If you’re not familiar with Tim Ferriss, he’s a best-selling author, famous podcaster, and tech investor. He’s famous in the peak-performance industry, so people love learning about his morning routine. Well, here it is:
- Make your bed
- Titanium Tea
- Acroyoga / Exercise (10 reps of something)
- 5 Minute Journal
In the modern age, lack of information is not the problem. It’s the belief that a quick hack will solve your problems. We’ve probably all tried these daily rituals already. I’ve documented their effects on my blog and YouTube.
But what if the truth is that daily routines or whatever magic pill you’re chasing is just a gimmick? You see, it sounds sexy: do this for 10 minutes a day and soon, you’ll be a millionaire. People love it because they’re lazy and don’t want to put in the work. But honestly, none of these have helped me become super rich despite doing them for a couple years. I’ve even tried the Rooibos tea with the exact brand that Tim recommends because he says it’s a brain enhancer — I didn’t notice any real difference. (Side note: it tastes pretty bad, I prefer green tea.)
Sure, they can help you organize and win the day, but it’s a scam when you hear that Tim Ferriss’s breakfast, pills, or workout schedule is the key to success. There is no “secret” that takes minimum work.
Through my research, I explored the concept of mathematically mapping out every minute of my week to identify output. That’s right. Good, old fashioned hard work. Maximizing hard work doesn’t sound sexy, and I’m not telling you to work yourself to death, but likely, you can do much more than you think, as I’ll prove with data.
I remember asking a rich guy at a country club if he had any tips for success and all he told me was “hard work.” I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more. But he looked me in the eyes and meant it. I replied, “Wow. Short and sweet.”
So let’s get to it…
I’ve heard so many stories and met quite a few people who work 60 to 80 hour work weeks. When you surround yourself with people who work so hard, it makes the typical 40 hour work week look like a walk in the park. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to relate to people who complain about that anymore.
Having said that, I have voiced a lot of my points on how working smarter and more efficient is so much more important than brute force working hard.
Working hard is a commodity. Maybe 1 in 200 people actually can stomach a 60+ hour work. Yet that’s still 3,562,000 hard workers in a world of 7 billion and growing. Unique is not so unique anymore.
Sometimes, you can get a LOT more done by working smarter rather than working harder. I prefer the guy who invented the car versus the guy who’s bragging about his 80+ hour work working a horse-drawn carriage.
In the past, I have mapped out my days by the minute to see how I waste time. Each time I have done this, it’s been an excruciatingly painful and embarrassing process because of the amount of time I uncover that I waste. 7 minutes on Facebook here and 18 minutes on YouTube there spread throughout the day add up.
Even before social media was around, I experienced similar hidden wastes of time throughout the day that added to hours of time per day and sink holes per week (up to 20% of wasted time). Perhaps, you’re better than me but I highly suggest you try this out. I thought I was so much more productive than the average student who wasn’t as alert in class as I thought I was so much more productive than the average student who wasn’t as alert in class as me or spend as long studying as me. I still think I’m more productive than the average person and was. But not nearly as productive as I could or want to be.
Consider this example.
12AM (midnight) to 8:07 AM — Sleep
8:07 to 8:23 AM — Rushed breakfast and getting in right clothes
8:24AM to 8:59AM — Commute to work
9AM to 5:05PM — Work
5:06PM to 5: 27PM — Commute home
5:28PM to 6:05PM — Make dinner, eat dinner, chat with family
6:06PM to 10PM — Check email, leads down rabbit hole, random websites, random entertaining social media and videos, occasional interesting stuff, you tell yourself you’re getting off at 9PM but keep going until 10PM, sometimes you even stay up later to midnight playing video games
10PM to 11PM — A quick trip to the gym takes longer than expected because of small talk, commute time, and getting off task on your phone at the gym
11PM to midnight — Sleep
Midnight to 10:49AM — Sleep in extra
10:50AM to 11:45AM — Check the internet, random activities, wasting time, social media, entertainment
11:46AM to 12:17PM — Lunch
12:18pm to 6PM — More Random Time wasters
6PM to 7PM — Dinner
7PM — Midnight — YouTube, the internet, wanted to go to gym but skipped it, some weeks you’ll do something random but cool like a weekly volleyball or soccer meetup, and finally you go to sleep dreading work on Monday.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Of course, there will be variations. Maybe you go to school instead of work. Maybe you don’t dread work as much as the next guy. Maybe you’re the business owner or a Senior level employee and you work longer. Maybe you go to the gym in the mornings or not at all. But do you get the idea of what a typical average person’s life is like?
