- Tim Ferriss follows a strict – and elaborate – morning routine.
- I tried the routine for a single work week and found that it was energizing, though it was somewhat challenging to start the work day after 11 a.m.
- I also learned the importance of taking care of yourself, whether you do it before or after work.
Tim Ferriss’ morning routine is long. If you’re the kind of person who needs to ease into the day (my hand is raised), his schedule is probably for you.
I followed Ferriss’ routine for a single work week and found that, while pushing back my schedule several hours so I could drink tea and meditate was a challenge, I felt pretty great. Plus, it beats waking up at 5:30 a.m. a la Donald Trump, whose daily routine I’d tried two weeks prior.
Throughout this experiment, I kept a running log of what I loved – and loathed – about the routine. Here’s what I learned:
Ferriss has written before about how he wakes up and goes to bed later than most people. He confirmed in an email that generally, he wakes up around 9 or 10 a.m.
My colleague Richard Feloni had already reported on Ferriss’ morning routine, which I’ve summarized briefly below:
- He makes his bed.
- He meditates for 20 minutes.
- He drinks strong tea.
- He journals for five to 10 minutes.
- He eats a small breakfast.
- He exercises for 20-90 minutes.
My new routine
I made some tweaks to the steps above, so my new, Ferriss-inspired morning routine looked like this:
- I woke up naturally, which typically ended up being between 7:30 and 8 a.m.
- I made my bed.
- I meditated for 5-10 minutes.
- I drank strong tea.
- I journaled for 10 minutes.
- I practiced yoga for 20 minutes.
- I ate breakfast.
For the purposes of getting to the office before everyone else had left for the day, I curtailed some of the morning activities, like meditating and exercising. (Also, to be quiet honest, 20 minutes of meditation sounded like torture.)
I also switched the order of eating breakfast and exercising, so as not to down-dog on a full stomach.
Day 1: Wednesday
In a moment of absentmindedness, I’d set my alarm for 7 a.m. the night before. When I woke up and remembered I was on Ferriss time (nice!), I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep for another hour or so.
After wake-up round two, I promptly made my bed and tidied up the bedroom. The next step – the one I was dreading – was meditation. It had been years since I’d had a regular meditation practice, and even then, I’d found it frustrating and surprisingly exhausting.
Ferriss uses the Headspace app, which offers guided meditations, and I’d used the same app years ago. This time around, I simply set my iPhone timer for five minutes, plopped down on the couch, closed my eyes, and breathed.
Five minutes flew by. Perhaps I was feeling especially calm that morning, but I found it easier than I remembered to concentrate on my breath and to resist the tugging of thoughts and worries.
I prepared some green tea and pulled out a notebook to journal. Here again, I diverged slightly from Ferriss’ routine. He uses either the 5-Minute Journal or Morning Pages – I stuck with free-form writing, which proved surprisingly cathartic.
At this point, I looked up and realised it was almost 9 a.m. I frantically messaged my editor letting her know I’d be in late, around 10:30 a.m. – an estimate that turned out to be off by almost an hour because I’d forgotten to take into account the time it took to shower and dress.
Day 2: Thursday
I woke up naturally, and when I did, assumed it was Saturday. (Womp womp.)
After the previous day’s experience, I’d gotten more than a little cocky about my ability to sit still – very Zen, I know – so I set my meditation alarm for 10 minutes.
It did not fly by. I found myself repeatedly carried away by worries and seemingly urgent thoughts, then became angry with myself for being a bad meditator.
Once the 10-minute alarm went off, I huffed into the kitchen and prepared to brew some caffeine. Ferriss drinks what he jokingly calls “titanium tea” – a mix of pu-erh aged black tea, green tea, and turmeric and ginger shavings that he brews loose in a glass teapot.
After rummaging in the cupboard for a few minutes, I found just what I needed: a bag of loose “Golden Monkey” tea leaves (black and gold) and a mug with a special filter and lid that I’d received as a gift last year and never used.
The resulting beverage, though delicious, was much more caffeinated than I’d expected – and I was practically bouncing in my chair the rest of the morning.
Again, I arrived at the office just after 11. Because I had to leave work on the earlier side today, I dove headfirst into writing and reporting, still buzzing from the makeshift titanium. Still, I didn’t have quite enough time to finish everything I’d planned to.
