I recently solved a huge problem in my life. Something related to personal growth that I’ve been working on for at least a decade with only minor and temporary improvements. It’s a problem I’m sure many of you readers are familiar with: how to structure and set up your daily routine so that you can maximize your productivity, not waste time and get done what you need to get done – without feeling like a robot or lacking time to enjoy impulsive ideas.
I was looking for some kind of blueprint or system that would guarantee that if followed, I would pass all my courses, get in better shape, have time for hobbies, and get done all I need. And of course, it needed to be so easy to follow that you would want to follow it out of free will. Now, I’ve finally found the system I so desperately needed. Let me walk you through it and find out how you can implement it as well.
The KEY part is to fixate your sleeping and rising times to be the same, EVERY day of the week. I argue that it’s almost impossible to achieve without this variable handled. Why? Because that’s the one part of the equation that all my previous years of trial and error were missing. I’d work late nights on weekends, and have to get up early for school during weekdays. It was just too hard to maintain fixed times because it would negatively affect my sleep.
But recently, I chose to increase my study rate to 175% in order to get my degree 6 months faster. It turned out to be a real blessing in disguise, because it also made me give up all those weekend work shifts – which freed my schedule so that I finally could try the fixed time method. And boy, did I see huge and unexpected improvements in all areas of my life!
Improvement 1: Increased mental capacity. I quickly notice an improved cognitive ability – the brain seemed to just work faster and better. It’s hard to explain, but I had no problems handling the study rate of almost 2 full time jobs. No more brain fog.
Improvement 2: Expect to have the perfect nights sleep every night. Yup. Your body THRIVES on set times, habits and routine. When you start setting your waking and sleeping times, you can adjust the amount of sleep hours to tailor your individual need exactly. In other words, the schedule will guarantee that you get enough sleep every night, and wake up fresh and rested. Not bad huh? I also noticed that the time to actually fall asleep was significantly reduced – not bad for somebody who has been battling insomnia for years and years.
Improvement 3: Say goodbye forever to morning tiredness. This might be one of the best hidden benefits. I noticed that the schedule completely eliminated any form of morning tiredness. Following a fixed schedule, you can expect your body to even wake up a few minutes before your alarm goes of. Once you get out of bed and turn the alarm off, you’ll be at full mental capacity within minutes. It’s almost unbelievable. For years, I’ve had the conviction that morning tiredness doesn’t really exist on it own. Many people harbor the false belief that they are slave to “morning tiredness” – a view based on victim mentality that lets them off the hook from taking responsibility. I argue that there is no such thing as a “morning person” or “evening person”. Being tired in the morning is simply the side effect of a poorly managed day that deprives you of sleep and keeps your body guessing because you don’t have a routine. Nice to finally be able to confirm my suspicion. I’ll write a detailed post about that too.
Improvement 4: Increased amounts of free time. This seems counter intuitive. How can imposing strict rules of getting up and going to bed give you more free time and not less? Due to increased mental capacity, not wasting time in a tired state, and choosing to work on important stuff early, you free up massive amounts of hours to spend on leisure in the afternoon. Guilt-free. You’ve already taken care of your must-dos. Instead of being a slave to your moods (which is controlled subconsciously), YOU finally get to take conscious control and be the master of your time. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me.
My personal schedule
After successfully and easily maintaining and tweaking my routine for 6 weeks, here is the plan I follow every day (even weekends).
04:20 Wake up 5 min before my alarm. Go to toilet, record my weight measurement, boil water to have green tea, make my bed.
04:30-05:30 Creative hour: Work on personal projects and stuff I’m learning. Practice DJing & photograpy, learning new stuff in photoshop or premiere, etc. Hobby time for all my creative passions.
05:30-06:45 Get to the gym, have a workout, sauna, shower, and take my bike to school. This type of early morning workout also lets you enjoy pre-workout supplements with caffeine, something that is very difficult to combine with an afternoon workout set up, since the caffeine will make it very difficult to fall asleep.
07:00 Arrive at school, start preparing your day for class, lab assignment, or whatever is on your study schedule. If it’s a weekend, I’ll just go back home after the gym to start working on something else.
08:00 Start studying. I can’t fully express the immense satisfaction of being the first person in the classroom and already having hours of productive work under your belt, as your groggy and tired classmates start to arrive (many of them late), just having woken up. You feel like you have cracked the code to secret superpowers!
16:00 Study day is finished and I take my bike home.
17:00-18:00 Eat with my brother and watch some entertainment
18:00-19:00 Start preparing my bag for tomorrow and doing my evening routine (brain dump, some planning, duolingo app, filling out habit calendar and gratitude journal). That’s right, the foundation for a perfect day is created in the evening before.
19:30 Go to bed, read some book. I find that once I get into bed, I’m often so tired that I can’t even manage 20 minutes of reading. Falling asleep is a piece of cake! Usually I fall asleep around 20:00, which gives me at least 8 solid hours of sleep every night. I can’t even begin to tell you the satisfaction of getting up early and getting your important work done first. It’s unbelievably satisfying – something you owe yourself to experience. It gives you hours of interrupted time to completely focus on what matters to you.
The observant reader will note that late night social events don’t have any room in this type of set up. And yes, it’s true. Following this type of schedule, maintaining a party lifestyle or hanging out with friends late at night several times a week is simply not an option. But honestly – how often do you really have important late night social events anyway? A few times each month, max? The workaround is to go to those few important late night events, and still get up early the next day. To compensate, have a 20 minute power nap during the day. Research shows that such a nap can make up for 2 hours of missed sleep. Just do NOT make that nap longer than 20 min. You don’t want to fall into deep REM sleep, since it can make it more difficult to fall asleep in the evening.
I’d also note that this type of set up probably isn’t for everybody. If you are the unambitious type who isn’t interested in personal growth or improving your life, then by all means – continue as you were. But just ask yourself; how’s that been working out for you..? Join the league of goal driven individuals, instead of wasting your life in the quagmire of shallow unimportant party nights. The future belongs to us.
Tips on implementation
- Skip breakfast. I noticed an immense improvement of my health and well being once I started doing this about 7-8 years ago. It doesn’t mean eating less, just eating two big and satisfying meals instead of many small. Save yourself the time to not have to not have to prepare breakfast every morning, washing dishes, etc. Have a big lunch and dinner instead.
- Don’t take any caffeine after lunch.
- Take some time each week to plan your week so that you block off time for stuff you really must do. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Truest words ever spoken.
- Impose a STRICT time for when you are allowed to play with your phone or social media. Limit this time to no more than 1 hour a day, preferably less. Keep your phone out of sight and in flight mode or turned off while you work. One study showed that even a mere presence of a phone on the desk decreased the mathematical performance of students by over 20%.
- Wait until the afternoon to check your mail. That stuff can wait until you’ve used your willpower to do your important things first.
- Consider trying the android app “my effectiveness pro”. It’s a great tool, based on the popular book “7 habits of highly effective people”. Obviously, read to book to fully understand how to use the Eisenhower matrix of time management that the app also uses.
Acknowledgements and tips
I’d be lying completely if I claim all the credit of inventing the system on my own. The idea of such a system had been percolating in the back of my mind for years, but it wasn’t until I listened to a pod-cast episode with author and personal trainer Craig Ballantyne that I finally was able to make the step of implementing it. In the pod-cast, he talks about his book “The perfect day formula”, which I purchased amazon for a few $ after listening to the episode. In the book (which I recommend), I found more tips and strategies on how to set up the schedule. Check it out! I’d also highly recommend “The habit blueprint” by Patrik Edblad.