New Years Resolution Two: Wake Up At 4:30AM

This is the second of a three-part series, New Year’s Resolutions for 2009.

It might go down as the most unique New Year’s resolution I’ve come up with to date.  You are probably asking yourself why getting up at 4:30am is important enough to be declared an official “resolution.”  Well, for a number of reasons, I would like to start my day earlier because it has big payoffs in terms of productivity, fitness and personal well-being.  Allow me to explain myself.


There isn’t anything magical about a 4:30am wake up time, but nearly every success story I’ve ever read cited someone who started their day at 4:30am.  Think about it; biographies on successful executives, politicians and other leaders often refer to how early they start the day. It is as if they are up getting things done long before the rest of us are chugging down coffee in an effort to wake up. As they say, if you want to be successful then you need to emulate the habits of other successful people.  Staying up late watching Seinfeld reruns and sleeping in doesn’t fit that pattern, so it is something I need to stop.

I tried this schedule off and on throughout 2008 with some success.  In fact, it was instrumental in me cranking out 400 articles for Frugal Dad in my first year.  Often times I was up before the rest of the house banging away on the keyboard (actually, I was lightly tapping a quiet keyboard because the wife doesn’t share my joy of early morning work!).


For the first time in several years I am not listing a “fitness” resolution such as losing fifty pounds, working out three times a week, etc.  In my case, setting those kinds of goals just hasn’t worked.  Instead, my 4:30am wake up time should help me indirectly improve fitness in a number of ways.  First, by getting up earlier I will have time to sneak in a workout and stay caught up on my work here at Frugal Dad.  Once I get into a routine it will force me to fall asleep earlier, thereby cutting out opportunities to eat junk late in the evenings.

Personal Well-Being

I won’t get any additional sleep time by making this move, but I have found that I feel more rested when I sleep earlier in the evening, and get up earlier in the morning.  Ever noticed when you go to bed at 2:00am on Friday night and sleep until 9:00am you feel sluggish all day?  The same seven hours of sleep from 9:30pm to 4:30 leave me feeling much more rested.  I have more mental clarity, more physical energy, and I am generally in a better mood if I hit the ground running early.  The early morning hours are quiet, and I love being awake when the sun comes up.

Growing up my family tried to take an annual trip to the beach–even if for only a long weekend.  As I got older I enjoyed sneaking out before everyone was a awake and going down to the beach before sunrise.  There is a stillness about the early morning that seems to have a calming effect on me, and I’d like to experience more of those moments in the coming year.


  1. I might have to join you on that resolution. I currently do the opposite. I wait until the wife and kids have gone to bed and then run/workout/work. However, that means that I am exhausted by the time I start those activities. So they are definitely not getting my best.

  2. Fantastic tip! I’ve been thinking about getting up earlier (I’m at 5:30 now) because I always seem to run out of time when it’s time to go to work. Plus, I haven’t managed to fit working out into the routine. Right now it’s all about the writing and even that hasn’t gotten past the Writer’s Coin.

    Great resolution FD! Setting aside the time will lead to achieving the other goals you have.

  3. This is an excellent idea/goal. How did you arrive at 4:30am? Did anyting besides successful folks contribute to the time?

    Personally, I really need to do SOMETHING. I am thinking 5:30am. It’s sure better then my typical 6:00am snooze fest, get up at 6:40am and out the door by 7am. Lots of fast food, no exercise and non prep happen now. And I sure would like to end that!

  4. how do you plan to make the transition. I find I just toss and turn when I try to go to bed early. if I could get back to an 11:00 bedtime consistantly, that would be a success for me.

  5. @Enriched Mom: It is really a hard resolution to start cold turkey. It works better to start rolling back your bedtime in 15-30 minute increments so your body adjusts more naturally. If you currently go to bed at midnight, try to have the lights out by 11:30 for a week (and get up 30 minutes earlier), and then 11:00 and so on.

  6. My clock doesn’t have a 4:30am on it. Nope, you can keep that one FrugalDad. I’m a late afternoon/early evening person. This means that my brain tends to operate better after lunch and especially in the evening. I’ve had to wake up early for college and jobs in the past and found that if I wake up earlier than 6:00am, it can take a while to wake up and when I do I’m not as awake as if I slept in till 7:30 or 8. For me, going to bed at 11:30pm and waking at 7:30am works perfectly fine for me. Also, working out in the evenings definitely helps me get to sleep easier.

    Some people are morning people and others just aren’t. My wife has no problem waking at 4:30 in the morning on her own sometimes while I can’t budge before 6 or 6:30 in the AM even with an alarm clock.