No problem! I thought. I’ll work from home tonight. Ferriss, after all, has said he works into the wee hours. But after a friend came over for dinner, I was exhausted and knew I’d accomplish nothing except Facebook-stalking if I opened my laptop. I went to sleep.
Day 3: Friday
I was starting to get used to this waking-up-without-an-alarm thing. The whole world looks different when you feel well-rested and relaxed.
But that euphoria quickly dissipated when I tried meditating for 10 minutes again – there was that same stream of worries, ready to pull me back in. How, I wondered, does Ferriss do this for twice as long? I suppose it gets easier the more you practice, but still.
After journaling, I decided to go back and review my entries from the last few days. Wow! I have a lot of feelings. Also, my handwriting is borderline illegible, especially when I’m writing about feelings.
Reading my writing and contemplating the journaling process, I lost track of time. When I finally glanced at the clock, it was almost 9:30 a.m. and I still had to work out, eat breakfast, and get ready for work. I speed-showered, dressed, and raced out the door so as to make it to the office at my (new) usual time.
Day 4: Monday
Though I’m not much of a sports fan, I had stayed out late with friends after the Super Bowl the night before. So by the time I rolled out of bed Monday morning, it was already almost 8:30 a.m. Yikes.
That’s why the best part of Monday’s morning routine by far was my yoga practice. I’ve been using an app called Down Dog, which offers free guided yoga workouts, tailored to your specific level. I’m a huge proponent – my practice is somehow always invigorating and relaxing, and today it was especially helpful to shake off any residual lethargy.
For some reason, I felt especially pressed for time at work today, so I stayed a bit later than usual in order to finish all my stories.
Day 5: Tuesday
My last day as Impostor Tim.
I should have been a pro at all the steps by now, except meditating Tuesday was the hardest it’s ever been. At some point, I became convinced that the timer had stopped – my eyes were closed, so I couldn’t tell – and began arguing with myself over whether to open my eyes and check. Finally, I did: 1 minute and 23 seconds left on the clock. Damn.
Feeling somewhat out of sync, I sat down with my Golden Monkey tea and completely forgot about journaling, instead getting caught up in a New York Times story about the book-publishing industry. Midway through the story, I remembered and jotted down some thoughts.
Once again, I dawdled in between steps of the routine, and ended up sprinting into the shower. I made it just in time for a newsroom meeting at 11:45 a.m. Phew?
Takeaway 1: Take control over your schedule wherever possible
Throughout this experiment, I was most curious to know how Ferriss made his schedule work with other people’s. True, Ferriss is an entrepreneur and doesn’t have an office job like many other people do. Still, he takes meetings, and records podcast episodes, and does other work that requires interacting with people who are on a more-or-less 9-5 schedule.
I emailed Ferriss to ask. His response? “Nearly all meetings can be avoided with more deliberate thinking upfront.” He tries to avoid in-person business meetings, and he “batches” phone calls and Skype calls on Mondays and Fridays.
In other words, he exerts as much control over his schedule as possible, knowing that there are certain times when he works best. It’s something I’d like to try going forward, though I’m already aware that my peak hours differ from Ferriss’.
Takeaway 2: ‘Self-care’ is more important than it seems
My former colleague Anisa Purbasari had also tried out different daily routines. After trying Arianna Huffington’s elaborate bedtime ritual, she wrote that she felt OK about doing the experiment for work, but “if I were to do this personal experiment on my own, I would feel guilty about carving out time for myself to take a bath or meditate.”
I knew exactly what she meant. If I’d simply decided to wake up naturally every day, and meditate, and linger over a cup of tea, and probe the depths of my own consciousness, and do yoga – and show up to work at 11 – I’d feel very, very silly. Self-indulgent, really.
But the truth is, I felt great when I showed up to work during this experiment: well-rested, well-stretched, and ready to tackle whatever challenges lay ahead. I’d like to find a condensed version of this morning routine – one that allows me to get to work at a reasonable hour.
I don’t love the term “self-care,” so maybe “self-maintenance” is more appropriate. Going forward, I’m planning to do a better job of maintaining myself – whether it’s before or after work – so that I can be a better version of myself at work.
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