Waking up to Productivity: Testing Robin Sharma’s The 5AM Club.

by Deborah Walker

In my last post, I discussed The 5AM Club, Robin Sharma’s early morning protocol to transform your life.  Sharma is a charismatic and enthusiastic productivity guru who coaches very successful people. In his productivity protocol. you get up at 5 am in the morning (actually 4.45 am to give you time to get ready) and undertake an hour-long ritual, the 20/20/20 ritual, which consists of:

  • 20 minutes vigorous exercise.
  • 20 minutes reflection: meditation, journaling etc.
  • 20 minutes learning.

The last third of the book is also packed with wisdom drops. To give you a flavor, I’ll list just one set of protocols, which you can explore in greater detail in the book and in Sharma’s free podcast.

  • Tight Bubble of Perfect Focus. Switch off the internet. Don’t be a data-zombie
  • 90/90/1 Rule. For 90 days focus the first 90 minutes of your workday one thing.
  • 60/10 . . . Then work 60 minutes and take a 10-minute break. Then repeat the 60/10 rule.
  • Daily Five.  Every day write down five things you want to accomplish.
  • 2nd Wind Workout. Do another workout later in the day, perhaps a walk in nature.
  • 2 Massage protocol. Get two 90-minute massages every week.
  • Traffic University. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks while you’re commuting.
  • Weekly Design. Every Sunday create the blueprint of your success.
  • Sixty Minute Student. Study for sixty minutes every day.

But the core message of The 5AM Club, is to get up at 5 am and undertake the 20/20/20 routine.

Productivity gurus love routine and habit. They say you should have a regular bedtime and a regular time to wake up. I don’t do that. But I am an early riser and no stranger to 5 am. It should have been easy for me to test this productivity habit.

I tried it with a serious intention for two weeks. Sharma’s advice is to follow the protocol for 66 days, as some researchers have found that it takes that long to establish a habit. But two weeks was all I wanted to do.

On the days, I did it, I would say it was pleasant to get up early. I’m lucky enough to have a lovely park at the bottom of my road. I enjoyed my early morning walk. I also doubled up: listening to self-help podcasts during the 20-40 minute walk, and meditating (a bit, although I don’t care for it) and listening to the Bible for the spiritual side.

I managed this, off and on, for two weeks. It was by no means a perfect attempt, but it was a genuine attempt, which started off strong, trailed off and then stopped. In Sharma’s framing, I’m a victim who uses excuses, rather than a hero who gets the job done. These are my excuses.

Very early morning vigorous exercise makes me ill.

I tried jogging on the first couple of days. Exercise that early in the morning made me feel sick. I was also exhausted throughout the day, so I switched to walking.

I didn’t want to go to bed early every night.

A major reason I failed was the fact that to get up at five, I needed to go to bed early, at 9pm, to get my 8 hours in. Sharma doesn’t advocate skipping sleep and encourages early nights. And I just didn’t want to go to bed early every night. Hey, I was in Madrid for three nights. We didn’t go out to dinner until 9 pm.

It didn’t work for me.

On the days that I did manage it, I didn’t feel any different, at all. It occurred to me that I might already be happy and productive. Although somewhat worryingly, in Chapter 8, Sharma states that most people only think they’re happy and are fooling themselves.

It felt like a waste of premium writing time.

I didn’t like using that first hour on the 20/20/20 protocol. The first hour for me is very good for writing.

After two weeks, and to give The 5AM Club a good try, I changed the protocol to:

Wake at 5am on the days I felt like it.

  • 2 hours writing.
  • 20/20/20 protocol.
  • Rest of day.

But that trailed away after a week or so. The 5AM Club did not work for me, which is a real shame as I wanted it to, and thought it would be my kind of thing.

I consoled myself with the thought that perhaps I’m already happy and productive, and even if like most people, I’m fooling myself, does that really matter?

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