TikTok's '5-9 Before My 9-5' Trend Has A Glaring Privilege Problem

Time is the most valuable commodity we have. And as we take on more and more responsibilities, we seem to have less and less of it. Finding ways to make time for all of our commitments frequently entails structure and sacrifice, where exchanging our time to reach our goals is a fact of life.  But whether you're a student commuting to class, or a mom juggling childcare for work, how we make this happen can differ drastically. 

As such, morning routine videos make for popular content on social media. Viewers are understandably searching for ways to make the most of the time they have when they have it. But such videos can be frequently unrealistic, prioritizing the aesthetic over the practical. Plus, many simply do not apply to those who are sole caretakers or work outside of typical hours. And even beyond that, morning routine videos often have the effect of moralizing certain behaviors as better than others. 

A routine that's gaining popularity on TikTok called the 5-9 before 9-5, is one such trend. It might work well for some but could be disastrous for others, where sacrificing sleep or following an overly-rigid structure could lead to health detriments. Where so much of our time is already structured around our work schedules, should we be wary of trends that ask us to sacrifice more? "This trend puts more pressure on us to strive in our self-care, pressure to squeeze more into our day, glorifying productivity," psychologist Suzy Reading tells The Independent. She adds, "It is OK to prioritize your sleep and rest needs. And actually, it's not just OK, it is necessary and smart for us to pace ourselves."

What does the 5-9 routine look like?

One TikTok user, @verosimonee, gives a minute-to-minute breakdown of her 5-9 routine in her video. She goes to the gym, makes a smoothie, showers, completes her skincare, and cozies up on the couch with a copy of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. After she gets ready for work, she is out the door by 9 am. 

Another TikTok user, @zayaannoorani, walks reviewers through her own 5-9 routine in a TikTok video. She makes breakfast, reads and journals, prays, goes to the gym, showers, and gets ready for work. She is also out the door by 9 am. Comments on the video are largely positive. "God please give me this disciple," writes one TikTok user. Another commenter quips, "I had this. Then I had a child. Lol." 

The 5-9 trend is one method to get all of one's chores done in the morning, so by the evening, when work is over, they have more free time to spend. But the 5-9 lifestyle trend does not need to be the epitome of productivity. In fact, for many people, having four hours to start their day might be considered a privilege. For example, in 2019, more than 57% of workers had to leave for work between 6 am and 8:30 am (via the Census Bureau). And some call for the abolishment of the 9-5 altogether, citing its impracticalities and inflexibility. The 5-9 trend might simply reinforce such rigidity.

Breaking down the 5 to 9

No one way of life is superior, nor should it be touted as such. Being consistent in striving for your goals is a fantastic way to meet them, but you can do this in a way that works for youHow you actually show up for yourself is far more significant than how it looks to others. Stretching yourself too thin in the name of maximizing every minute of the day could compromise your energy levels and sleep health. It could also normalize the harmful structures of capitalism that demand we give up even our most basic needs in the name of achievement. According to Integris Health, feeling as though you do not have enough drive, energy, or passion is actually a sign of burnout. Comparing your lifestyle to others might exacerbate this. Don't be fooled, your productivity does not define your worth as a person. 

TikTok user Caitlyn (@c.a.i.t.l.y.n) points out the pitfalls of the 5-9 before 9-5 trend. "Because American capitalist society has made productivity into an end in and of itself, we have developed aesthetics and trends around producing that productivity," she says in her TikTok video. The 5-9 trend then becomes less about taking care of your own needs, and more about meeting the needs of capitalism. 

But what if our well-being and our sense of productivity didn't need to be at odds with each other? It's a privilege to be able to meet your basic needs and make time for the activities you want to do while holding down stable employment. For those who have mental illnesses or disabilities, a strict 9-5 could be demanding enough. Everybody should be able to reclaim their time in a way that works for them, rather than what fits into an outdated work schedule.