The magic of 5 a.m.

A lot of people are concerned when they hear I wake up at 5 a.m. but it’s not really as dire as it might sound.

Noor Ali-Hasan

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Palm trees, beach, rainbow, and interesting clouds in Santa Monica, CA.
When you wake up at 5 a.m., you might be lucky enough to see a rainbow and incredible clouds on your run. Santa Monica, CA. Photo by author.

If you’ve spent any time on Medium (or YouTube for that matter), you’ve probably seen at least one article (if not two or five or ten) telling you about the benefits of waking up at 5 a.m. I can bet that the article you’ve read was written by a dude/bro. And they not only told you that you should wake up at 5 a.m., they might have even thrown in their pitch for intermittent fasting or for adding butter or ghee to your coffee. And if you’re extra lucky, you might have read an article that told you to wake up at 5 a.m., fast until lunch, add butter/ghee to your coffee, AND drink some post-workout protein concoction.

This is not one of those articles.

For some odd reason, people (co-workers mostly) seem very concerned when they hear that I wake up at 5. I can’t decide if they just don’t expect someone like me to wake up that early or if they’re genuinely concerned about my wellbeing and/or workload. Yes, I wake up at 5 a.m. but my 5 a.m. routine isn’t as structured or inspiring (miserable? joyless?) as the 5 a.m. routines of the bros.

So in case you want an alternative perspective on the 5 a.m. wake-up, here’s my take.

How it started

I didn’t always wake up at 5 a.m. … though I am naturally a morning person. Except for a period in college and grad school when I’d stay up pretty late into the morning working on “graphics” and websites (usually trying to figure out how to make something I saw elsewhere online work on my page) or attempt to finish a paper before class the next day, my body tends to wake-up early. I seem to get most of my energy in the mornings and do my best work then.

But I only started waking up at 5 a.m. about four years ago. I was in a new role at Google. It was my first “official” management role … on a new product team … all while trying to build a new research team from scratch. The amount of tasks and learning I needed to do seemed insurmountable. And while work was eating up a lot of my personal time, I still wanted time to workout in the mornings. I’m one of those people who if I don’t get a workout in first thing in the…

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Noor Ali-Hasan

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.