The 5 am Challenge

The 5 am Challenge

In this episode I talk about the 5 things I learned from waking up at 5 am for a week. I also challenge you with implementing the knowledge I drop to make you more efficient and productive and give you back your afternoons to enjoy life.

That’s my happy 5:29am face

I give you my 5 key lessons as well as a huge list of things to do to fill that extra time to get a jump on the day when everyone else is asleep.

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Key Lessons:

  • Caffeinate but not too much.
  • Checklists and how to prioritize your actions.

Things to do at 5 am:

  • Learn from YouTube
  • Get to Inbox Zero
  • Talk to people in foreign countries

Listen for the rest of the key lessons and all 15 things to do at 5 am to power-up your day.

The Challenge: Wake up at 5 a.m. for the next 5 days and report on your successes and failures.

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33 responses to “The 5 am Challenge”

January 24, 2017 at 8:51 am

Welcome to the morning… this is not a challenge to me…

Pooja Thakur
January 24, 2017 at 9:20 am

That was really cool. I mean I always try to wake up early morning, but couldn’t able to make it happen. Your post has inspired me a lot and now I have modified my strategies towards achieving my goal. Much thanks 🙂

January 24, 2017 at 10:20 am

I’m in the middle of my 5.25 mile run at 5:00 am. I do have the advantage of living in a warm weather state, Florida. I follow that with a 10 minute ab workout. My challenge now is to work in 30 minutes of meditation. I’m glad you mentioned checklists. I love them but admittedly don’t use them consistently. Need to fix that.

January 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I wake up at 4:45am, no problem with 5 🙂

Andrew Vaughan
January 24, 2017 at 2:58 pm

im really loving noahs podcast a punchy, to the point and actionable event. i listen at 1.25 speed on my phone and noah talks way too fast but DONT change a thing!

Michael Probert
January 24, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Love this. I had a stretch a while back of getting up at 5:30 and those days felt amazing getting a head start but I fell off the wagon.

I’m hopping back on the 5am train with you!

January 25, 2017 at 12:00 am

Heard about your podcast through Neville Medhora’s recommendation (he wrote a great piece on you btw).
Woke up at 5 too. Just wanted to say thank you very much for the podcast notes, please keep doing them.

Noah Kagan
January 25, 2017 at 6:49 am


Nate Desmond
January 27, 2017 at 7:58 am

Agreed with both. Being tired isn’t productive, but waking up early isn’t about being tired.

I generally aim for 7.5 hours of sleep (6 when busy; 9 when not busy) – sleep cycles are generally ~90 minutes depending on the person. On good days I try to go to bed early enough that I wake up rested at 5am. Normally I go to bed later and later throughout the week (thus waking later also) and then shift back to an early bedtime over the weekend.

January 25, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Love that!

January 25, 2017 at 7:26 pm

It’s so hard to not give up on this challenge when usually you woke up at 10 am). I tried several methods and none helped. But 2 days ago I find a tricky clock alarm app where you have to deal with math(12-3=?). Sounds creepy but this is what really helped. What about you guys, what helpED you to deal with 5 am ?

Thank you Noah,

January 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm

I had lunch/drinks with Tom Nunan ( Oscar winner for Crash , Bulls Eye entertainment) who is crazy busy — he gets up at 4am.
Met Anthony Zwicker (showrunner, creator of CSI) — he gets up at 3am, OPENS his local Starbucks on behalf of Starbucks staff so that he can get writing at 4am. He wears shades to minimize distraction.
Mentored now by Ron Peterson (veteran screenwriter, ex story editor for Paramount when it was called Gulf and Western) who gets up at, you guessed it, 4am. Everyday.
So now I get up at 4am. My first script never happened, second script took 5 years, third script with Ron took 2 months while waking at 4am. I finished it on deadline 12/25/17 at 4am.

January 25, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Just to finish, that’s with family of four, working full time job — Shash.

“Fow in tha mownin’ ” = game changer.

January 25, 2017 at 9:28 pm

Finished on deadline 12/25/16 (correction)

January 26, 2017 at 3:37 am

Cheers! It reminds me to set this up again. 🙂

Coffee absolutely does not work for me.. I always get this kickback in the afternoon.

The best psychologic bit of waking up at 5am is that you always feel ahead. This gives you so much confidence, that you always feel bigger than any circumstance.

Most important is that you find a BIG JUICY REASON why you want to wake up at 5am. So you can chose between Snoozing or your BIG JUICY REASON.

Indeed the best thing of waking up at 5am is that there is so much spare time in the afternoon! I love it 🙂

The best working routine for me:
Waking up by alarm, drinking 0,5l water, shutting down my alarm clock and start watching the video clip of Justin Timberlake “Can’t stop the feeling” and doing a follow the leader movement session. Just copy all the movements you see in front of you. You definitely become a different person in 60 seconds where your energy starts flowing physically and mentally 😀

Noah Kagan
January 26, 2017 at 7:07 am


I LOVE the song selection 🙂

Christiaan Oosterveen
January 27, 2017 at 4:50 am

Thanks! I have chosen this song to “anker” an active physical state in my body, so by doing a lot of dancing on this song (yes this is a comfort zone crusher) I set my body and brain the trigger to wake up and be active. Very effective!

Christiaan Oosterveen
January 27, 2017 at 4:56 am

Edit: And a quick “wake up” visualisation exercise before sleep really does the job! Plz google on Da Silva Method for waking up without an alarm clock. It is bloody scary, but this trick really works. Just takes 3 minutes at night.