I suggest keeping track of almost every minute of your day and scoring things by % of day and % of a week that you spent on certain tasks. The numbers themselves will really open your eyes.
Many people get away with wasting that much time because they can.
If you want to achieve huge goals or live an incredible life, sometimes you need to sacrifice mediocre enjoyment of a mediocre lifestyle in the present. Successful people do for an extended period of time what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to.
Let’s start with weekdays:
Sleep: So on average, this guy’s sleeping 9 hours a night. We’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s just wired to require 9 hours of sleep a night or more. There’s a ton of CEO’s and successful people who live off 3 hours a night, but there are also many who live on a healthy 8+ hours. Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution asserts that we all need a minimum of 7 to 9 hours no matter what. I agree with her.
The point I will prove is that even by being very conservative and having less time to work with, you will still uncover a lot of wasted time in a day. In most of my past attempts to document my routine, I have done the same by giving myself the benefit of the doubt and still uncover large periods to become more efficient. In fact, for me, it’s even worse since it seems my body will sleep 11 to 12 hours on average a night if I let it. I have much less room to work with.
Breakfast and morning duties: small wastes of time add up. 7 minutes might not seem like a lot but if you’re doing it consistently every single day for the next 40+ years of your life, it adds up. In this example, morning activities can end up rushed, unstructured, unsystematized, drawn out, and end up being less efficient than they should be.
Try bulk cooking simple, but healthy meals once a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you’re not scrambling every day to grab the kitchenware, come up with a recipe, and wash the dishes every day. A similar system can be implemented with what clothing to wear.
Avoid: doing unessential tasks. What must you do when you wake up? Breakfast, wash your face, shave, dress, and brush your teeth. The risk you can run into is not avoiding unessential tasks and drawing out your “morning time.” If you’re not keeping tabs on this, you could spend 1 hour+ in the morning goofing off because you can since you woke up early. A task that should take 25 minutes has been drawn out to an hour when you should’ve kept it at 25 and spend the extra time more productively.
An example would be the guy who woke up an hour early and therefore slowed down his routine by giving himself time to watch movies or play video games while proceeding through his essential duties. He could have instead spent the same time plowing through his morning duties and then any extra time on his #1 most productive task or project.
Now, you might say “well, my #1 most important task can only be started at work! Therefore, I can goof off.” Not always the case. What if your job is less than ideal? How can you move towards a more enjoyable job? Maybe, for instance, work on a YouTube gaming channel on the side so that one day you don’t have to guilty for playing video games since it’s actually now productive. In that extra 30 minutes in the morning, you can use it to create, edit, and release another YouTube video.
Commute Time (56 minutes a day): There are certain blocks of time that are unchangeable, like sleep. This is one of them, but only for the short-term. In the long term, see if you can move towards a shorter commute time between you and your job.
If you can dramatically cut down commute time, it can save you a lot of extra time over the course of your life. Studies have shown that people with shorter commute times to work feel happier. 15 to 20 minutes commute may not seem like a lot but it adds up, especially if you have to go back and forth.
Having said that, in the short term, it may be difficult to fix. I know of people who have had 30 minutes to an hour commutes (one way, which means to and back could take up to 2 hours). In the short-term, it may be unavoidable since you’re hustling just to get your foot in the door in a competitive workplace. But always ask if that’s really true. Maybe it’s not. Maybe you can cut it down somehow by moving to a better department closer to you. Maybe there’s a cheaper place to live nearby if you just did your research instead of being lazy.
One way to partially remedy this in the short-term is to listen to audiobooks and courses in your car or on your phone. This will help develop your mind. No one does this and it’s an easy way to get ahead. Famed businessman Brian Tracy has mentioned studies that show that the average person spends the equivalent time of a college semester in their car. That’s time that could be well invested to put you ahead! I call this concept making use of lag time.
Dinner and Family (33 minutes): Dinner prep, washing the dishes, and cooking can be cut down if you are more systematized with it. As I mentioned with Breakfast, bulk cooking once a week can really save time. The difference between 15 minutes a day versus 33 minutes may not seem like a lot in the short run, but in the long run, it adds up.
Free Time (4 hours and 54 minutes): This is what I like to call the Lost Hours. This is the blatant block of time that you have no excuse for. This is where you can maximize your productivity!
Yet most people really feel like they get home from work, spend only a couple minutes on the computer or TV, and all of a sudden it’s time for sleep. Why is this the case? Entertainment like videos, movies, TV shows, or video games has a tendency of making you experience a state of flow that makes time fly by. It can seem like you just sat there and it’s only been 15 minutes when it’s really been 4+ hours.
