If there’s anyone who really earns the title of human guinea pig, it’s Tim Ferriss. In the process of researching his three best-selling books (The 4-Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef), Ferriss tried all sorts of methods to hack his body and his life. And he’s at it again with the premiere of his new show on iTunes, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, which follows Ferriss as he tries to accelerate the learning curve and master everything from Brazilian jiu-jitsu to surfing to professional poker in a week. The full season will be released on April 28.
Ferriss has the luxury of a flexible schedule, which makes discovering and implementing these life hacks (like an hour-long walk after lunch to take business calls) possible. But there’s one thing he says we can all own, even if we’re stuck in a 9-to-5 job: our a.m. ritual. “Your morning routine will determine your success for your day and your life,” he says.
The notorious night owl—Ferriss used to write from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.—shares the tough changes he’s made that get him out of bed at 7:30 every morning.
1. Start With Meditation
I suggest doing 10 to 20 minutes of meditation every morning. If you think of all of the thoughts rolling around in your head like dirt that’s shaken in a jar, I find that the dust doesn’t settle until about 15 minutes into my practice. This really creates that calm before the storm of the day, and it has helped me with better thinking and clarity of purpose. If you don’t like meditating, find something repetitive that has a meditative nature to it. That could be lifting weights or calisthenics that involve counting your breath or movement.
2. Make Email Wait
I make sure I at least finish my meditation before I check my email, but I try to wait longer. I realized checking it early puts me in a reactive mood for the next few hours. I sleep with my phone in airplane mode, so there’s always a flood of messages that come in when I turn it on—basically an agenda for everyone else’s time tapping me in the forehead.
3. Identify the Habits That Help and Hinder You
4. Look at Your Diet
I was used to waking up feeling groggy, and I really thought it had to do with how much sleep I was getting—and to an extent it does. But I noticed when I stick to a high-fat diet, that all changed.
5. Punish Yourself (Sometimes)
If you’re used to going to bed at 3 a.m. like me, you can’t just lie in bed at 10 p.m. and think you’ll fall asleep right away. You could use something like melatonin to help, but I made a pact that I would punish myself for a week. No matter when I went to bed, I would wake up at 7:30 a.m. And sure enough, my sleep habits started to shift.
6. Don’t Leave Anything Up to Chance
It’s best to have a clear morning routine and stick to it. Know how much time everything takes from meditating to getting dressed to eating. The exact order of my mornings is always predetermined, so I’m not exerting any decision-making power.
7. Plan an Afterwork Activity
This isn’t technically part of my morning routine, but it’s still a great practice. Find some type of activity—ideally something physical—that officially ends your work day. It’s even better if that commitment involves another person, like a lifting buddy at the gym—that way there’s a social punishment for not going, which is always a great motivator.
8. Make It a Game You Can Win
Changing behavior usually works best in baby steps. Start by making the pass-fail mark really low. If you’re trying to meditate every morning, start with a few minutes and work your way up. That way you’ll actually stick with it.