  7. Your reasons and your reasoning are right on target. It’s true that some folks are “morning people” and some are not. But that can be modified if you have the will to make the change. Morning is my most productive time of day by far. Sunrises are awesome, mental clarity at its peak, sets a good start for the whole day. Now I’m wondering how that will work out during my upcoming trip to the Philippines, a 15-hour time change? Should be interesting…

  8. This is a fantastic idea, and I’m going to adopt it as my own. I’ve been an early morning person on-and-off for a long time. My alarm clock is currently set for 5:30, but I still normally don’t get out of bed before 6:00. My days were so much better when I used to wake up with time to work out. I think actually making it a goal might help.

    What tricks (if any) do you plan to use to make sure you actually get up rather than just snooze for 30min? (I’m lucky – or unlucky, depending – that the alarm somehow doesn’t bother my wife. I can snooze for 30 min and she never notices.)

    I did see an alarm clock from Japan that makes you hit a target with a Nintendo-like gun. Some immediate concentration might do the trick!

  9. @Matt, probably a better one is this:
    From the product description: “The Flying Alarm Clock wakes you up with a loud shrieking alarm coupled with a little propeller-driven key that leaps off your nightstand. To turn off the horrible racket, you have to get out of bed and retrieve the key.”
    Getting out of bed and getting moving is usually the best way to wake up. Unfortunately, it’s quite loud so having your wife beat you about the head and shoulders would also wake you up as well. 🙂

  10. @Matt: For Christmas last year my Mom bought my brother an alarm clock that literally takes flight (some kind of helicopter alarm clock)! I don’t think it worked too well, but there are other mobile alarm clocks that force you to get out of bed and chase them down. Could be fun, as long as my dog doesn’t attack it! (see DavidK’s comment above)

  11. I could not agree with you more about the calming effect of the early morning, especially on the beach.

    Count me in too. I’m going to start adjusting that alarm in 15 minute increments. I already know that having a few calm minutes in the morning make for a much more relaxing morning.

  12. Haha FrugalDad, I got there first! 😛

    I would imagine the helicopter would work better if the clock were tilted away from the bed that way it would actually fly across the room rather than just up and down. Is that the only problem your brother had with it FrugalDad? Or was it something else?

  13. I value sleep more than productivity. I like to stay in bed at least until dawn. Good luck to you! Let us know how it works for you.

  14. Thanks for the suggestions! I might actually try one of the ones that crawls across the floor. the one DavidK suggested looks great, but I’d have to leave it on the floor. The noise wouldn’t bother my wife, but the impact would.

    I’m afraid the flying one would end up putting marks on the ceiling, the way helicopter toys did when I was a kid.

    There are several really funny videos of rediculous alarm clocks on YouTube, if anybody’s interested. My favorite is the Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock linked below. I think the ‘jumping plastic part’ is supposed to go under your pillow, but it makes quite a noise on the night stand, too.

  15. Wow Frugal Dad,

    4:30 a.m. scares me – I only do that for rare occasions like an early flight. I’ve done 5:30 a.m. about once or twice a week for the past couple of years for early morning jogs, but my norm is around 6 or 7. I will tell you, when I go for an early morning run instead of delaying (or skipping) a workout later, I feel much more productive in general during the day. There is a relationship between the two for me.

    At any rate, good luck in ’09!

    – Chelsea, Quicken Online

  16. I may have to try this, though I doubt I’ll make it an actual resolution. My husband leaves for work between 4 & 4:30, so I wake up then half the time anyway…

  17. I suspect this is highly individual. My brain does not function until 10am and I’m physically uncoordinated until that point as well (once went to the gym for a semester at 7am … bad idea). I think the success benefit of getting up early is dependent on the field. I can see how it works for executives and other leaders. If the time range of their focus is mainly on the order of a day they have a head start.
    In research the time horizon is years and when you get up matters far less than how productive you are overall. Hence arranging sleep patterns for productivity is a good idea. I gravitate naturally towards an up at 11a and to bed at 3a.

  18. @Lauren: Nothing special about 4:30, other than my early-morning schedule. I’d like to workout around 5:00, hit the computer around 6:00 and the shower around 7:20 to get ready for work. From 4:30-5:00 I’ll be getting dressed for working out and shaking out the cobwebs until I’m used to the routine.

  19. I don’t know if anyone else here is like this, but back in college (between semesters) I did a little experiment on my sleep/wake cycles. I found that I gradually adjusted to a 27-28 hour day with 8.5-9 hours of sleep and 18-20 waking hours in the day. I felt great for the two weeks I did it until I realized that there was no way this would work in the real world. Especially since the next semester I had to schedule an 8:00am class — ugh!