Additionally, some platforms, especially TV and YouTube videos, act in a way where despite sucking you into an addiction, you don’t feel happier and it’s not as enjoyable as it’s perceived. Studies have shown that people who watch TV for at least 1 hour feel less happy after finishing than before. It literally sucks your energy.
I have given the benefit of the doubt on other things (sleep and commute time) even though they could be arguably altered for the better for more productivity. Even with being so conservative, I have identified a huge chunk of time you can double down on.
With a 40 hour work week, if done right, you have at least 4 to 5 hours of free time EVERY WEEKDAY to maximize on, even if you’re being fairly unproductive with the rest of your time.
Most people are wasting 3 to 6.5 hours every weekday. That’s insanity!
I’m not speaking from my high horse either. I have been there. There have been plenty of cases where I literally ate dinner, went on my computer for a tiny bit of fun time, and then realized 5 hours had past. It was time for sleep yet it felt like only 15 minutes had passed. I really couldn’t remember any accomplishments I had achieved during that time. I also couldn’t remember much of what I did that was so entertaining either. It was usually stupid, pointless YouTube videos. Not even the good ones either.
Productivity Apps and Hacks
I want to give you the best productivity apps and techniques to turn this time sink-hole into your Miracle period.
You’ll notice this list is short and essentialist. That’s for a reason. There’s plenty of productivity app lists on the Internet. Usually, they have 50 to 100+ productivity apps, books, and devices on there that they use. In fact, I’ve looked at most of them.
This is one of those categories where volume and quantity are not what matter. In fact, I have found you tend to be less productive with 50+ productivity apps you have to learn about, integrate, and manage. I don’t see some of the world’s most successful and busy billionaires using even a fraction of the amount of productivity tools that productivity gurus talk about on their blogs. In fact, many of them that I have studied don’t even use email. And they do it for a reason: email’s a huge time-sink.
Strict Workflow — Chrome Extension (free) — Press the button and it blocks all social media websites from being accessible. You can set the timer for as long or short as you want. Simple. You can also work in the Pomodoro technique with this tool if you want to. This technique basically gives you 5 minutes of break every 25 minutes of focused work you do. You can set the tool to unlock for 5 minutes every 25 minutes.
Rescue Time — Chrome Extention (free) — This one’s optional. Once it’s installed and you register, it logs where you spend your time by category (entertainment, news, etc.) on the Internet. Very useful to face the cold, hard facts about how much time you’re wasting. Below is a picture of my monthly stats:
These stats are shocking. 38% on entertainment. 12% on Social Media. That’s 50% of my computer time on wasteful activity. You can tweak websites if RescueTime is registering them wrong. For example, you can switch LinkedIn from social media to business since it’s mostly productive work you do on there. Also, YouTube.com is logged as entertainment rather than social media, which I agree with.
I can argue that a percentage of the time I spend on YouTube is “work” since I make YouTube videos on there at least once a week on my channel. However, to be honest, that doesn’t change much for the most part since technically you don’t have to really watch videos on YouTube at all to create and upload your own. Some of it may be stretched as “research reconnaissance” to see how successful YouTubers make videos, but that stream of logic has worn thin. Have you seen my playlist on How to be a successful YouTuber? That massive list were just the best ones I cherrypicked from all I have watched. I know the theory behind it down pat at this point.
Momentum — Chrome Extension (free) — This is the last extension I will suggest. This one is simple. If you open a new tab, it displays your #1 most important task to focus on in big letters. You are prompted to type this in each time you start a new day. This does 2 things: it prevents you from going off task like I used to with the recommended or frequently most visited sites it displays by default and it constantly realigns you to make sure you’re doing the most productive thing you can.
There are plenty more apps and extensions but I think that plugs most of the major holes and the rest aren’t that useful. If you insist on more, I would just get ones that further plug up where you find yourself wasting more time. If it’s Hulu, a beauty site, a fashion site, or Netflix for you might want something that can custom block the whole site or parts of it. Tailor it to you. There are extensions that block recommended videos on YouTube, another huge time sink.
The Pre-Lightbulb Era Technique
A great majority of the history of human civilization was lived without artificial light. You went to sleep when the sun went down. If you were lucky, you had fire or candles, but even using a lot of those still made things look dark and shadowy.
What’s the point of bringing this up?
The only productivity technique I recommend to help you manage those 4 miracle hours after work every day is to imagine as if you lived before there was electricity to make the most efficient use of that time.
