How To Free Yourself From Productivity Prison

Monday morning I sat down to record a YouTube video. My intent was to share a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast featuring Tony Robbins. But I ended up talking about my Morning Routine and Daily Schedule as well.

Part of the reason I like the podcast so much is that Tony Robbins shares his Morning Routine. He is an extremely busy guy and regularly travels all over the world. So his insight on how to get things done is interesting. So while filming I naturally brought up how I’ve changed my Morning Routine and Daily Schedule, and why I’m no longer scheduling my day past noon.

I still want to share the video (it’s embedded below) but I also want to expand on what I’m doing with my days now and how you can do the same if you’re interested in a change of pace. So enjoy the video and read on.

Don’t see a video? Click here.

More Productive, Less Everything Else

This year I put a lot of focus on productivity, scheduling and systemizing. Basically I’ve been focused on getting as much done as possible, as often as possible and putting that as a priority over everything else.

In January I started scheduling every hour of my day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day including time for sleep. I literally had an entry in my spreadsheet from 10pm to 6am that said “Sleep”. Going this deep into scheduling my day has been a huge help. I get a lot done it was a great learning experience and I’m glad I did it.

But over time, I started to feel trapped. The routine I’d created began to feel like a prison. I rarely left the house. I rarely socialized. I just followed my routine day in and day out – like a mouse in maze, always chasing a new piece of cheese.

This went on for about 9 months. Then, in late September I kind of hit rock bottom with it all. I was trapped in my routine. I was an inmate in Productivity Prison.

So I made my escape.

Here’s what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. I’m finding it to be a much better way to live my life. I get to do my work, as well as enjoy my time on planet Earth. Because apparently, there is a big life going on out there, and it’s moving along whether I’m moving along with it or not.

my morning routineA photo of my Morning Routine in action. Moleskin notebook, Kindle, coffee and guitar.

Here Is My New Routine:

  • 5:00am: wake up, go to the bathroom, weigh myself
  • 5:15am: Drink 1/4 gallon of water, coffee, read or play guitar
  • 6:00am: Work
  • 8:30am: Go to Gym
  • 10:15am: Work
  • 12:00pm Eat first meal
  • 12:30pm ENJOY LIFE

That’s it. As you can see, I’ve completely dropped work from my routine after 12pm every day. I did this because my payoff per hour of work done after about noon is way less compared to my payoff per hour of work in the morning.

I could find a way to force myself to stay productive through the afternoon. I could turn on a website blocker app like Self Control and force myself to be led by a series of bells and beeps from a Pomodoro clock. But instead I have chosen to simply Enjoy Life.

And if enjoying life that day means working, then I’ll work. I still put in long days when I feel like it. But I’ve giving myself the opportunity to Enjoy Life when I choose to – and for me – that makes all the difference in the world.

Google’s Work-Life Balance Study

In 2012, Google began what they hope will be a 100 year long study aimed at understanding work. 4000 Google employees complete two in-depth surveys every year.

Their first rounds of the study have shown that only 31% of people are able to separate work from their life and achieve a work/life balance.

work-life-chartA Google study found that 69% of their employees do not have a work life balance.

Segmentors vs Integrators: The 69%

  • The 31%’ers are called “Segmentors”. These are people who draw a line between work and the rest of their lives. In short, Segmentors do not think about work when they’re at home.
  • The 69% majority are called “Integrators”. Integrators always have work on their mind. They check emails and do work in the evenings at home.

Of the 69%, or “Integrators”, more than half expressed that they would like to get better at segmenting. Saying things like “It is often difficult to tell where my work life ends and my non-work life begins.”

Source: Google Study 

And remember, these stats are saying that 69% of people with office jobs can’t find a work/life balance. Now imagine what the numbers look like for people who work from home?

My guess is – for people who work from home it’s something more like 90% “Integrators” and 10% “Segmentors”.

Should You Have A Work/Life Balance?

I’ve historically been a big fan of being a workaholic. I think an insane work ethic and ability to work non-stop for weeks or even months at a time can give you an advantage. Being a workaholic has worked for me. So when people tell me I need “balance” I normally tell them to go jump off a building.

