Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
27 Nov

A Day in the Life of Mark Sisson

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.

Workday Strategies

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Nurture energy and motivationEating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a narrow focus will keep you energized and motivated.
  5. 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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Don’t work too hard Mark! :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on November 27th, 2013
  2. These days it is getting dark at around 4:30pm where I live!! I usually have about 3 hours left in the office at that point…should I be using f.lux that early in the night? Or is it only essential closer to bedtime (I usually go to bed around 11 or 11:30)?

    Jordan wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • Orange glasses…the effect is immediate and incredible. You’ll be asleep earlier, too.

      Graham wrote on November 27th, 2013
      • Do you mean the orange Blu-Blockers?

        Wenchypoo wrote on November 27th, 2013
        • Mine are just orange safety glasses. Kresser and Jaminet have recommendations on their respective blogs…I wear them as soon as it’s dark outside, which this time of year is pretty early. My wife thinks they’re *really* cool, too….

          Graham wrote on November 28th, 2013
      • The ones I got from Amazon are awesome. I put them on at around 8:45pm the first day I got them (right after I put my son to sleep), and I was sleepy by 9:30. Normally, I can’t sleep until 11pm from all of the blue light my monitors emit.

        beachbound wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • This doesn’t answer your question, but just think: only 23 days till solstice and we start getting some seconds of daylight back! (At least, that’s what I keep telling myself…sigh.)

      Stacie wrote on November 27th, 2013
  3. “I need that face-to-face contact to recharge.” Would you consider yourself a extrovert? Is there a primal stance on extroversion and introversion? What are the known evolutionary forces behind them, if there are any?

    Katie wrote on November 27th, 2013
  4. Funny, I always thought you worked crazy hours like other bloggers I know. Good to see you practice what you preach!

    MattyT wrote on November 27th, 2013
  5. Very inspiring stuff. I think the main reason people find this place and stay here is that you truly walk the walk and live as you teach. You’re a true role model.

    I sit in front of Excel and reports and emails and meetings and all sorts of more or less creative stuff throughout the workday, but I’ve found that my focus is limited to 60 minutes at a stretch, then my mind starts drifting and I need a short break. However, when doing something that almost only involves the creative part of the brain, like producing music, I experience true flow and can go for hours without noticing it. It’s a strange feeling where hours pass like minutes and everything else just disappears – I even forget routine things like having a sip of water now and then.

    Karl Nilsson wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • Agree….great post. It’s nice to see how others do it and learn from some of the success that they’ve had.

      Matt wrote on November 28th, 2013
  6. Thanks for the video Mark! My work-day SHOULD be a lot like yours is but it isn’t. I need to take more breaks and more time for research — as I find myself falling behind the knowledge curve of my fast-changing industry. Thanks for the inspiration. And….I have to say…Dang! You are one fit dude!

    Kirk wrote on November 27th, 2013
  7. ooooh I wish I had that freedom!! Your first big plus is being your own boss so that makes you able to plan your hours. The second one is living in a warm climate, I couldn’t be outside all the time, it’s freezing.

    MarielleGO wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • That’s why I like a being a stay-at-home wife–the freedom. I may not earn a paycheck, but I make up for it in tax deductions.

      Wenchypoo wrote on November 27th, 2013
  8. I found myself distracted by Mark’s arms. Good reminders!

    Jess wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • Focus Jess! F-O-C-U-S-! :)

      Kirk wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • haha Me too! Mark, you’re sexy!

      Tina wrote on November 27th, 2013
  9. The video was pretty much exactly like I thought, or imagined Mark’s day to be…except for a sit down desk. I thought he would have a standing desk. Great stuff. Thanks.

    Nocona wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • I think he does have a standing desk. He talks about it and shows it in a video that was on the blog a month ago or so. He just has a special stool that goes with it that is like a leaning sort of stool and not a sit down stool. My husband has the same thing for his home office and a treadmill under his desk, they’ve been helpful for him to add more movement into his non-movement prone work day.

      HiDee wrote on November 27th, 2013
  10. I admire your achievements. I eny the fact that you still find time to socialise. I wish I could find enough time for socialising but that is almost impossible when you are combining your work and blogging. More especially when you are fighting to become a full time blogger relying entirely on the Internet for upkeep.

