into my head. They were things I should have been doing all along, but hadn’t. Eat better. Get outside. Drink more water. The trouble was, I didn’t want to sacrifice my routine to do that. I didn’t want to miss out on time with Neal by having to push my work back to squeeze these things in.

The solution? Make better use of the time I had.

Enter the 21 early days challenge.

Before I even discovered this, I felt like the world was sending me little signs to switch up my routine. Through getting up with Neal at 5am when he was doing some training, I realised I was efficient in those early hours. I joked about doing it more often, then felt the winter blues kick in and changed my mind.

Then, videos about getting up early worked their way into my life. It started with this one from Casey Neistat. In it, he gives an overview of his routine, and discusses with a Navy Seal Commander why it’s beneficial to get up earlier.

Neal was watching it while I was doing something else, but it caught my attention. Casey mentioned how the time between 5am and 7am is when most people are sleeping. Everything is quiet. The distractions are very limited. It’s possible to send an email, and know you won’t get a response right away. You can focus on what you need to do. What he said made a lot of sense to me. So, I told Neal I was going to start getting up earlier and getting things done.

I lasted two days. They were two highly productive and satisfying days. But, my love for my cosy bed was too strong.

Then, again, scrolling through YouTube, I found a video about a 5am morning routine. I was charmed by the fact this person had time to do the things I wanted to do. She was talking just as much sense as Casey, and I felt another tug towards the 5 am club.

The icing on the cake was a TED talk by Filipe Castro Matos about 21 early days. Instead of getting up at 6am, he was getting up at 4.30am. A simple change with huge benefits.

Once I started thinking about the ways this could be helpful for me, I knew I needed to give it a go. For me, it would be a more dramatic change. I go to bed at around midnight and get up at 8-8.30. But, I wanted to try. It didn’t mean I had to miss out on any sleep. I would simply need to go to bed earlier.

The first day, I managed without much issue. By 8am, I had been out for a walk, showered, drank 600ml of water and done several things on my to do list. A blog post was written. I was all caught up on social media notifications. I watched the sun rise. By the time other people were waking up, I had already done so much.

It felt AMAZING.

Better yet, it freed up time later in the day. Completely free time. No stressing about what I needed to get done. I had already taken care of it. Being on social media was more fun. It was no longer distracting me from pressing matters. There was finally space in my day to put my feet up and read.

Despite my success on the first day, the second day didn’t go so well. Actually, I failed miserably. I turned off four different alarms. You won’t have seen any Instagram updates from me in the early hours, because I wasn’t awake to see it.

Rather than let that be the end of it, though, I tried again the next day. Neal got up with me this time, which I think made it a little easier. I didn’t have to deal with the envy of him being cosy in bed. Once again, it was another highly productive day.

I am currently on day seven. There have been successes and failures. On more than one occasion, I’ve ended up going back to bed, or needing a nap later in the day. Let’s face it, I wasn’t going to be able to adjust easily!

Yet, in doing this, I think I’ve achieved more in the past week than I’ve done in the month. I’m going to keep pushing forward with it, and see how it goes.

It’s strange, because I’ve always been skeptical of the idea. Turns out, these crazy people who get up at the crack of dawn might just be on to something. And I might be turning into one of them.

21 Early Days - Why I'm getting up at 5am instead of 8am

21 Early Days - What is it and why am I trying it?
Does waking up at 5am really make a difference to productivity? I did the 21 Early Days challenge to find out...
What is the 21 Early Days Challenge? Click here to find out and see if it actually works!


  1. Lyd
    19th November 2018 / 11:12 am

    This night owl is tired just reading this post! I struggle just to get up to use the bathroom if it’s still dark, so on those tougher mornings remind yourself that this is the hardest time of year to do it, and let that make it more satisfying when you succeed.

    Lyd- whatlyddid.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 6:57 am

      Thank you. That’s normally how I look at it – that it’s too hard in winter so I won’t give it a go. But I think my logic is that if I can do it now, I can do it all year round!

  2. 19th November 2018 / 11:55 am

    This is such a good idea! I usually end up sleeping really late at like 3am and waking up at around 2pm the next day and I feel so unproductive! Maybe I should even try this out sometimes (Although I think my family would definitely question why I was doing this lol) But I’m sure that this would definitely help productivity levels!

