Tea and Daily Journal

Why Routines Are Essential For Elite Performance

I’m obsessed with routines. For a long time, I thought it was weird that I was trying to plan each aspect of my day. But the more research I did into peak performance, the more I realised it’s a habit of the elite. This article will detail my dos and don’ts of routine creation.

Why Is Routine Important?

Routine creates space for creativity. When following a routine, your energy isn’t drained by thinking about what to do—that’s decided. Your focus is entirely on the how.

Well crafted routines will free your mind from the anxieties of forgetting. They allow time for all the necessary tasks and reduce the time for redundant ones. They create focus.

Waking up is one thing. Leaving the bed is the real challenge.

Morning Routines

In my opinion, a morning routine is vital for optimal success and growth. The first hour of the day is often the most painful, but with a solid plan to follow, you can get a lot done while being on autopilot.

For me, a successful morning leads to a successful day. My aim for the morning is to look after my mind and body. I want early wins, confidence and motivation. Courage to attack the rest of my day.

As an intermittent faster, I don’t worry about food in the morning. I get up, drink water, clean my teeth, meditate and leave for the gym or pool. Once I’ve finished exercising, I do an hour of deliberate practice (Spanish at the moment) before going to the office.

Within the first few hours of waking up, I’ve taken care of my mental health, physical health and completed my extra-curricular activity! It’s hugely motivating to get so much done in a short amount of time. All that’s left to do is work and relax!

I highly recommend creating a simple morning routine if you don’t have one already. You can start by formalising what you do instinctively. This exercise will highlight where your time is going and allow you to streamline your mornings, eliminating any wasted time. You can then expand and add activities as you see fit.

Doing work at work? Aint nobody got time for that

Work Routines

Having a work schedule is excellent for focus. It will allow you to manage and use your time effectively. Work is also a prime place for flow states. A robust plan will dramatically increase your likelihood of getting in the zone.

To create a work routine, make a note of all the activities you have to do in a typical day. At this stage, batch them into categories rather than specifics. Examples are planning; emailing; meetings; marketing and client work. Once you’ve got your tasks, you can create a blueprint: plan my day, do 4 hours of client work, 2 hours of marketing then emails. Every day you should follow that outline.

You can then split those categories into “chunks”. My chunks are generally 25-minutes long (one Pomodoro). The first thing I do when I get to the office is write a list of what needs to get done, then assign each item a number of chunks. Then I colour in the blobs as I work.

Today's Pomodoro chunks

Today’s Pomodoro Schedule

Work is notoriously unpredictable though, so it’s essential to plan in space for those unknowns. Either by adding a percentage to each chunk (~10%) or by including a few “empty” chunks to catch up on anything that overruns.

Exercise Routines

I’m a big advocate for having a daily movement practice. Not just for the obvious physical benefits, but for mental health and performance purposes. Movement gets me out of my head and into my body, it’s a meditation.

Whether it’s yoga, swimming, hitting the gym, running or Tai Chi, pick a practice that you enjoy and will want to do every day. I recommend doing the same type of movement every day, but you can change it and have rest days if you need to. Just don’t leave it up to chance. Make a plan for the week and stick to it.

The point of the routine is to stop choice paralysis and save energy by not making decisions.

Can't wake up late if you never go to sleep

Evening Routines

Evening routines allow the body to wind down after work and completely rest. Making decisions is taxing on the mind, and at the end of a long day, it’s particularly hard to make good ones. Automating the wind-down process will help you get the most out of sleep and therefore support your efforts to perform at your peak.

For more on sleep routines, check out my previous article.

How Not To Plan Your Day

I used to try and plan every minute of my day. I assumed that the more I planned, the more focused I could be. Unfortunately, the opposite was true.

Humans are notoriously bad at estimating time, and when a task takes longer than expected, it cascades down your whole schedule and throws everything off. This is not only annoying but can lead to unnecessary stress if you have time-dependent tasks.

It’s also important to plan free time into your calendar. Having flexibility is one of the best aspects of working for yourself, and you should definitely make the most of it.

Summary

Routines save energy by automating decision making. They reduce stress and increase performance. Make blueprints where it makes sense, and enjoy the space that is created by them.

If you have questions or opinions about anything in this article, please leave a comment below or on our community Facebook group.

A MacBook Open In A Dark Room

5 Ways To Improve Your Sleep

If you’d prefer to watch the YouTube video click here!

Sleep is essential. We all know it. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to prioritise. You don’t do anything while you’re asleep… And I like to do stuff.

Regrettably, lack of sleep makes me more irritable, hungrier, less focused and less motivated. That’s not a recipe for peak performance…

Over the last few years, I’ve experimented with a bunch of different routines and ideas. None of the weird sleep methods work long term. My advice is to stick to what you know and make it solid as a rock.

With that in mind, here are my 5 favourite ways to make you sleep like a baby:

1. Get Dark

Men In Black meme - Just Look Into The Light

Darkness is obviously important for sleep. Our eyelids are paper thin and if we’re not in a dark space, it’s pretty hard to get to sleep. Luckily the sun does us a favour and goes down at night, making our world nice and dark.

