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What happens when productivity hacks grind you into pulp while giving you those productivity gainz? See how I ditched a common hack and am testing out a different way…
productivity hacks should boost production not grind you down
I’m going to depart from my normal marketing and persuasion themes and delve into a topic I don’t usually get in to: productivity hacks.

Not just any productivity hacks: I’m talking about a popular, almost commonsense productivity lesson that actually worked against me.

But before I get into that, let me set the stage…

First, I love learning as much as I can about productivity. I’m all about getting as much as I can out of what I have (thanks Jay Abraham!), so any edge that can boost our company’s output, quality, speed, etc., is welcome news.

Second, some of the people I respect the most in business, marketing, and productivity swear by what I’m about to talk about, so understand something before we get started: if these systems work for you, I love it–keep using them, keep increasing your productivity, and keep kicking butt.

The lesson I’ve learned that I’ll be digging into here is my journey of discovery that this particular productivity advice doesn’t work for me.

Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get to it…

The Beloved Productivity Hack that Hacked Me to Pieces

If you’re into productivity, you know the hack I’m about to talk about.

It seems like everybody swears by it, even when you look at productivity training from decades ago (you know what I’m talking about, Earl Nightingale).

From former Navy SEALS-turned motivational speakers/authors/productivity gurus, to old timey self-actualization and performance experts who had their heyday in vinyl.

This performance strategy has been all the rage… probably forever.

It’s what I call The Early Morning Initiative.

If you’re not familiar with it, I’m talking about waking up at the butt-crack of dawn, grabbing a cup (or pot) of coffee, and busting out some work before the rest of the world (and house) even has a notion of stirring in their beds.

And to be blunt: I think this method sucks.

It Began Innocently Enough…

On the surface it makes total sense…

To paraphrase Earl Nightingale, you basically set your alarm clock for 4:45a every day and start working before everyone else in the house wakes up. For most people, that gives them a couple hours of uninterrupted time when their mind is clear and ready to go.

Done right, you can even use this as a competitive advantage because you’re putting in more days, even weeks, of thought determining how to expand your business and defeat your competition.

I loved that idea and was all in.

And even though I’ve always been a night owl, I’ve never claimed to have a monopoly on good ideas, so I decided to give it a shot…

Some days it would work just like Earl said: I’d get up, my brain would be clear, and I’d hammer through tons of work.

But most of the time it didn’t work that way… it was my own private horror show.

4:45a would roll around, and 90 minutes of hitting the snooze button would begin, guaranteeing a day of brain fog, inefficiencies, and the shame of not getting up as I had hoped.

What’s Wrong with Me?

I’m going to be honest with you: one of the hardest parts of the early work initiative was that I’d beat myself down for not getting up at 4:45a.


Can’t stick to a plan…

No grit…

All sorts of self-defeating thoughts would swirl all day. Mix that in with brain fog and low energy and it’s not a great recipe for positive, world-conquering action.

Could the Issue be the Hack?

Let me start by saying that I don’t make excuses.

If I had made a point to go to bed early every night to make a 4:45a start possible, then the early morning initiative could have been a greater success.

The issue is that I’ve always been a night owl–I hit my stride between 10:00p-1:00a. I don’t know what it is about The Witching Hour, but that’s when I’ve always been most productive.

So a few weeks ago I made a decision…

I decided to stop fighting my body’s natural rhythm, and switch up my schedule to accommodate my most productive hours.

I Switched the Whole Thing Around…

Instead of trying to fit the round early morning initiative into the square hole of my night owl nature, I switched it all up.

Here’s how that looks…

I set the alarm to 7:00a, and don’t even try to wake up early
I get up, help get the kids ready, get the kids to school
Insert workouts right after the kids get to school (well, this hasn’t started yet, but IT WILL)
Get ready for work and head into the office for 3-4 hours
Run kids around after school
Help get everybody ready for the next day, and put kids to bed
Work 4-5 more hours late into the night
So far it’s worked great—although I’m sure it looks strange to anybody tracking my movements (I’m looking at you, NSA!)

The Results

This schedule has only been going for a couple weeks, so I’m still not 100% used to the change, but here are some observations after implementing the Night Owl Initiative:

  • I’m not going to bed any later than I was before: hours of sleep remains unchanged
  • I’m able to fit everything in during the day that I need to
  • I’m able to incorporate workouts into my day, which I wasn’t able to do before
  • I don’t necessarily wake up fully rested, but I didn’t with the early plan either
  • I don’t have nagging guilt for not waking up early—because I’m not trying to
  • I get 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time each night during my night owl productivity time
  • Why did I wait years to make the change?

Well, let’s just say I’m tenacious.

Coming Soon… Productivity Nirvana

In the short term, changing my work days to accommodate my natural working rhythm has done wonders for productivity.

As I said, I’m not staying up any later than I was before and I’m more effective because I’m not trying to get up before everyone else in the house—working AGAINST my natural night owliness.

Of course, it’s only been a couple weeks, but so far things look promising. I’ll keep you posted.

The moral is: just because common wisdom tells you to zag, zigging may be the best path for you, just stay flexible and keep an open mind.

Speaking of being flexible and open, one thing high achieving business leaders and athletes share is their understanding that they don’t have all the answers—they know an outside perspective is sometimes what separates the winners from everyone else.

If you’re looking for a business coach, we have a few spots open on Fridays—just email me at [email protected] to let me know you’re interested, and we’ll start the conversation.


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