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 6:58 am

      Definitely! You don’t even need to go to the same extreme – maybe just take a couple of hours off and see how you feel! 🙂

  3. 19th November 2018 / 12:01 pm

    Have I ever mentioned that I think you’re amazing? HOW were you ever getting up at 4.30am in the first place? The only way I’d get up that early is if I had a flight to catch, haha. I know what you mean about getting more done when everyone else is asleep but I’m such a night owl that I don’t think it would work for me. Plus our conservatory is FREEEEEEEEZING first thing in the morning and exercising in the dark too is a step to far for me, haha. Fab post, Ruth, I hope your 5am starts continue to help you get stuff done and spend time with Neal! xx

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:01 am

      Awww, thank you, Lisa! I always thought I was a night owl, too, but trying this has suggested otherwise. As for exercising in the dark, it was definitely a shock to the system, but it helps me to feel more comfortable because no one can see me and it’s much quieter in general. 🙂

  4. 19th November 2018 / 12:11 pm

    This is something I could stand to try myself. My job has me waking up at different times some mornings. Most of the time I’m up by 6 am but there are days when I have to wake up at 4 or 4:30 am.4 I think I could give 4:30 every day a go. It would definitely give me some extra time and I’ve always been able to get moving shortly after waking. Thank you for this inspiring post!

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:02 am

      It’s definitely worth a try. Plus, having the same routine rather than changing your wake up time might help in general! 🙂

  5. 19th November 2018 / 1:35 pm

    Love this! And love how you are so focused on positive changes. This would not be an easy switch to make for most people I think. For me I know I feel more productive and less stressed when I wake early and am showered and dressed before the kids are up, it sets the day off on a different tone. It’s still not necessarily guaranteed if I wake up at 5… but I do know either way I’m usually too tired to do anything useful after they go to bed at night, so I should probably try this instead. Thanks for the post. 🙂

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:03 am

      That makes a lot of sense. I don’t have children myself, but I imagine it’s nice to have a bit of time to yourself in the morning before the day has happened and left you feeling exhausted!

  6. 19th November 2018 / 1:48 pm

    This is very interesting. I do pride myself on my good sleep schedule of a 10pm bedtime and 6 to 6:30am wakeup (although lets face it, I also go out a LOT and that doesn’t always happen) – but perhaps even waking up just an hour earlier would mean I could get shit done before I even had to think about getting ready for work. Ruth, you might just have convinced me…

    Cordelia || cordeliamoor.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:04 am

      That’s a pretty good schedule already, in fairness! But, it probably also means that waking up an hour earlier to get things done might be easy enough to do!

  7. 19th November 2018 / 2:45 pm

    This is actually a really interesting read and I always find that when I wake up early, I get so much more done but at the same time – I tend to work really long hours with my blog and attending different meetings and events which means that my sleep pattern isn’t all that great and normally, stay awake much longer so I need to sleep but I agree – there are benefits and it definitely allows you to stay on track! 🙂

    Layla x


    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:05 am

      I understand. I was working into the night with my blog previously. Sometimes, it worked well because that’s when inspiration would turn up, but overall, I just felt drained. So, switching things up to use those hours in the morning has definitely been beneficial.

  8. 19th November 2018 / 3:55 pm

    The idea of getting up at 5am sounds both awful and great at the same time. On the rare occasions when I do have to get up early I find it so difficult at first but then I am so productive! One day I might turn it into a habit 😉

    – Charlotte / myownblogofthoughts.blogspot.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:06 am

      That pretty much sums it up 😂 I doubt it will ever be fun to do, but it is worthwhile.

  9. 19th November 2018 / 4:44 pm

    Well done! I’m glad you’re managing and getting more things done. I struggle to get up in any sort of routine because I can’t predict how tired I’m going to be. The sheer volume of medication I take doesn’t help. I do try, though, and I find having a sunrise alarm lamp to be really helpful for a nice gentle wake up.

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:08 am

      That makes sense. I can pretty much crawl into bed at any time and drift off to sleep within an hour – especially in winter! A sunrise alarm lamp sounds nice, though, and I’m glad that works for you.

  10. 19th November 2018 / 6:30 pm

    Changing your wake up routine is sooo hard!

    I got a new job (in a new country) and was a little horrified that most jobs here start at 8am. It takes me an hour to cycle to work…so I have to leave at 7am, and wake up at 5:45-6:00am. It was SUCH a shock to my system when I first started…but it does get easier. It’s also kind of nice, that now if I sleep in until 8am or 9am, that feels like a luxurious lie in!

    I found I’d be really tired to start with, but now I’m into the routine I naturally wake up a bit earlier. My cat approves of the change too as he gets his breakfast early… 😉

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:10 am

      Yeah, it is a dramatic change, but I’m glad you’ve seen the positive side to it. I think it’s nice that 8/9am is a lie in because it still leaves you with most of the day, whereas a lie in for others in 10/11am and the morning is gone.

      I’m hoping it will become routine for me, too. I’m still somewhere in between tired, but slowly getting used to it. Yay for happy cats!

  11. 19th November 2018 / 7:16 pm

    Wow well done Ruth, that’s brilliant self-control to be able to get up so early when you don’t have to! I must say I get up at half six now although I don’t leave for work until after 8.30 and (once I’m up) I do like that time of the morning. It’s great that you’re giving yourself extra hours in the day to do the things you enjoy 🙂

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:11 am

      Thank you, Fiona! It’s great you get up early and get to have some time for yourself before work. I think even being able to have breakfast and a hot drink without rushing around makes a big difference.