    I will seriously consider finding time to rest as I preach on my blogs on diet and natural remedies. You can’t enjoy good health while overworking yourself. The two don’t get along. Almost all communities who value rest live longer than the average person as the following link shows http://simplenaturalandhomeremedies.com/2013/03/why-do-adventist-live-longer.html
    Once agin thanks for reminding us about the importance of family and rest and doing what you teach.

    Samuel Albert wrote on November 27th, 2013
  11. I loved the video, Mark. Nice to see you also enjoy a balanced day.

    Re the actual video though – I had a problem hearing your words. I heard “Welcome to my backyard.” but from then on heard only the background music. Had the volume on my desktop turned up and heard that just fine. I tried to read your lips and got the gist of what you were saying, but ….??? I viewed it twice with the same results. Am I the only one who experienced this?

    I’ve read through the text posted and it pretty much says what I thought you were saying so I’m good with the information you presented.

    I’m from SoCal (Orange County) and appreciate seeing familiar sights again.

    Thanks for posting this, Mark. And Happy Thanksgiving!

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on November 27th, 2013
  12. I can’t hear any of the talking by Mark in this video. Anybody else having this problem?

    Jeremy wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • I thought I was– then I realized I had only one earbud in! Popped in the other & there was Mark. :-)

      The sound is on separate stereo tracks, apparently– maybe that’s the issue for you too?

      Paleo-curious wrote on November 27th, 2013
  13. What is the typical “workout” you perform?

    Zach rusk wrote on November 27th, 2013
  14. In regards to making “a gradual transition into your peak performance state” does this include exercise or just mental activities? Was thinking of starting my workout when I first get up.

    Adam wrote on November 27th, 2013
  15. Mark, only a cup of coffee in the morning? What happened to breakfast being the most important meal of the day? And how do you work out with only caffeine in your body?

    Marilyn wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • I suspect that coffee may be “bulletproof”– including butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, &/or eggs. See some previous posts…

      Paleo-curious wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • Intermittent fasting.

      Chris wrote on November 28th, 2013
  16. Love the video! I wish your workout would have been filmed.

    I wake up at 4:45 AM to my nature sounds alarm clock; I’m partial to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. I open the door to find my snuggly cat waiting for hugs. After about 10 minutes of hugs (not kidding!), I make my bed, wash my face, get dressed, and then head downstairs to catch up on e-mails or empty the dishwasher before breakfast.

    After breakfast and a teeth brushing, I’m off to work at 6 AM as a Physical Therapist Assistant, where I run around like a chicken with my head cut off due to the ridiculous productivity requirements the company has which only allows for 20 minutes of downtime out of an 8 hour workday. This means I usually end up donating my own time by the time I finish my paperwork. Luckily I love what I do or I wouldn’t do it given the state of our healthcare system, but that’s another story!

    After work ends sometime between 2 and 4, I get home and take a bike ride through the neighborhood or on the canals for a few miles. Then I do a real workout, shower, and eat dinner. Then I catch up on e-mails again with my blue light blocking glasses, or read, or catch up on “Jeopardy”, snuggle the cat some more, then go to bed by 8:45.

    On weekends, I either work my PRN job, or I wake up with the sun, go hiking, and run errands.

    Jen wrote on November 27th, 2013
  17. How did that salad exceed 1,100 calories? What was in it?

    Merry wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • Click on the link in his post and you can see. I suppose he is making a double version of that salad.

      perennialpam wrote on November 27th, 2013
  18. For me it’s about setting a pace for the day.

    aboutcreativity wrote on November 27th, 2013
  19. Looked like Mark didn’t finish the salad (or is that a pattern on the bowl – if so why the “I think I’m done”, surely if all gone it would be “I’m finished”. So perhaps it wasn’t exactly the calories (whatever they are) stated. A blog post there somewhere – eyes bigger than tummy. Yes, I’m English (if I was Scottish I would have listed the remaining salad on Ebay). Keep up the good work Mark, but always keep your Vibrams on the ground – figuratively.

    Kit wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • Looks like you’ve never visited Scotland Kit. ;)

      Cal wrote on November 28th, 2013
      • Hell yeah, had my honeymoon there (grand word for a b&b). Just kiddin’ ’bout Ebay and I admit it: a cheap cliche. Scots are like brothers to me – in a way. I haven’t been there for over a decade, but when I return home from New Zealand soon, I may pop to St Andrews, eyeing up the grass fed Angus on my way. And the midges will be hibernating and I will be armed with one of Mark’s blogs about SAD.

