Back when I started Mark’s Daily Apple, it was a small operation of just a few people with basic goals: offer my take on health, fitness, and nutrition topics. I researched and wrote the articles, and that was pretty much it. Very straightforward.
As everything has grown larger and more complex, my responsibility has expanded. I tackle ever more complicated topics that require even more research – and have a team devoted to research. The business has grown to encompass events, supplements, apparel, services, and a growing list of books, which all comes with additional duties and oversight. And amidst all that, I’m still writing articles on a daily basis.
My expanded roles mean that I can’t waste time. If I do, I may get the work done, but I’ll have nothing left at the end of the day. My social life, my fitness, my family, and my sleep will all suffer. Those things are non-negotiable, so I shot a video explaining my strategies for remaining productive, getting the work done, limiting stress, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance that you may find helpful.
I can’t wake up and launch right into work. It feels like going right into fight or flight mode if I try to start immediately, and I end up all over the place. Instead, I start the day with a cup of coffee, the newspaper, and a few puzzles. The coffee and the puzzles get the cognitive gears going and the paper gives me a glimpse of the outside world before plunging myself into the world of health and nutrition research.
For an hour or so I check and answer email and take/make phone calls, prioritizing the most important or time consuming ones first. This is nuts and bolts stuff that I can do without thinking too hard or getting creative. I just have to sit down and do it. It allows me to tick something off the list and move onto more difficult tasks with a small victory under my belt.
Then I take a short break, maybe ten or fifteen minutes. Since I work from home and answer to no one but my own guilty conscience, I get to take a lot of breaks. They’re essential to my success.
Now it’s on to the real heavy lifting: the creative work. I’ll buckle down and work on a blog post for an hour or two in my office, closing out (and sometimes even blocking) all the email and other time-sucking website and apps. Ideally, I’ve already done the research and a basic outline for this post, so I know where I’m going and what I’ll be citing. This lets me focus on the prose itself without digging through the literature. If it’s just not happening, I’ll switch spaces and move outside with my laptop. I find a change in scenery is absolutely crucial for jump starting the creative process. It doesn’t even have to be outside. You could just go to another room, or even go from sitting to standing or standing to sitting. Just switching up something minor is often enough.
Then it’s off to the gym for training and socializing. The social aspect is almost as important to me as the physical part of working out. I need that face-to-face contact to recharge. I need to get my training out of the way so I don’t have it hanging over the rest of my day, interfering with my focus on work.
After the gym, I eat – usually a Big A$$ Salad (BAS). 1150 calories, 66% fat, 18% carbs, 16% protein, tons of colorful veggies. It’s my biggest meal of the day and gives me steady, even energy. Well, sometimes I’ll fast an hour or two after my workout to eat for the growth hormone boost.
I spend the rest of my workday researching for future posts or books, catching up on any manuscripts or proposals, checking emails, popping into the office, and just generally taking care of random stuff that pops up.
Once darkness falls, I (try to) log off. Nighttime is family time, but occasionally work calls. I always have f.lux installed and my blue-blocking goggles on hand to combat the circadian disruption caused by blue light. That way I can finish work and get right to sleep without missing a beat.
- Make a gradual transition into your peak performance state – If you can launch right into work, fine. Do it. Most people, like me, can’t. Give yourself a “work warmup” in the morning. Do something that gently uses your brain without stressing you out.
- Emphasize focused, distinct periods of work – Communication (emails, phone calls, texts, chats), creation (actually doing the work), personal time (breaks, gym, meals). Don’t run yourself ragged trying to do everything at once. You’ll fail and the work will suffer.
- Take frequent breaks – Humans can only focus on one thing for about 20 minutes, give or take. If you try to marathon your way through the workday, you’ll be wasting a ton of time floundering on tasks when you could just stop for a few minutes, take a deep breath, and come back to knock it out of the park.
- Nurture energy and motivation – Eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a narrow focus will keep you energized and motivated.
- Minimize screen use after dark – Try your best to not work after dark. You need that uninterrupted block of free time to unwind, go out, hang out, and recharge for the next day. If you absolutely must work late, install f.lux and use some blue-blocking goggles.
How do you work? What are your strategies? Let me and everyone know in the comment section!