Without electricity, you wouldn’t have lightbulbs, tablets, phones, or computers. What would you do with that time instead?
Artificial light has made it so that we can light up a room like it’s a city in the middle of the day. It’s wreaking havoc with our bodies. Our biology thinks it’s daytime when it’s not and so no wonder we have trouble getting to sleep faster!
- Limit your light intake moderately (you don’t have to go to the extreme of having zero lights though)
- What would you do in that time that is most effective to you? What’s the #1 most important task for you to accomplish for that week, month, and year? How can you move close to it?
Once you have done this and asked those questions, things become clearer. You are allowed to partially go back on the Pre-Electricity technique. If you must use your computer to complete that #1 task, then you are allowed to.
The point of it is to dramatically limit computer time if it is clearly unnecessary because it comes to be more of a distraction than a help oftentimes.
So, for example, if the person who had the typical weekday schedule used this technique. He might come up with the #1 task of getting more customers for his side business because it would overtime lead to the potential of a lot more money than his day job makes and thus a more enjoyable, free life and free time.
Therefore, he would spend a good portion of those 4 hours a day working towards doing that. Maybe he’ll try Facebook ads. Maybe he’ll try making YouTube videos and trying to get SEO traffic from YouTube’s search engine. Maybe he will try cold-calling people or putting up signs on the street to advertise his service.
What you should also take from this is a constant understanding and movement towards long-term goals. By moving towards a method of making more money in less time, you give yourself more free time to work with, which allows you to get even more done if you’ve already maxed out how efficient you can be.
Gym (1 hour): The final time block wasted inefficiently was gym time. As subtly implied in the original schedule, you can cut this down by cutting down needless small talk. Having sets of fresh gym clothes and equipment ready (systematizing) and cutting the commute time with a closer gym or working out/jogging from home can really possibly save you some time and money.
Now, let’s examine weekends. Weekends are a bit different because they are perceived to be the time that is almost deserved to be allotted to free time.
Yet most people waste weekends as well. Have you ever had the feeling like your 2 days off felt like they flew by and you never really got much done? Even the fun, entertaining, and relaxing things that you had planned really zoomed by like you barely had time for them? I have too.
Let’s see what we can do:
The long-term view: I just want to stress again that a long-term view is important. As Richard Branson says, if you can find a career that you love, work and play are the same thing. You will never feel pressured to maximize the fun time, you will not dread work, you won’t get burned out, and the small percent of time you spend trying to enjoy yourself outside of work won’t feel so crappy and gone so quick.
While you’re at your job, work towards a better lifestyle and career in the long-term.
If you’ve already got that covered, great for you. How can you make it better?
Richard Branson was told by an entrepreneur that thanks to his guidance, he had doubled his revenues.
He was expecting praise back, but Richard immediately responded with “Well, did your life get any better as a result?”
The lesson is that metrics like more money is not the only thing you should measure success by.
The danger with weekends is that it’s almost assumed that it’s supposed to be wasted. That’s how people waste them usually. Ask yourself how you can maximize them most effectively? Perhaps, that means having fun but doing it in organized, measured chunks so you don’t get too off track.
Many entrepreneurs and CEO’s work 7 days a week. Although it’s not always ideal, one thing you can take from that is that they have some structure on weekends that will keep them on task and efficient to a certain extent.
Letting your time wander or go without tracking it to a certain extent could mean it’s lost.
Sleep (10 hours and 49 minutes per weekend): There is some debate here. Some people, like the famed fitness expert on YouTube Scooby, believe that if you need an alarm clock to wake up, you’re not getting enough natural sleep. Oversleeping is a partial, but unhealthy way of compensating for lost but needed sleep. I have definitely had such situations occur. After reading The Sleep Revolution and researching “oversleeping” online, my current conclusion is that you want to stick within 7 to 9 hours a night, no more and no less, with the most ideal circumstances possible for your body: comfortable bed and clothing, and waking up when the suns up.
Don’t let yourself go too much on this. I have gone over into 11 or 12 hours. I suggest a solid 9 hours max before you awake. If you’re a young teen or younger, you may need up to 10 hours a night. By doing this, you’ve cut out on unnecessary oversleep. You should set up your life so you are not under sleeping ever. There is definitely compensation behavior that you don’t want to kick in. Enough sleep is important.
In the long run, I would like to sleep as much as I want like Scooby says. That is one of those life goals where you just have enough freedom and money to do as you please. Arguably, it could be healthier too. Again, that’s the importance of long-term planning.