  12. 19th November 2018 / 10:22 pm

    I love this so much! I tend to wake up around 8:30 and 10 but I’ve started waking up at 6:30 with Jack and it feels amazing!! Hats off to you for managing 4:30 and hey how a couple failured attempts never hurt no one! x

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:12 am

      Woooooo! Way to go! 😀 True – I’m letting myself off with it because it’s winter and dark and miserable 😂 x

  13. 19th November 2018 / 11:42 pm

    Well done

    I get up at 4:30 these days – I often yoga or gym At 6 so I get lots done before I head to those.
    I do sometimes wish I had a fixed ‘routine’ that meant I used the time more efficiently.
    I also fail to get up at 4:30 on a weekend.

    Interestingly , robin Sharma is in the midst of releasing his latest book ‘the 5am club’.

    Admittedly easier for ‘morning people’

    Love this post

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:14 am

      I have to have a routine, or I’d put it off. If I treat it like a set schedule, I’m more likely to drag myself out of bed!

      Weekends are definitely the tricky part, but I think, even if you use them for a lie in, you still probably wake up earlier than most (say, 7am). I’ll need to keep a look out for that book!

      Thanks for sharing, Shaun.

  14. 20th November 2018 / 12:40 am

    Welcome to the early risers club! I’m awake by 4:30 or 5:00 every morning without an alarm. I have to be to indulge my blogging passion before heading off to work and dealing with all the other requirements of my family and household. I think The key is to have something worth rising for! Once you do, it’s so much easier to rise and shine!

    • ruthinrevolt
      20th November 2018 / 7:14 am

      Ah, you are so dedicated, it’s incredible! But, I completely agree – you need to identify your “why”, as they say!

  15. 20th November 2018 / 7:27 am

    I used to be an early bird until I hit my twenties, and it doesn’t help having a boyfriend who would happily sleep in until 12 every day! 😩 Your Instagram stories has really inspired me to give this a go.

    And I just wanted to say how much your writing has improved! It was always good, but this post was written like a pro! 💪

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd November 2018 / 6:17 am

      I know what you mean – my boyfriend is normally the same way, although he’s started getting up with me now. Let me know how you get on if you give it a try.

      Aww, thank you, Zoe! I hadn’t really noticed it had improved, so it’s sweet you recognised a progression!

  16. 20th November 2018 / 4:24 pm

    I am so much more productive when I get up early (even though sometimes I really don’t feel like it!) It just makes me feel like I can relax and still get things done rather than trying to rush about when I wake up late!

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd November 2018 / 6:17 am

      Definitely! I love the fact it takes some stress out of the day.

  17. 22nd November 2018 / 7:16 am

    This sounds like such a good idea. I have to admit, my sleeping pattern is a bit of a nightmare, but I’d love to be able to get into a routine like this. Thanks for sharing.

    • ruthinrevolt
      27th November 2018 / 3:00 pm

      Mine was starting to get a bit all over the place, and this has definitely helped. 🙂

  18. 25th November 2018 / 7:15 pm

    Wow, I admire you! I have a small human alarm clock – that wakes me pre 6am, every single day. In order to get things done before he wakes I’d have to get up at 4am (if not before!). Not sure I could do that, and then survive at work an entire day. I am definitely more productive in the morning – this would be amazing to try. Maybe I will think about doing it for part of my summer holiday? See what happens. Well Done for persevering! xx

    • ruthinrevolt
      27th November 2018 / 3:18 pm

      Ohhh, that sounds tough! I don’t even think I could manage it if I had a little person in my life. They take up a lot of time and energy (in the best way possible… most of the time!)

  19. 29th November 2018 / 3:07 pm

    This is a wonderful idea, but I don’t think that I’ll shoot for quite so early.

  20. 17th December 2018 / 8:49 pm

    Ruth I too have been getting up earlier than normal the time I get up now is at 6:30 or 7 a.m. and it makes the biggest difference. I feel more energized and like you said it’s really quiet so there are no distractions. I find getting up earlier makes me feel more productive because I’m getting things done and my whole day is not consumed with me rushing to finish projects early so I have more time to do something else. In 2019, I want to keep up this habit because there are more things that I want to explore to further my blogging journey, thanks for sharing this post.😍

    Natonya | https://www.justnatonya.wordpress.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      21st December 2018 / 11:51 am

      That’s awesome! It definitely makes a huge difference to productivity. I haven’t had as much to do for the last couple of weeks so I’ve been making the most of sleeping in, but I plan to pick it back up in 2019, and make things happen. Let’s do this! 🙂

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