But I’m feeling a shift in the Force.

In my favorite book of 2013, Daily Rituals, author Mason Currey documented the daily routines and work schedules of many of the world’s greatest artists, writers and celebrities. People like Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Pablo Picasso and George Gershwin.

Every person’s schedule was different. And I was surprised to see that for every workaholic there was also a drunk who only wrote or painted for a few hours a day, spending the rest of his/her time in bars or hanging out with prostitutes.

While workaholic-ing was necessary for some, others required only a few hours a day to create their masterful work. Working non-stop was not necessarily required for doing their great things.

Do You Really Need To Work All Day?

When I looked at my own work day – I found that I did my best work in the mornings. The work I do in the afternoon is less productive and my night work is almost non-productive and hardly worth the effort.

So if I were going to only be able to work during one period of the day – I’d definitely choose the morning. That is when I get the most Bang for my Time-Bucks.

Bang for Your Time-Bucks breakdown

I just made up the phrase time-bucks, but bear with me here. What I’m saying is that there is a different reward amount for the hours I put in during the morning versus the hours I put in at night.

  • 6am–12pm: 100 time bucks per hour
  • 12pm–5pm: 15 time bucks per hour
  • 5pm–5am: 5 time bucks per hour

In the morning I’m on fire. My mind is sharp, I’m in a fasted state (Intermittent Fasting) and all systems are go. This is when I accomplish 80% of everything I do. Work, writing for the blog, the gym and writing music all happens before noon.

At noon I have my first meal. This is where things start to slow down for me. My focus goes down, my energy level drops and I’m usually in bed by 2pm for 20 or 30 minute nap.

After 5pm I’m pretty burnt out. dBy 5pm I’m coasting. Sure I’m sitting in front of the computer and there are work screens open but I’m not really getting much high quality work done. In fact, the things I do during this time is actually counter-productive and end up losing me more money than it makes.

Imagine: 24 Hour Job Scenario

Imagine you work for a company that runs 24 hours a day. They tell you that you can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you want to, but your earnings per hour will change during different times of the day.

  • In the morning you would be paid $100/hour
  • In the afternoon you’ll be paid $15/hour
  • In the evenings you’ll be paid $5/hour

If you wanted to you could work 24 hours a day and make as much money as possible, but is that the smart thing to do?

Probably not. The smart thing to do would be to work from 6am–12pm and earn the most money you can during those periods of higher hourly pay. Then, go out and Enjoy Life.

  • Total Morning Earnings: $600
  • Total Earnings Rest of Day: $135

Yes, you could make more money overall if you worked 24 hours a day. But by working only during the highest paying hours you make the majority of your money AND get to have a life.

And if from time to time you don’t have anything else to do, the 24 hour work is still there if you want it. But instead of 7 days a week you only do it from time to time, say twice a week, tops.

Is this starting to sink in?

Action: The Time-Bucks Challenge

If you ever feel like an inmate in a productivity prison – here is my challenge to you. I want you to find out where you’re earning the most Time-Bucks and consider adjusting your life/work balance accordingly.

The goal is to end up with a shorter work day that gives you more bang for your time-bucks and allows you to live your life every week of the year.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a realistic look at your work schedule
  2. Split it up into sections (morning, afternoon, evening)
  3. Apply an hourly wage to each section based on your effectiveness during that period of time (be honest)
  4. Consider eliminating the lowest-paying section or sections
  5. Use the low paying sections of time to do enjoyable things offline

You’re best hours may not be the same as mine. I know a lot of people who do their best work between 1–5am. They do their best work while everyone else is asleep. There are no rules, just find what works for you.

You aren’t required to take those sections of time off of work. But they’re there if you need them. That way the next time someone asks you to hang out you can say “Yes” without feeling guilty.

Wrap It Up

One of the most common questions I get is “how do you manage working from home and having a life?” My old answer was “I don’t. I work all the time”.

I’m starting to think that may not be the best answer. The best answer for me may be to work during the times I’m most productive and then go out and have some fun… to free myself from Productivity Prison.

I’m already getting better. I noticed a differnce right away. It’s so nice to have lunch and then call Uber and go somewhere for the rest of the day. I’ve been hitting restaurants, shopping, hiking and going out to see friends play at clubs here in Hollywood.