        Kit wrote on November 29th, 2013
  20. Thanks for your hard work! You have a great “straight shooter” attitude.

    skeedaddy wrote on November 27th, 2013
  21. Mark…nice video…but left out a lot…what about managing those 20 people where does that come into play, wife, kids, school events, etc…looks pretty easy with the video…but certainly not real life.

    alohadave wrote on November 27th, 2013
  22. I just tried to watch your video on YouTube, Mark. Same results – great video, background music (very nice BTW), but no vocals. ???

    While on YouTube I also watched the video of you on the Diet Doctor – no problem with the sound and enjoyed it very much.

    Also watched your Q&A session with Robb Wolf. Q – Robb was wearing a T-shirt with “STFU and lift some shit.” What does STFU stand for?

    Also watched John Durant’s video presentation Paleo Manifesto.

    All this while trying to hear your daily routine. Thank you.

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on November 27th, 2013
    • As Paleo-curious indicated, the background music and my audio are on two separate tracks, so you’ll need to use stereo speakers or both headphones to hear both tracks. This wasn’t intended and will be fixed for future videos. Thanks for watching!

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 27th, 2013
      • Thanks for your response, Mark. I did enjoy the music all three times I watched it. :)

        BTW – What’s your dog’s name? Just curious.

        Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on November 27th, 2013
        • He mentions in an old post that his dog’s name is Buddha. STFU is easily googled.

          Merry wrote on November 27th, 2013
        • Thanks Mary. I should have know. Primal would have been too easy! :)

          Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on November 28th, 2013
  23. Since I discovered the Primal Blueprint in 1999, I’ve often wondered about your life. I knew that you had a business, the “worker bees,” but no idea it has twenty employees. Thanks for taking us into your home, and I tip my hat to you!

    Also, let me worship a moment, you probably saved my life. You know, like all those success stories posted here!

    This f.lux is awesome! It’s after dark now, the monitor color temp has gone warm, and I can just feel the lower stress! Ommm………. Who’da thunk?

    Your karma account must be bursting at the seams!

    OnTheBayou wrote on November 27th, 2013
  24. Thanks Mark, I think you have a life most people envy. As a homeschooling mother of three boys we do take the regular breaks, but I think I will try and include on of those breaks being a work out time. I really need to work out more and it will be a great example for my boys, set them up now for a healthy future.Thanks for your example and motivation.
    Kirstie
    PS Since starting primal eating my sleeping is improved 100%, but reading the other posts above, I would be interested in those glasses you were talking about. Thanks again for all the info.

    Kirstie wrote on November 27th, 2013
  25. I also work from home, running our small business and doing readings online. I start my day by stretching, doing self care with Reiki, eating a light breakfast, then going to the gym.

    When I come home I log onto the phone line and check emails and handle any computer tasks between calls as well as such necessary tasks as laundry. After a few hours, I take a break for lunch and to do shopping, make dinner, and spend time with my family before either having clients, classes, or logging onto the phones again.

    Yes, I work after dark, but in my business I have to since that’s when my clients have the time…and my work at that point is more like play, really. Between calls in the evenings I do fun things like watching this video, or others, or whatever I fancy that night.

    I do take frequent small breaks as well, otherwise I get drained.

    Diane J wrote on November 27th, 2013
  26. Love the up-close and personal look at Mark’s highly-productive-with-many-breaks lifestyle.

    Susan B. wrote on November 27th, 2013
  27. Digging your watch, Mark. Can you please tell me what it is?

    Thanks for all you do.

    Gunnar Fox wrote on November 27th, 2013
  28. Just got F.Lux… at 1:00 am.. :)
    Thanks for sharing Mark.

    Lars wrote on November 28th, 2013
  29. Thanks for the video. Your days look very easy-going and laid-back. I wish I could get my things done like this as well. But as somebody else mentioned before in the comments, the day in life your video shows is just a small portion of my days. If you have a toddler and a pre-schooler at home, a house to clean, dinner to cook, laundry to make, groceries to shop, cat poop to clean-up and a gazillion of other “tiny” things on your plate, the video looks like rather idealistic.
    I am trying to live a primal lifestyle and I am coping quite well with nutrition, but very often I feel like I just have no damn time to relax …

    Katrin wrote on November 28th, 2013
  30. Really interesting to see how you go about your business. You seem to peak at a different time of day from me, I like to get my writing done as soon as I wake up and leave the rest of the day for the less creative work. My focus and creativity seems to be better early in the day, and while it took a while to get used to the 4.30am wake up I’d really struggle to go back!

