So today marks one week of starting work at 5am, and holy shit - I hope I can keep this going.
Like many of us trying to optimise how we work through everything from food, supplements, lifestyle and wacky experiments we often look at thought leaders for tips. And I am no different, I first started learning about nootropics from listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast and now take “Total Human” pills from Onnit everyday and I haven’t looked back.
But, you’re totally tripping if you think you can just pop some pills and expect to begin smashing life. its all about creating habits. This became super obvious for me when training for The Speed Project 4.0 (a 550km ultra relay from LA to Vegas). Without creating a habit of putting your running shoes on as soon as you got home from work to guilt-trick your ass out the door you simply will not get the Km’s in to ensure you are ready for the long roads of Death Valley.
So when I saw this video of Casey Neistat and Jocko talking the importance of waking up at 4am for productivity it made total sense for me. Even if at first I hated the idea of leaving a warm comfortable bed hours before the sun rises. Ugggh.
Anyway, I decided to commit to the early rise for 7 days to see what happens. And boy am I pumped with the result.
Here is what I learnt from this.
A routine needs to be planned.
Just walking up before 5 doesn’t mean your going to smash out work. To make this time work you need to have a plan before you go to bed. I set up my work station before I go to bed and make a list of things I need to get done first thing in the morning. This was super lame things like “reply to that email” or “have a coffee” all the way through to “finish sales forecast for 2019-2020”. By having this list ready before bed I found that I slept better because I wasn’t thinking out the things I need to do, and then when I’m still half asleep I don’t procrastinate and blame the early rise on it.
This one sucks if you’re not used to it. But I love (and sometimes hate) a cold shower. So as soon as my alarm goes off at 4.55am I go straight to the shower for a 4-minute warm shower followed by a 1-minute cold shower to end on. Old mate Wim Hoff, is one of the global leaders in research and experimentation in this area alongside his breathing techniques to maximise oxygenation of your blood. So to kick-start the day this is what I do.
Don’t sit on the couch.
It’s just too comfortable. Don’t do it. Trust me with this one.
Plan the whole day for maximum output.
I realised pretty early on that I needed to schedule the whole day to really make the most of this 7 day experiment. So I cracked open illustrator and made this wallpaper for my iPhone to keep me on track. This way I can’t forget what I need to be doing or get distracted.
This is what worked for me - so feel free to use it too or make your own. This worked so well. I end up having 7 hours of sleep, 14hrs for work, 2 hours to go run and 2 hours for food including the lunch meeting (I use this time to catch up with mates over a meal). So the simplicity of this worked really well for me.
A super interesting thing I found was that in the block between 5am and 9am. I get 4 hours of really good work done which then made my whole day free to have meetings, explore ideas with 100% intent as I didn’t need to rush off back to the screen to do some work. I work from anywhere so my day is pretty fun, the profile picture for this post is me working from Barossa valley (I was literally sending emails back and forth with Nike for a project in that photo - Ha!)
Then if from these conversations during the day I then had planned in another 2 hour block after dinner to either explore an idea creatively (most of my work is experience design or conceptual works for clients so when inspiration hits I need to take advantage of it) but often I was so up to date I used this block to make my list for the next day or tidy up anything that happened during the day like little emails or tweaks to past work, nothing too crazy. Or if I didn’t need to get anything done I just used this time to sit on the couch and draw while watching TV to ensure I don’t loose touch with the tools.
Now I need to confess, I love numbers so this really excited me. When I had the shops, the bar and the co-working space working an 18hr day wasn’t a rare occasion -But it nearly killed me.
After a few solid years of this kind of work day become the norm so I never really thought there was another way to do it. But now I realise I was super busy, but I wasn’t super productive. In hindsight I also struggled to find a balance that worked to ensure I still had time to spend with those I love.
So this new way of working is rad for me because the time in the morning I have no distractions and I am not stealing hours away from my girlfriend or friends or family. And at the same time I’m getting the hours in to achieve my goals.
Here’s the Math.
With this way of working I can get 14hrs of work in a day and still go run for 2 hours and spend time socialising and just hanging out.
14hrs x 7dpw = 98hr work week.
98h x 52 weeks + 5096 hrs per year
5096 Div by 8 hr days = 637 work days per year
637 - 240 (average workdays people work PY)
= 397 extra days of work per year.
THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN. EXTRA.
I’ve done similar math to this before but it just wasn’t sustainable before, this routine feels completely different.
So next time someone gives me that bullshit “I just don’t have enough time” statement, they are going to get this math right to the face. We all have 24hrs in a day, it’s how you use it.
I’m not saying everyone should do this, but your ambition needs to match you actions. You can’t say you want to achieve huge goals without doing huge work and putting the hours in.
So I think I’m going to stick to this plan to see how it goes. But I am not going to stick to it religiously, if I have a blow out on the beers I’m totally sleeping in. But this plan is my new north star. Let me know if you have any tips or questions for this. I would love to hear what you’re experiencing or experimenting with.