I haven’t been very social for the past few years, because I was “busy”.

I believe that over time my life will feel better, my work quality will improve, my output levels will rise and I will be an overall happier person.

If you’re girlfriend / boyfriend or wife/husband is one step away from walking out the door because you’re spending 24 hours a day on the computer, give the Time Bucks challenge a try.

Remember, You don't have to be an inmate in Productivity Prison.

Focus your efforts on the hours that yield the highest results and spend the rest of your time doing… well…

Everything else.

  • Glynn Ash

    what time do you go to sleep at night?

    • Malan Darras

      hey Glynn, normally by about 10pm

      • Guest

        that is refreshing and good to hear. I usually hear about these big time players in the internet marketing scene up all night ‘hustling’ which sometimes makes you think you should be up all night too, trying your best. But that is not me, i simply do not have the energy to be up all night and im quite an early night type guy too!

        • Glynn Ash

          that is refreshing and good to hear. I usually hear about these big
          time players in the internet marketing scene up all night ‘hustling’
          which sometimes makes you think you should be up all night too, trying
          your best. But that is not me, i simply do not have the energy to be up
          all night and im quite an early night type guy too!

          • Malan Darras

            well, it’s different strokes for different folks really. i know guys that are most productive at 2am in the morning. They go to sleep at 4am and sleep till noon. It works too – but just isn’t an optimal lifestyle for me.

  • Hakim

    awesome article malan! I had some of those 15-18 hours work days before, Pretty intense but you get shit done! if you need to :), but it’s surelly not a sustainable lifestyle , I was wondering what’s your take on sitescout ? any tips & trics !

    • Malan Darras

      hey Hakim, i don’t use sitescout

  • Stan Oleynik

    Great post mate! Thank you!!

    • Malan Darras

      thanks Stan, good to see ya sir

  • Pete

    Brilliant post.

    Studies have shown that we can only do intense, focussed work for a few hours a day. We may say we work 12+ hours, but our work rates usually taper off after 4-6 hours.

    But like many new(ish) affiliates I feel drawn to being workaholic. Why?

    Simply because goals have not yet been reached, so you put pressure on yourself to achieve them.

    • Malan Darras

      Pete – yeah it’s a bit different when you’re brand new I guess. I needed to put in the crazy long days to learn what the hell I was doing. But even when I look back at the early days, I could have definitely taken more breaks.

  • Remy

    Interesting post. So what do you write in your moleskin notebook? Journal, notes?

    I’d like to do kindle, but I can’t get over liking the feeling of holding a book in my hands. What I do like about a kindle is saving space from not having so many books on my shelf. So it is tempting.

    I’m a full time engineering student and a father of three so Im short on time always. So getting up early before everyone works great for me. It allows time for my morning routine that I’ve built up over the past few months.

    You did inspire me to add guitar playing to my morning routine. That never crossed my mind.

    Great blog post.

    • Malan Darras

      Hey Remy, cool I think doing anything creative, drawing, painting, playing music is a great way to get your mind working.

      I use the moleskin notebook for my todo list right now. I’ve gone analog.

      P.S. I used to say the same thing about Kindle vs. holding paper books. Then I got a Kindle. A week later I gave away all my paper books.

  • Jurij

    Great post! I find myself doing the most of work in the first part of the day. The rest of the day is so low productive.. So it’s a good think one more time on my overall productivity, and probably stop working on low productive hours. Thank you very much for this article!

  • Ronny

    In short, you are trying to say…LIfe isn`t all about money.

    Am I right?

    • Malan Darras

      it’s more that 24/7 work isn’t required to make money, but life isn’t all about money can be true too.

  • David Ford

    This is a great post Malan..nice work!

    • Malan Darras

      Thanks David

  • Mo Gazipura

    I’ve been trapped in Productivity Prison for quite some time now. I’m making more money than I ever have, but i gave up things that made me happy. I look forward to implementing your strategies therefore I can make time for LIFE and what makes me HAPPY. Great post really appreciate it.

    • Malan Darras

      yeah i’m moving from workaholic mode to balance mode. major shift happening