Here’s an interesting thought for you. Many personal development gurus are actually real-life workaholics and control freaks. But yet, often we read about their lives and their habits and may start to feel a bit of an inferiority complex when we compare our own sloppy routine to theirs.
I love Craig Ballantyne, of Early to Rise, one of the few ezines that I subscribe to.
But the guy is obviously a control freak of the highest order, as revealed by one of his recent newsletters. Although this sounds like a judgement (and maybe it is), my point is more that if you try to compare yourself to him, you might go down a train of thoughts that is not necessarily the most “productive.”
Okay, let me compare my own daily routine to that of Craig’s.
Here’s Craig’s routine according to one of his recent articles:
– He wakes up at 3:30 a.m.
– Puts on workout clothes, and puts out noise-canceling headphones to get into the “zone”
– Works for a few hours on an article
– 5:30: works on more writing projects
– Next is “document review and reading time”
– He then completes his “gratitude and achievement journal”
– Next he reads a chapter of a book
– Next is meditation
– 7:00 a.m. dog walk
So that’s just Craig’s morning routine. I have no idea yet where he fits working out into this, or if he actually has time to have a social life (or a girlfriend or wife).
Now let’s compare this to my own daily routine (completely different, but bear with me)
– 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. Fred wakes up slightly or very cranky (I’m a bad sleeper most of the time)
– 8:00 a.m. Still in pajamas, I have breakfast (I’m a quick eater)
– 8:15 a.m. The mail delivery guy rings the bell to deliver packages (I compulsively buy books on Amazon). Why is he coming so early? I look like a complete hobo, so he must think I’m a stay-at-home dad, or something worse.
8:30 a.m. Every other day: shower, shave, etc. Other days: I skip it and look like a homeless person, and instead waste time checking my emails.
9:00 a.m. I study languages for about 45 minutes to one hour. That’s something new, I got back into learning languages recently.
10:00 a.m. My work day starts. I put in two hours. That’s my most productive time of the day (I focus on writing at this point).
Noon: I head to the gym (four times a week, but sometimes I go later in the day, at 5 p.m. instead).
On the days I don’t go to the gym, I spend my lunch hour wasting time talking to friends on the phone, or texting my friends who don’t work at home just to annoy them, entertain them, or both.
2:00 p.m. Back from the gym, I had lunch, and get ready to work for another three hours until 5:00 p.m. During that time I do my conference calls (have you noticed why I never do those early? Now you know why!), responding to emails, and all other random tasks. Sometimes, the afternoon work session completely falls apart and I spend my time in the bathtub, reading books.
5:00 p.m. I either go to the gym (if I didn’t go during the day) OR I have dinner.
Ono or two days I work in the evening for an hour or two. But the other days I have a social life, or I stay home and read books or watch TV.
So you’ll notice in my routine that I don’t fit the military routine of many “high-achievers.” Yet, my humble business is more successful than that of 99% of people trying to make it online, and also gives me a substantial (and sometimes embarrassing) amount of free time and freedom.
There’s a certain consistency in my routine, for example, with my time for going to the gym (it’s either noon or 5 p.m.). But here’s a few key things to remember:
– I’ve identified the things that are the most important for me (my priorities) and focus on them. Right now, my priorities are going to the gym consistently, studying languages, and putting in enough hours in my business to bring me forward.
Sometimes, my priorities change. Sometimes, my priority is to make as much money as possible. Or to write a book. In this case, you will find me first thing in the morning working on that project. And instead of spending two hours lifting weights at the gym, I’ll be going for a quick 3 mile run.
One last thing about sleep:
I have tried getting up really early in the morning. But it completely destroys me. Maybe I’ll try it again, and maybe my body will react differently.
But a few years ago I read an interesting book on sleep by a medical doctor who studies all sorts of sleep disorders. An interesting fact is that people sometimes live with sleep disorders without realizing it. Some people absolutely CANT stay awake past 8 or 9 p.m. So it’s great if you want to get up early, but not so much if you want a social life. For others, it’s the opposite.
Sleep requirements vary extremely from one person to the next. I find myself in the “average,” being able to survive on 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
But my problem is that all my life, I’ve been a bad sleeper. My sleep is easily disturbed, and insomnia has been a reality in my life from time to time, for most of my adult life. Even when I was a kid, I had bad sleep. I suffered from sleepwalking at some point, and I have been known to violently move in my sleep.
I honestly think that if I had a normal job, I would not be able to survive. Maybe doctors would want to put me on sleeping meds… But with my work, I’ve gotten around the problem.
But one thing I know about myself is that although it helps me to have a routine, I cannot be productive when I try to ask too much of myself.
If I tried every day to do all of the things that I think are “important” such as:
– Reading non-fiction books
– Reading fiction books
– Learning languages
– Practicing the guitar
– Working out
– Having a social life
– Doing yoga
– Taking care of household chores
– Etc. Etc.
… everything would fall apart.
In my experience, you can only maintain 2 or 3 priorities at a time in your life.
But what happens is that by focusing on those things for a period of time, you make dramatic progress. And then, you can focus on other things. But trying to do EVERYTHING at once generally doesn’t work.
Right now, I made dramatic progress in fitness, having gained 15 pounds of muscle in the last 5 months.
I’m also making great progress at learning languages. And my business is doing well.
But if I want to improve other aspects of my life, such as my sleep, or doing yoga or something, then I have to give up one of my other priorities.
My point with this article is that sometimes it’s easy to look at someone else’s routine, and think to ourselves “they’re so disciplined.” When in fact, they’re doing what works for them.
Maybe waking up at 3 a.m. works for you. I don’t know.
Maybe you’ve a very consistent person. I’m not. I’m more the passionate type. I get extremely interested in something for a while, and give it all I got. Then, I move on.
I’m not like that in relationships though. I prefer to maintain a close circle of friends. But for hobbies and passions, I’m all over the place.
Do you suffer from feeling inadequate when looking at other people who succeed?
Well look at me! I’m sloppy. I’m not consistent. But yet, I’ve accomplished a great deal…
This interesting topic of procrastination and productivity will be revisited soon… stay tuned!