On the days when I’m rigid about following this routine I’m able to immerse myself in deep work for long stretches, and I’m more prolific, productive and creative. On the days when I turn on my devices first thing in the morning and deviate from this routine it all goes to hell.
To understand why, read this piece about the power of turning things off. This 8-step routine allowed me to finish a 45,000-word manuscript in 6 months, write multiple articles on medium, and produce a podcast twice a week.
1) Block everything the night before by 8pm
I’ve spoken extensively in previous articles about the power of blocking distractions. An evening ritual is as important as your morning one. If you wait until you turn your computer on in the morning to block distractions, you’re counting on willpower. By blocking distractions before you to bed, you’re creating an environment that’s conducive to deep work, focus, and flow.
2) Leave the phone out of the bedroom
I don’t always succeed with this because I still use my phone as an alarm clock on occasion. But I’ve noticed a pattern in the last several months. On the days that I don’t sleep with the phone in my bedroom, my productivity and my ability to focus in the morning increases significantly. And this isn’t particularly surprising since there’s been plenty of evidence to show that the blue light from your phone is disruptive to sleep.
3) Read a book before bed
In a previous piece, Benjamin P. Hardy talked about the kinds of things you can do before bed to feed your subconscious. For me, reading is at the top of that list. When I read a book before falling asleep, I almost always wake up the next morning and have no trouble at all writing. Notice that I specifically said read a book. It won’t work if you try to replace this with reading articles on the internet.
4) Meditate when I wake up for 25 Minutes
In my conversation with Steven Kotler, he said that meditation is an incredible form of focus training. Todd Herman said 10/12 top earners in New York City say that meditation helps them not go off the handle when there’s volatility in the market. In book after book, I’ve come across top performers and billionaires who swear by a daily meditation habit. That’s all it took for me to be convinced of its power. And I gradually built my way up to 25 minutes a day. On the days that I skip the meditation, I notice a big difference in my ability to focus.
5) Bulletproof coffee
I’m not a food scientist. For all I know, it’s just a placebo effect. But I started drinking bulletproof coffee a few years ago and haven’t stopped since. In the interview linked below, Dave Asprey and I talked in depth about the impact of bulletproof coffee.
6) Read 40–50 pages of whatever I want from a book
I start every morning by reading an essay, a chapter or a section of a book. You don’t have to read 40–50 pages. You can read whatever is possible in just 15 minutes. As I read, I’ll look for inspiring quotes, and I might use the notecard system to jot down ideas for new articles that come up while I’m reading. The last few weeks I’d been rushing through this process. But it’s much more beneficial to slow down and take your time with this.
7) Write by hand
No matter how much I love technology, I start nearly everything I write in the pages of a notebook. I always carry one with me. I’m not quite sure what it is, but there’s something about writing longhand that makes you feel more connected to your words. It forces you to slow down, pause and reflect. It’s a much more pleasant way to begin the day than starting your day on the internet and damaging your brain.
8) Write a minimum of 1000 words
Writing 1000 words a day changed my life for the first time in 2013, and again in 2015 when I got the offer to write Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best. It landed me in the most unexpected of places, not just once, but twice on the Glenn Beck Show. And it continues to change my life to this day. It’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life. My friend Janelle Hanchett said to me “I believe that interesting things will happen if you just write every day.” And in my life, that’s proven to be absolutely true. Every writer has different rhythms and different habits that enable them to produce their most effective work. Some of these might work for you, some might not. Incorporate what does and discard the rest.
By having a routine that you repeat every day, you don’t have to depend on willpower to get your work done. You spend the first hour of your day on activities that add meaning to your life and you’re able to use your mental bandwidth for deep work.
Before You Go…
If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.” The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.