Tim Ferriss, author of “books with titles that sound like infomercials”, touts tremendous productivity techniques which can result in 10x’ing your hourly output (thus the 4-hour workweek, 10×4=40). He is slightly controversial in regards to a few of his approaches (who outsources email?), but many are applicable to just about everyone. The questions is, how do people who work 9 to 5 fit these techniques into their lives? Sure someone like Ferriss who only works four hours a week (slight exaggeration) has time to read 2-3 books a week and meditate twice a day, but how can people who spend a large portion of their time at their job work these teachings into their lives? It takes a bit of effort, but it can be done.
Start by retooling your morning. What do you do? Get up after hitting snooze on the alarm one too many times. Check your phone for email and social media updates. Skip breakfast because you need to get out the door.
Even if you are not a morning person, tweaking your morning schedule slightly can be easy and have tremendous benefits. Start by waking up 20 minutes earlier than you would normally (come on, it’s not that bad). The iPhone alarm snoozes for 9 minutes. Say you hit it twice every morning. If you wake up with the first alarm you’re pretty much already there.
Here’s an aggregate morning routine from a few of the guests on the Tim Ferriss show (Ryan Holiday, The Glitch Mob, Alexis Ohanian, Peter Diamandis, Robert Rodriguez, plus Ferriss on Freakonomics):
- Wake up without hitting snooze (Ryan Holiday and Marcus Aurelius)
- DO NOT CHECK YOUR PHONE (Pretty much everyone on the show)
- Silent meditation for 5-20 minutes (Glitch mob, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss)
- Light exercise and/or stretching to invoke deep breathing and blood flow (Glitch Mob, Diamandis)
- The following are common, but the order is often different:
- Breakfast: eggs (Glitch mob) waffles (Ohanian) sardines!? (Ferriss)
- Journaling (Holiday, Ferriss, Diamandis, Rodriguez)
- Reading (Holiday, Glitch Mob)
- Finally, plug in and get on with your day.
This may seem like quite a bit to accomplish in the morning, but if thought of as part of your daily routine, rather than things which need to get done, you will probably find it all rather easy. Meditate for 5 minutes, do 100 jumping jacks, and write down your thoughts. If you are efficient, you can fit all of this into the time you spend snoozing that alarm. Try it out, tweak the times, and find a schedule that works best for you.
If you take public transit (and can get a seat), the time spent commuting can be used mindfully to accomplish parts of the routine. Instead of sleeping or listening to music, you can write in a journal or read a book. If you drive as part of your morning commute, listen to a podcast which sets your mind in the right place for the rest of the day (it is not condoned to read while driving to work…).
The rest of the day:
Keep the baseline that while you are at work, you are working (and doing so at 10x your usual rate). But what about lunch? If you have an hour for a lunch break, take 10 minutes of that time to meditate and 10 minutes to journal. You still have 40 minutes left for your meal.
On the way back from work, try the morning routine in reverse. Read and journal on public transit, listen to podcasts in the car, meditate upon arriving home to decompress and take count of the days events. Let your work-mind settle and move your thoughts into goals for your personal life. And don’t forget to relax. Even Elon Musk plays video games sometimes.
Carry this schedule into your days off as well. Sure you can sleep in a bit later, but don’t deviate just because it’s a lazy Saturday. Start your day of productively and you will set the tone for the day to align your actions with what you want to achieve.
There are over 150 episodes of the Tim Ferriss Show, so there is bound to be variations to these routines. Everyone is different and you will find some techniques employed by certain people will work better for you than others. As Ryan Holiday mentions, find a person or character you relate to, see what you like about yourself in them, and use it to bring out more of those qualities. Also, see what you don’t like about yourself in them and use it as a cautionary tale to stay away from those qualities. In this regard, find a routine that works for you and fits in with your life goals. Pull from others’ successes, continually tweak your daily regiment, and strive to keep improving.
Tim, how about you interview someone with a 9 to 5? Not everyone has a 4-hour workweek, but we are all trying to become the best versions of ourselves.