Writer Édaein O’Connell tested Elliot Wise’s strategy of making the most of our off-the-clock moments to get out of her January slump. Here, she shares the results after a week on the plan
Every three to four months, I tell someone in my immediate circle that it’s time I get my life together. The announcement usually comes after a night out on the town when my hair hasn’t been brushed and I have an intense hankering for a Chinese takeaway.
The urge to change is particularly strong in the new year, and this one was no different. For me, 2022 was the year of no routine. I was self-employed and the Kerry Rose at the same time. A structured regime had no place in my timeline. By December’s end, I was exhausted and frazzled. I was yearning for stability and a plan.
People often look to self-help gurus for remedies to such problems, but I am a sceptic. Self-help aficionados and preachy billionaires usually have a team of people to help with the day-to-day running of their lives and businesses. This means they have spare hours to dedicate to self-empowerment. However, I still wanted to try and start 2023 in the best possible way. My new personal growth method of choice? Elliot Wise’s 5-9 routine.
Wise is an entrepreneur, business mentor and personal trainer. He believes that we focus too much on productivity during the traditional working hours of 9-5. Instead, we should zone in on the off-the-clock moments, because these hours are the most crucial when it comes to motivation, health and overall happiness.
Growing in popularity on TikTok, the strategy has a basic structure for the AM and PM. Wise notes that each person will have varied routines based on career and lifestyle, but these steps can help you create an optimum practice.
In the morning Wise suggests waking up before sunrise, forgoing your phone, drinking water, going for a 30-minute walk, avoiding a stressful commute and engaging in a brainstorm or ‘huddle’. When the sun sets, he advocates for a post-work debrief, exercising, eating a healthy dinner, next-day planning and some all-important relaxing. Sounds simple, right? Well, all of the best self-development practices appear easy on paper. In reality, it can be a different tale.
So, for one week, I tested Wise’s system. Here’s how I got on.
If I were to test the 5-9 method during the summer months, I think I’d faint. Sunrise in June can be as early as 4:54 am; I don’t think my body could take it. Thankfully, a sunrise in January can be as late as 8:44 am. This is altogether more agreeable with my circadian clock.
Nevertheless, my father was slightly wary at seeing me up and about well before the birds and with a coffee in hand. He asked me more than once if I was alright and then became anxious about my health.
Bar turning off my alarm, I left my phone to the side and headed out for my walk. As a freelancer, I don’t have a team to ‘huddle’ with as Wise suggests. Instead, I engage with my group chat and send in some ideas for possible articles in exchange for thoughts. Nobody replies except one concerned friend. “You’re very active this morning Édaein, is everything alright?” she asks.
In the evening, I do a quick Pilates workout, eat a veggie-filled dinner, make some notes for work tomorrow and relax with a new book. Pure bliss.
Day two of any plan is tricky. The first is always hopeful and eager, but the shine can quickly tarnish. Thankfully, I’m up once more without a phone in hand and enjoy a fresh and brisk walk. Already I can feel the benefits of no morning scrolling. My mind is calm. It almost feels like living in a bubble before the bombardment of the news cycle and online world.
As I work from home, I don’t have the stress of a morning commute. It’s something I do not miss about living in Dublin. In the city, your day can be made or broken by traffic. In the countryside, your worst fear is getting stuck behind a tractor or delivery driver whose GPS isn’t working. It’s a different world.
It’s true what they say, exercise and healthy eating makes you feel amazing. As annoying as the revelation always is, it’s a very simple fact. Three days in, I’m feeling productive and more energised. A wet morning, I skipped the walk because I am not strong enough yet to endure a 30-minute saunter in the freezing damp of January. My want for improvement will only go so far.
I’m becoming more flexible with Wise’s plan. Because I had free time, I completed my workout in the morning instead of the evening. As I work alone, I’ve had to purge the ‘huddle’ idea. My friends were threatening to block me. I tried to brainstorm with my mother but I was told I was interrupting her daily This Morning viewing ritual.
Not looking at my phone upon waking is changing me. I’m starting to think I don’t need any sort of telecommunications device. I don’t even need a laptop. I’ll send my articles by physical post. By the time my letters get delivered, my hot takes will be dead, but who cares? I’m going off the grid.
Of course, these mad notions don’t last long. I follow the plan faithfully, but some aspects start faltering. Wise says to sit still after the working day to meditate or listen to a podcast. My mind wanders aimlessly to thoughts of my dinner and the dread of a looming workout.
I also forgot to pre-plan for tomorrow but I feel good and steady and together. Isn’t that the point?
By Friday, everyone in my life is telling me that I’m in much better form and look healthier. This makes me think I’m usually a grump and look seriously ill. Nevertheless, I move forward, follow my steps and have a wonderfully productive and satisfying day.
However, my Friday evening does look different to the ones prior. I don’t believe in dry January. The month is hard enough without added pain. I skip the workout and healthy dinner and have some after-work drinks with a friend who says I have a pep in my step.
Wise is also a big fan of ticking off the smallest victories and I really like this idea. It could be something as small as taking the bins out, or making yourself a healthy breakfast. Something that ‘future me’ will appreciate.
Well, can the 5-9 method change your life? Truthfully, I can’t answer that. To identify the true benefits of a lifestyle change, you need months of daily data. However, in just five days I feel lighter, brighter and invigorated.
This shift in outlook is a result of some key actions. Not scrolling on my phone upon waking has not only unclouded my mind, but made me a better morning person, and evening person too. Completing a 30-minute walk before starting the day is electrifying and refreshing. Meanwhile, exercising after working hours helps to clear the mind and puts you in the right frame of mind to enjoy a well-deserved rest.
As the week progressed, my devotion to huddling and pre-planning waned, but in the end, this didn’t matter. Small changes are key. They create the best results. After one week, I believe you can pick and choose the parts of the 5-9 plan that help you operate at your best. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself with a long list of ‘to-dos’, especially during these dark days. So, am I finally getting my life together? Well, it’s certainly a start.