Wasted entertainment time (11 hours and 37 minutes a day): Around 77% of the 15 hours of free time you had that day (24 hours minus 9 hours of sleep) was wasted on entertainment: video games, dancing, entertainment, movies, TV, chatting, talking on the phone, and so on.
This is typical. The average person is very unaware of the time they waste.
I have literally seen people small talk for 30+ minutes when they should have only spent 2 minutes since they’re at work. If you talk to any peak performer or successful CEO, they’re very good at navigating conversations and politely cutting things off when they have to. They’re often very aware of time restraints as well.
Let’s take one single social media platform alone and illustrate how much time you can waste on there. A typical person on Snapchat has about 15 to 40 people who they follow that post Snapchat stories daily. One story (a collection of a user’s photos and videos of that day) can take anywhere from 5 seconds to 5 minutes to watch. Do the math. Going through the content of who you follow on social can take up to 30 minutes or more. I’ve seen it first hand.
This article isn’t for the masses. Platforms like Snapchat prey on the masses who are naturally unproductive. They depend on the eyeballs who spend a good portion of their day on there to make money from ads. That’s pretty much how most social media platforms and even dating apps work.
11 hours is no joke. Could you have at least used part of that time better? It doesn’t always have to be something boring or dry but productive.
How could you have made that time fun AND productive?
Lunch and Dinner (1 hour and 31 minutes) – In this example, the total time of Lunch and Dinner took 1.5 hours. This partially came from the same assumed ability to waste time as I mentioned earlier. Because there are no deadlines and it’s assumed you can take as long as you want, the lunch and dinner were stretched out for much longer than necessary. Take one of these weekends to do some bulk cooking during Lunch. It should take an hour tops.
A lack of structure can lead to things being stretched out way farther than necessary.
Final Weekend conclusion: My final big point is that the day should have been started with the #1 most important task, which should have been asked of yourself and written down as a goal. Then, it should have begun immediately at the start of the day. In the example, the person went straight to goofing off with entertainment as soon as he or she woke up.
In the example, the person went straight to goofing off with entertainment as soon as he or she woke up. Starting your day with unproductive activities or other people’s worries (like opening your email inbox) leads you down a rabbit hole of increasingly unimportant and unproductive tasks.
One important but crucial point I’ve forgotten to mention is the actual time spent at work. For most people, it makes up the majority of their day. Yet most people are inefficient at work.
There’s a saying that most people only work for 4 hours on a typical 8 hour day because of all the added time they spend goofing off at work. That may not be completely true but there’s definitely some truth to it.
I have released content already and will release more on productivity, which can be applied to work.
Essentially, it’s important because you want to develop your skills and career trajectory in the long run. Sure, you can goof off and maybe make it by for a few years without doing anything. But you won’t be making more money, have any better skills, or be any more marketable in an increasingly more competitive job market if you don’t improve yourself and achieve great results.
In summary, you want to find key metrics that your boss and/or your company value most and deliver greater results on those. Usually but not always, they are related or directly tied to more net profit. If you’re younger, you should value learning and developing your skills even more than salary or anything else.
Conclusion and Suggestions
I hope you got some use out of this.
Some people may be much more efficient than the examples or people I mentioned here. Perhaps you have most of your day mapped out to the minute on Google Calendar. Great for you! I want winners to be reading this blog.
Having said that, I’m sure you could have learned at least one useful thing to become even more efficient and plug up those more minor holes of inefficiency.
Gary Vaynerchuk said that he lives twice the life of an average person. I firmly believe that is true. Most people are not cognizant of the time they waste. You can literally recapture hours of a day if you’re careful enough with it and do 2 or 3 times more than a person gets done in one day. But remember: it’s not always by just brute force working harder. It’s about tracking, having systems, and working smarter.
I highly suggest you track every minute of your day for a whole week and then categorize everything by % of hours in a day and a week to compare. I do this by writing down time chunks each time I switch tasks on a notepad. You might be shocked at what you find.
It’s not always about working yourself to death. You can make it your goal to one day have so much money that you don’t have to ever work again if you don’t want to. It’s about being aware of when you are goofing off or doing something fun so that you value the precious time you have on this earth and use it as effectively as you can before it runs out.
Reading this whole thing shows that you actually care about this stuff, which already puts you above most people. Many people don’t even care to improve, let alone try. Thus, it makes it easier to progress. I congratulate you! Some of the strategies here if implemented will definitely put you further and further ahead. Many people don’t even know about some of this stuff.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter (look below) if you want updates on more awesome content like this in the future.
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