Waking up to Productivity: Robin Sharma’s “The 5 AM Club”

by Deborah Walker

I take a keen interest in the latest productivity theories. I’m always looking for techniques to help me write the same amount in less time so that I have more time to do other stuff.

A few months ago, I began to hear great things about Robin Sharma’s bestselling, new book, The 5 AM Club. Sharma is a productivity guru whose work is ’embraced by rock stars, royalty, billionaires and many celebrity CEOs’. When I heard the glowing testimonies from more ordinary folk (albeit productivity types), I was quick to order a copy from my library.

My first surprise was that The 5 AM Club was written not as non-fiction but as a modern-day fable. I wasn’t expected that, although I found out later that this is an established format for productivity books which sometimes have messages that could fit easily into a few chapters. Some productivity authors use real-life examples to illustrate their message from current times or history. Other authors books rely on their own experiences, or on scientific studies to support their theories. Sharma explains that he used the story format as he wanted readers to fall in love with the character so that his message transformed people’s lives.

In The 5 AM Club, a burnout, suicidal executive, (who is never named) attends a self-improvement seminar where she meets an overweight artist with a taste for procrastination. After the seminar leader, the spellbinder, collapses on stage, they strike up a conversation with a down-and-out who turns out to be an ex-surfer dude and a current eccentric billionaire. The tramp/billionaire invites them to an island tropical paradise. Over the course of the book, the executive and artist learn the secret of The 5 AM Club in the best ever personal development program/holiday of a lifetime with side trips to fabulous and iconic locations all over the world.

As a reader, the story of the executive and the artist didn’t work for me, but it was okay. A number of Amazon reviewers complained about the clunky dialogue prose and the need for more strident editing.  But reading enjoyment, as we know, is not always about talented prose. Sometimes the story grips the reader. This was the case for many Amazon reviewers.

As you might have already guessed that the secret of success turns out to be getting up at 5 am (actually 4.45 am, because you need some time to get ready). During this power hour you need to perform 20:20:20 routine:

20 minutes of vigorous exercise. (It has to be vigorous; a walk doesn’t get the hormones activated.)
20 minutes of personal development: mediation, morning pages, gratitude journal.|
20 minutes of learning.

This is the bare bones of it, and it takes the book around 200 pages to get there, as the executive and the artist undertake their personal journeys to productivity in and finally learn this secret in the Eternal City.

Sharma claims The 5 AM Club will transform your life forever. He isn’t the kind of guru who presents his theories as optional: “Victims make excuses; heroes get things done.”

The last third of the book continues the story of the executive and the artist as The 5 AM Club transforms all aspects of their lives for the better. It also introduces dozens of other protocols and techniques to amplify productivity. There’s a dizzying array of information. Some of it is interesting stuff.

But the focus of this book is the early morning ritual as the most important thing you can do to transform your life.

Early morning rituals are popular in productivity circles. I first came across the idea in Hal Elrod’s The Morning Miracle, 6 Habits that will Transform your Morning Before 8 am, a similar idea to the 5 AM Club, but with different early morning rituals.

I know there will be night owls reading this who will be annoyed with the insistence of this early morning productivity premise. Personally, I don’t believe in one size fits all productivity techniques. Why you can’t do the 20/20/20 protocol at any time of the day? Sharma’s answer is that at 5 am you’re refreshed by sleep, your body and mind are the most receptive to these techniques. He also believes that there’s something special about the early morning, something magical. How you spend that first hour, will be how you the rest of the day unfold.

Sharma also makes a number of resources freely available on the net. He’s a charismatic man and is very passionate and genuine about his message.

I’m an early riser and have been for a few years. Sometimes I get up at 5 am. So, it should be easy for me to test this productivity habit for you. In my next article, I’ll let you know if I’m a loser or a hero.

Following a twenty year period of procrastination, Deborah is now making up for lost time and writing novels, short stories and poems.