Or for the people who are really hard-wired to stay snoozing: Just practice yourself to wake up energetic and fresh.

Set a timer with your prefered alarm sound (I prefer one which is linked to my BIG JUICY GOAL) and just pretend yourself waking up 12 times for one hour. Now your brain is wired to react active to your alarm sound and you will have a “trained” wake up routine. 😀

Sean Kruzel
January 26, 2017 at 5:11 am

Waking up early and consistently is key! However I often burn out after a couple days because I don’t focus on going to bed early enough. I’m a former Hedge Fund Portfolio Manager, entrepreneur and MIT grad; I used to love operating on almost no sleep. Now I realize it kills my productivity. I created this calendar to help nudge me to a more productive day:

January 26, 2017 at 6:23 am

Agreed. You’re body will crash unless you don’t give it some prerequisite hours of sleep.
Also, cool program. At least reminds you that you’re only human and need to sleep.

Noah Kagan
January 26, 2017 at 7:06 am

This is interesting Sean. Thanks for sharing.

Didn’t really feel comfortable sharing my google calendar with a random site. What happens after I do?

January 26, 2017 at 7:25 am

Noah! Great to hear from you! The website currently just needs that permission inorder to create a new calendar called ‘DeepSleep’, it creates a daily calendar event based on your age and wake up time that gives you the Dr recommended amount of sleep. Nothing fancy and it only reads your default timezone from your calendar. Unfortunately Google’s permissioning is a little heavy handed. It is easy to delete your account and deauthorize access. I just made the website to help scratch my own itch to modernize how data can help me sleep better.

Kurt Davis
January 26, 2017 at 9:12 am

Love this. For so long I’ve operated in peak mode early morning and go workout in the afternoon. I like the idea of pushing it even earlier and then take off some time in the afternoon. This is a good idea.

Hitesh Sahni
January 27, 2017 at 3:23 am

Hey Noah! Great, inspirational podcast. You mention towards the end that you might not carry on with the 5am challenge.

I think a lot of people might view it as difficult to keep up in the long-term, simply because it requires such a readjustment of a person’s lifestyle, and therefore might not bother trying it in the first place. This would be a mistake.

You touch on this in the podcast, but one of the main benefits of something like this is not just waking up before other people, but learning about when you’re most productive and creative. Once you’ve learnt this, you’ll work more effectively from that point forward, whether you keep on waking up at 5am or not.

January 30, 2017 at 1:39 pm

I thought I am the only one who still enjoys a good talk with strangers online.I mean, for the love of Saint Gabriel trying to build business doesn’t equal no fun.
About your experience, I woke up at 4 am for one year.
I had to travel every day 2 hours( two trips) to high school.It wasn’t fun back in the day.It still didn’t taught me not sleep late.

January 30, 2017 at 6:39 pm

The first time I did a challenge like this I did it for 6am – and the things I learned were really similar to yours. Getting to inbox zero before I usually would have even woken up was probably the biggest one.

I also look forward to international trips, because every time I get back the jet lag forces me back into this mode for weeks.

February 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm

I love it! I’ve been waking up around 5am for most of Jan & Feb this year. The early wake up is by accident. I’ve changed my diet to eat super clean and for the most part, cut out alcohol. I go to bed around 9:30 and wake up around 5 (so I get my 7.5 hours of sleep). I have so much energy now when I wake up (I rarely consume caffeine). I head straight to the gym, come home for breakfast, read and prepare for the day. I feel so much more productive & happier with this routine. Thanks for the awesome podcast!

Keith James
February 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Always get up around 5 or so but I think I’m more of an evening person. I just take too long to get moving. I do find there are considerably less distractions. For me, it’s a great time to write copy or sketch out a marketing funnel. Kind of starting with a fresh look on the day.

Either way, make your bed no matter what time you get up. Still can’t do the cold water thing although I do try.

Barry J Kurtz
February 23, 2017 at 2:03 am

Thanks Noah. I’ve always been an early riser and used to wake up at 5 AM every morning but fell into my optimal sleep pattern about 10 years ago.

I usually go to sleep between 9 and 9:30 PM and wake up naturally around 12 -12:30 AM. For the next hour or so I watch TV/videos or read blog posts or a book. Then I go back to bed.

Just before drop off to sleep my brain seems to goes into overdrive. Things that have been on my mind come into focus and I wake up and spend the next hour or so writing, doing work, learning something new or just being creative. I’m never sure where this will go but I make sure to write down as much as I can as fast as I can as I know if I don’t, I will never remember any of it the next morning.

Eventually I get very tired and fall back to sleep, usually by 3:30 AM. Then I wake up around 6:30 AM and I’m out the door by 7:15 AM for my commute. I have coffee around 9 AM and 2 PM. On the weekend my 2 PM coffee is often replaced by a 30-40-minute nap. I’ll take a longer nap if I need to go out later than 9:30 PM. I alternate caffeine sources from coffee to oolong tea to yerba mate depending on my mood.

I rarely feel tired during the day and the output from my early morning overdrive time can be astounding. I sometimes surprise myself.

My suggestion is to listen to your own rhythms and figure out what works for you, even if it doesn’t fit what other people think.

March 1, 2017 at 9:02 am

What time do you go to bed to wake up so early?!?

Noah Kagan
March 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

Around 9-10. I found 7 hours of sleep is my sweet spot.

Todd Russenholt
March 3, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Awesome podcast Noah, Try 800-1000 mL of water with lemon at room temperature. Will fill you up for a great couple of hours.

About Caffeine I suggest Noah, try Cacao Powder drink works very well for 4 hour kick with no caffeine crash.