I obsess over my daily routine and have been continuously optimising it for the last 10 years. It revolves around five core concepts, including:
- Optimising everything, including work, entertainment and relaxation and sleep.
- Sleep being the cornerstone of everything else.
- Implementing time for reflection every time you’re presented with a learning experience.
- Plan everything.
- Use checklists for everything, starting with the one routine you want to get done every day — I have an end of day checklist, end of week checklist, a pre-travel checklist, an investment checklist. The list goes on.
I probably keep to my routine four days out of five. For the days when I don’t, life happens — but I try to stick to it as close to it as I can.
6h30: Wake up
The actual time isn’t important, as we all have our own rhythms, but consistency has been proven to be really important for optimising sleep (quantity and quality).
6h30-7h15: Exercise bike
My wife wakes up at 7h00 and then takes a shower, which leaves me until 7h15 to jump on the exercise bike and go through my morning routine. While on the bike, I go through:
- My emails, only replying if important
- Any Mindstone user interviews I’m behind on
- Articles in my Mindstone article queue
- Apple News
- Educational videos
7h15-7h30: Cold shower & get dressed
I made the switch to cold showers around 2020, and they’ve genuinely changed my life. They make me feel more awake, more positive and sharper, even before the day has properly started.
After my shower, I get dressed in the clothes I set aside the night before (reducing decision fatigue for the next day — a slightly less extreme version of wearing the same thing every day).
- Rye bread with peanut butter and strawberries
- An espresso
- A glass of milk
- A glass of orange juice
- An Actimel
During breakfast, my wife and I watch an episode of one of our favourite series, which we cycle through (Friends, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and back again).
8h00-8h30: Catch up with my assistant or dive into Mindstone metrics
I either catch up on outstanding tasks with my assistant (twice a week) or dive into our business metrics. To get some fresh air, the catch-up usually happens during a 30-minute walk outside.
How (and how not) to run a startup.
8h30: Mindstone stand-up
At the end of every day, the team at Mindstone provides a quick Slack update with an overview of their day as well as what’s coming up for them the next day. As this provides most of the information we all need, our daily stand-up at 8h30 focuses only on blockers and updates that benefit from a bit more context.
8h45/9h00-18h30: Usual work day
We recently introduced blocks of two hours every day, across the company, during which no meetings are held. Other than that, the regular blocks in my calendar during the day are:
- Lunch for 30 minutes while watching whatever Masterclass I’m going through
- 20-25 minute nap after lunch to optimise alertness and learning
- 45-minute run, 10-minute cool down and five-minute shower
- Use Mindstone for 30 minutes as an actual user, reading through whatever I’ve already put aside, learning about learning and about building a company
18h30-19h15: End-of-day routine
At the end of every weekday, I put aside some "admin time". It allows me to prepare everything I need to be set up in the most productive way for the next day. The checklist I go through looks like this:
- Transfer my notes from my Remarkable to Evernote and Todoist. This allows me to look over my notes and transfer any action items over to my task manager, and once in Evernote, my notes are searchable as it recognises handwriting.
- Write my learning log for the day (more on this below).
- Go over my learning log from three months and one year ago, giving me an opportunity to reflect on whether I’ve actually absorbed the lessons I set out to or if I’m still making the same mistakes.
- Update and allocate time slots for the next day’s tasks. If I have too many things on my list for the next day, I shift tasks to another day.
- Prepare for any meetings I have the next day, write down "what’s the one thing I want to get out of this meeting?" and ask myself, “Can any of my meetings for the next day be taken while walking or while I’m on my exercise bike?”
- Follow up with any new people I met during the day, most often on LinkedIn.
- Get to Inbox 0. Yes, it’s possible (and yes, I do get 100s of emails every day). The key is to get there once and then never let it slip. This is where the consistency of the routine is so important and self-reinforcing — it’s by doing it every day, without fail, that it works.
- If I have any feedback for people in the team that I’m withholding, I provide it now. I’m a big fan of giving feedback as soon as possible after the event that triggered it, instead of keeping it for later.
- Write down what I’m grateful for that day, and update Slack so the team knows what I’ve achieved and what my plan is for the next day.
I also update my daily learning log, which often answers the question: "What would I do differently if I could redo this day?"
Steve Jobs used to wake up every morning and ask himself "If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer was "no" for too many days in a row, he said it was a signal he needed to change something.
This really struck a chord with me, but I’ve always found it hard to remember how I felt for 30-60 days in a row and make rational decisions based on that. The learning log helps solve that. I decided to add a section in which I rate every day of my life according to four KPIs that make sense to me. I then transfer these KPIs into a spreadsheet at the end of every week and derive longer-term trends, removing the bias that comes with any particularly bad or good day.
19h15-20h15: Long-term learning reading
The stuff I tend to read during the day is mostly linked to news and trends. I allocate time at the end of the day to read things that relate to what I’m trying to get better at longer term. Most of the time, this means reading books, but occasionally this can be diving into particularly interesting long-read posts I’ve set aside in Mindstone.
20h15-22h00: Eat and Netflix
Although I always keep my phone on me, I try to really switch off from work during this time, be present as much as possible and enjoy time with my wife.
22h00-22h15: Prepare for bed
22h15-22h45: Read fiction
This helps me wind down properly, which, in turn, allows me to sleep more easily.
22h45: Lights out
Within a 10-minute window of 22h45, most often between 22h35 and 22h45, we switch off the lights to sleep. I consider consistency regarding this time window to be key, which is why we respect it about 90% of the time (there are always some exceptions).
Weekend & weekly routines
My weekends are much less planned than my weekdays, but I still wake up at 6h30, jump on my exercise bike until about 7h30 or 8h00 (when my wife wakes up), have breakfast and read some magazines. I work three or four hours on both days, which allows me to feel fully relaxed while still keeping on top of things. The most important part of my weekend routine is my end-of-week checklist.
The list consists of:
- Transferring my daily KPIs to a spreadsheet, so I can derive longer-term trends.
- Consolidate my daily learning logs into weekly ones, applying spaced repetition and recall to my own learning to give me the best chance to remember what I wrote down during the week.
- Allocate the tasks I want to complete for the week ahead, update my task manager and move non-important tasks to later dates and make sure I only have one core task every day, with enough time to really complete it.
- Remove meetings that shouldn’t be a priority. I added this routine fairly recently, but just asking myself "Should I really have this meeting this week?" has helped me move quite a few meetings to an email exchange or simply cancel them altogether.
- Prepare for meetings in the week ahead, again asking what the one thing I want to get out of it it, and writing it down.
How to deal with randomness & overflow
When life throws up unknown or unexpected events that could disrupt your schedule, the key is to be clear about how to handle those random events before they actually occur.
In order of priority the two things I tend to cut first are long-term reading time at the end of the day (which I often cut to 30 minutes) and running time (I often switch to time on the exercise bike, during which I can complete any outstanding work tasks).
Nine times out of ten, these two manoeuvres provide me with the flexibility to keep everything else on track.
Implementing a structured routine
I realise this routine is optimised towards my personal life goals and preferred rhythm. My hope, however, is that elements of it can spark ideas for others to develop their own approach and ultimately lead to a happier and more productive life.
In the same vein, I would love to hear about your own routines and productivity hacks. Sharing what allows you to optimise and enjoy life while getting stuff done might just spark ideas for someone else to improve theirs.