    Also, on the showering in the morning thing, I find that taking showers seems to do to me the opposite of what it does with others. If I take a shower in the morning, it makes me sleepy. If I take it in the evening, it wakes me up. I usually take my shower after returning from the gym at about 8pm in the evening. Bedtime is between 10:30pm and 11:30pm.

  20. Heh, I am already dressed and getting on the road to work by 4:30am. I have a flexible work schedule and have been doing this for years. I am home by 3pm on most days. I’ve got plenty of time to spend with my kids, exercise, do other hobbies, etc…

  21. I love the idea. In fact, I got up before everyone else on Christmas morning just to enjoy a cup of tea and some peace. But usually I just stay in bed until my body tells me to get up. I wind up getting about 9 hours of sleep most nights. Which is sweet bliss after years of getting up at all hours with infants and toddlers and trying to squeeze my work into all hours as well. I’ll enjoy my sleep for another year or so before trying something like a 4:30 wake-up call. 🙂

  22. I too like the early morning hours for household productivity. Clean house, do laundry, sew, scrapbook, get projects lined up, bring in the firewood, etc. I started getting up whenever I wake up – usually 4:00-5:o0 and find the day goes much better getting up earlier. Of course, on weekdays, the log trucks start rolling by enroute to the mill around 5:30 – so there is no sleeping after that time anyway!

    I have been on a 4 -4:30 schedule for a month now – and without any other changes, I lost 10 lbs. I don’t know if the early mornings are connected to the weight loss or not, but it all happened at the same time. As a benefit, I am sleepy when 9:30 rolls around and not so inclined to good off the rest of the night. Good luck with your new schedule!

  23. I managed to get to 5.30 for a full 45 days in 2008, and then regressed back to 7 or so.

    I think this is a wonderful idea, though I’ll stick to 5.30. We Muslims have an early morning prayer that is around 6 or so. I have almost always been late for this and would like to make 2009 the year that I finally broke this bad habit.

    All the best for your 2009, FD

  24. Good luck with this goal.

    If I were to do something like this – the hard part would be getting to bed on time. I always stay up too late (regardless of my wakeup time).


  25. I’m really not sure about getting up at 4.30am, although I’ve never tried it. What I currently do is get up at 5am. I am fairly consistent with this. Initially it was hard, but after about a week I adjusted and it became a lot easier than getting up at varying times.

    I think the key is to get up at the same time each day, sleep likes a routine.

  26. After my wife and I had our first baby, my wife was finishing her dissertation and at home with the baby four days a week. She would wake up at around 4:30 while I slept in with the baby (I was often up at night nursing), and work on her research. Then I’d get up with the baby later to get to work by 9am and my wife would be on “mom duty” it was some of the most productive research time she’s ever had. But these days, now that the baby is 2.5, we’re lazy and don’t wake up until our daughter insists on it, around 6:30 or 7pm. We’ve got another one on the way, so perhaps we’ll get back to the early-wakeup club

  27. Great post FD. Instead of buying expensive moving alarm clocks that get you out of bed to find pieces, just move your normal alarm clock to a dresser or other piece of furniture away from your bed. Then you have to get up to go turn it off.

  28. yuck, 4:30 is EARLY. i get up at 5am on the days I work (which has only been twice a week, lately) and that kills me! I’m such a night person though. Good luck with it!

  29. My alarm is set for 3:45, so I can have at least one snooze and get up at 4am. The problem with getting up so early is I have to go to bed that much earlier. I need at least 7 hours to function or I’m a mess, so I’m thinking about heading to bed by 8:30pm at the latest. Good luck with New Years Resolution #2.

  30. I like to get up early too! When I get up early I am able to get things done before the kids wake up and start distracting me. Also if I can get in a workout early, I feel fantastic the rest of the day. When I succumb to temptation and sleep in past 6, I feel exhausted all day and have a horrible headache! Good luck with your early rising!

  31. I wish I could get up at 4:30am! with young kids, I only get to do my blogging work at night so I have chosen to sleep late (around 12:30pm) and get up with the kids at 6:30am. If there was only more time in the day.

  32. I wake up at 6 now so I squeeze a workout in, and it is really nice. I wouldn’t mind waking up earlier and going to bed later.

    My problem is my better half doesn’t feel the same way. She wants to milk every sweet moment of sleep she can and hates that I wake up an hour before her (she can’t get back to sleep sometimes)

    How does your wife deal? Any tips?