Wake Up At 5 am Every Day? Nope. This Is My Daily Routine After A 30-Day Experiment

For someone who has a day job and a passion project…

“person operating black audio mixer” by Laurent Perren on Unsplash

I Am “Not Allowed” to Get up at 5am.

There’s a popular practice of getting up at 5am, well described by Benjamin P. Hardy.

I believe that. I just can’t do it.

Because I live with my mom in Singapore.

Hey, it’s not that uncommon in Asia.

Located in the most expensive city in the world, our apartment is small but cozy.

With one problem — what we do will affect each other. I can’t really go to bed until 12 midnight because my mom will be moving around.

“MacBook on coffee table” by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

She is actually wonderful, though.

She is willing to work around my schedule most of the time. But asking her to go to bed at 9 pm (which is what getting up at 5 am would require) can be a little too much. Besides,

You know what it feels like talking to your mom about “daily routines”.

She would ask,

“Does that mean we should eat fish every day?”

So, I get up at 8 am every day.

The Most Difficult Part Is the Worry.

It is 10:45 am, I have a meeting with my boss at 2 pm to talk about the market strategy.

I don’t have a plan yet.

But 10:45 am is when I should reflect on study notes. I can’t quite focus on it right now.

Very annoying.

Today is Day 25. I need to find a solution.

It Started Here. I Put All Those “Success Theories” into Practice.

July 23, 2018. Day 1. Version 1

8:15 am — 8:45 am: meditate

9:15 am: leave for work, read on the train

10 am — 12 pm: strategize & do big-picture, creative thinking

12 pm — 1 pm: have lunch with colleagues

1 pm–5 pm: routine work

5–7 pm: work on my long-term career goal — identify opportunities in China

The design is based on the following theories:

  1. As Maarten van Doorn wrote in Is It Really Possible To Complete A 1-Year Goal In The Next 3 Months?, the less time you have, the more productive you will be.
  2. Do the creative work in the morning.
  3. By 5pm, I will be pretty tired of the routine work. Why not work on my long-term career goal?

The results:

  1. I can’t work on my long-term career goal consistently at 5pm. My energy level is usually too low after a long day. I procrastinated at least 50% of the time.

So, I replaced “have lunch with colleagues” with “work on my long-term career goal”:

August 8, 2018. Version 2

8:15 am — 8:45 am: meditate

9.15 am: leave for work, read on the train

10 am — 12 pm: rstrategize, do the big-picture and creative thinking

12 pm — 1 pm: work on my long-term career goal

1–5 pm: routine work

5–7pm: self improvement

“Graphic Design now book on black plate” by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash

The results:

  1. After reading connecting, applying and using the ideas from books by Ryan Holiday, I wanted to dedicate some time to reflect on my book/meeting notes. This task is mentally demanding — so I should do it in the morning. How do I find time for it in the morning?
  2. If I use the morning to do the creative thinking, I often worry about whether I can get the most urgent work of the day done. As a result, it’s usually not a productive thinking session.

August 15, 2018. Version 3

8:15 am — 8:25 am: meditate (shortened to 10 mins)

8:25 am — 8:30 am: morning journals

8:55 am: leave for work, read on the train

9: 45 am — 10:30 am: write

10: 30 am — 11:00 am: reflect on meeting notes

11:00 am — 12pm: do the most important/urgent part of the day job

12 pm: follow the course, learn a new skill

2 pm — 2:15 pm: work on the long-term career goal

2:15 pm — 5 pm: routine work

5 pm: research and marketing

I Can Finally Stick to This Schedule.

I can’t finish all the important tasks in the morning. I just can’t. I accept it.

The #1 most important thing is actually to stop worrying. So the most urgent part of my day job has to be resolved first.

Then, I work on the important but “less creative” long-term career goal in the afternoon. Because it’s in the afternoon, I would mentally assign a low priority for it. As a result, I start to procrastinate again.

Finally, the way to clean up the mess is embarrassingly simple: shorten the time allocated for the task!

For so long, I was unconsciously fixated on the idea that I have to spend ONE hour on the task.

Until I was inspired by James Clear’s The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get the Most Rewards.

To improve 1%, I only need 15 mins.

The time commitment (15 mins) becomes so little that you will laugh at yourself if you put it off.

Instead of spending 1 hour on my long-term career goal, I now spend 15 mins.

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