    Some great tips on unwinding at night too. Really enjoyed this one!

    Stuart Young wrote on November 28th, 2013
  31. Great video. My life is similarly structured. It’s certainly not the norm, but it does seem to be the most productive and satisfying.

    John C. A. Manley wrote on November 28th, 2013
  32. It’s a good day to say Thanks to Mark and all the bees at MDA! About to dig into a Primal Thanksgiving dinner….

    Tom B-D wrote on November 28th, 2013
  33. “Humans can only focus on one thing for about 20 minutes, give or take”

    This is the thing that I find hardest about my job. I am a massage therapist, and despite what a lot of people think, it does use a lot of mental focus… believe me, the clients KNOW if you are not mentally “there” and are daydreaming…. I have often likened the amount of focus needed as being similar to meditating as you need to be “present” all the time and aware of what your hands are feeling.

    So now imagine meditating for 60 minutes at a time 5-6 times a day (or even 90 minutes at a time as I also do 90 minute treatments).

    It is not surprising that I am mentally drained by the end of the day. But in addition, I am also physically whacked as well as massage, when done properly, is one of the most physically challenging jobs you can do… I specialize in deep tissue and trigger point therapy and it is HARD work!

    Unfortunately I can’t take a break after 20 minutes, I have to wait until the treatment is done (I do 30 min, 45 min, 60 min and 90 min treatments depending on what the client wants and what needs working on). Then I get a 15 minute break before the next client comes in.

    salixisme wrote on November 28th, 2013
  34. Man, I would love that flexibility… I have an office job, usually from 7.30am to 6pm with a short break. Lots of meetings, people to manage and dealing with issues.

    Rene wrote on November 28th, 2013
  35. Thanks for really sharing part of your life with us Mark. I want to say that I very much appreciate that for you the fun part is the research. I would not get very far with that at all and it is so important to the teaching/discussions here at MDA. You are doing the hard stuff for me – thanks!

    Vanessa wrote on November 28th, 2013
  36. Thanks, Mark, for opening up your life and home! But where is Carrie??? She figures in your day, I’m sure! Do you see each other often during the day, or only in the evening? I’d like to see a “Day in the Life of Carrie”. How does she manage all her responsibilities?

    Who fixes dinner, gets groceries, and when do you do errands and all the little stuff around the house that needs doing, fixing, etc? It’s the long list of daily “must do’s” that seem to sap a lot of time and energy for me. Someone had to wash and chop all those great salad fixin’s, for example. At our house, that would be me, along with laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning house, etc. etc.

    Thanks for the great video – hope to see Carrie soon!

    Laurie wrote on November 28th, 2013
  37. I find the quiet early mornings, before other people are up, are my most productive and creative times. I enjoy this part of the day and cherish it.

    Other principles I live by and not to rush, not to multi-task, relax and allow nature to guide me to the next most important thing and then focus on that and do it well. Trust that nature will always guide me to the next most important thing if I listen well and allow it to. This is a great way to reduce stress.

    Also, making sure that my food is nutritious, my body is fairly well detoxified and that I have suitable fasting periods, all help to keep me in good shape for creativity and productivity.

    Just wish I could keep this up all the time. It’s a challenge.

    Peter Whiting wrote on November 29th, 2013
  38. I love my job! I’m a teacher. And I am solidly committed to the healthiest, most realistic, stress-free lifestyle I can have. But EVERY SINGLE day I wish that I didn’t have to be out the door before 7 AM in order to be at school in enough time to be ready for all the minds that greet me in the morning by 7:45. And that’s without early arrival to get materials ready or have bus duty! If I wanted a nice cup of coffee, peaceful breakfast, newspaper and puzzles, I’d have to be up by 5 AM at the latest. I’m lucky if I get to go to the bathroom after coffee in the morning! *sigh* Maybe in my next decade I can aspire to this….

    Ginger wrote on November 29th, 2013
  39. Mark! Such a babe! Great tips and great lifestyle.

    Kylie wrote on November 29th, 2013
  40. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing and showing how it is done.

    Paula wrote on December 2nd, 2013

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