Get Dark is all about something I call “re-sleep”. Re-sleep is the time it takes you to get back to sleep when you get woken up in the night. Ideally, your re-sleep time will be less than 5 minutes. In the worst case scenario, your re-sleep time is infinity—i.e. you don’t get back to sleep.

Here in the UK, during the summer months, the sun rises at 4am. My body will wake up and not fall back asleep if any light is bleeding through the curtains. Infinite re-sleep time, instant drop in productivity for the day.

If you can, the best way to get dark is to get full on black-out blinds for your windows. If that’s not a feasible option for you, the next best thing is to get a decent eye mask.

My favourite eye masks are coined “zero-pressure” masks. They’re usually made of soft contoured memory foam. They don’t pressure your eyes and are super comfortable. You can pick them up from Amazon for around £7 ($10).

2. Get Quiet

Loud Noises Meme

Loud noise is the arch nemesis of sleep. It stops you getting to sleep and it wakes you up from sleep.

Super simple solution: move to the countryside. I’m kidding! Just get some decent earplugs.

The only earplugs I use are the foam earplugs from Quies. I’ve tried dozens of other earplug brands and these are the only ones I’ve found that do a decent job at blocking out noise and last more than 17 seconds. They’re comfortable, stay in my ears and come in a nice little case.

3. Get Calm

Stress can really be cruel when it comes to sleep. I find getting to sleep extremely hard when I’m overwhelmed with work, or when worried about my family or relationships. I also find the quality of my sleep is poor when my subconscious is trying to work out all those difficult problems all night.

There are two ways I’ve improved my sleep when it comes to stress: being on top of my emotional well-being and having some time away from my gadgets before bed.

3.1 Handle Emotional Well-being

This is one helps with numerous aspects of performance (and well, life!), but it’s key when it comes to sleep. My favourite tactics for hushing my monkey mind are meditation and journaling.

I recommend meditation to everyone I meet. If you’ve never tried meditation or haven’t had a good experience with it, I implore you to try these tips below.

I’ve found the most reliable way to meditate is by doing it first thing in the morning and listening to guided meditations on my iPhone. Start off small, 5-10 minutes at the same time, in the same place, every day. Yes… Every, single, day!

The two best apps I’ve used are Headspace (free 10-day trial, then £10/month) and Oak (free forever, iOS only). I still use Oak to this day and I’ve been meditating daily for nearly 3 years!

Headspace is great because it has different “courses”. Each course is based around a topic (anxiety, happiness, focus etc.) and the meditations vary slightly based on which one you choose. I think it’s really valuable to have a path to follow when you start out like Headspace provides. The only downside is that it’s a subscription-based service.

Oak’s main asset is its simplicity. It offers only 2 types of mediation. A simple “breath-awareness” mediation and a compassion (a.k.a loving-kindness or metta) mediation. Both are excellently scripted and the app allows you to vary the length and backing track (rain, white noise etc.) of the audio, which I love. My current morning meditation routine is 15 minutes of breath meditation followed by 10 minutes of the loving-kindness variety.

Meditation has been proven to reduce stress which will definitely help you sleep. If it gets to sleep o’clock and you’re mind is still racing, try a mediation specifically for sleep. There are thousands on YouTube. I just let it play in the background and usually fall asleep within the first 10 minutes! One of my favourite channels for this sort of stuff is Jason Stephenson’s channel.

Cat Meditation Meme

Journaling is the other tool in my emotional well-being tool belt. Whenever I feel like something is up, I try and pull out a pen and paper and let the pen flow.

Often I just start by writing “So… I don’t know what to write…”. Not long after, all of my subconscious thoughts will fall onto the page: What to have for lunch next Monday; what to buy my mother for Christmas; that I need to talk my partner about something and it’s going to suck.

It doesn’t need to make sense and shouldn’t be read by anyone else. It’s a process of getting all of the little bits and bobs out of your head and on paper. This process is called a “braindump” and it’s liberating.

Braindumps are especially good just before bed as it’s an emptying of your subconscious mind. They untangle so much of the pre-bed stress web and allow your mind to be at ease.

The next morning, I usually go back an highlight or underline any words that stand out. This helps me identify any problems that need my attention, make plans and not forget that genius Christmas present idea.

3.2 Pre-bed Cool-Off Period

This one I personally find really hard, but it’s one of the points with the highest return on investment as it’s so simple.

The point of a pre-bed cool off is to get the Melatonin flowing. Melatonin is the “sleep hormone” and signals to your body that it’s time for sleep. Unfortunately, Melatonin is prohibited by blue light. Blue light is any light that looks “cold”—the opposite of candlelight which is orange and “warm”.

So at least an hour before you go to bed, turn off any bright lights (stick to candles or warm bulbs). Turn off your phone and put away the laptop or tablet (they also emit blue light frequencies by default). Spent the pre-sleep hour doing something wholesome and simple such as reading, writing (good time for a braindump!) or drawing. My personal favourite is listening to fiction audiobooks*.

*Non-fiction audio books are also fine. I personally find they turn on my “work brain” and aren’t good for my sleep.

4. Get Herbal

I Pity The Fool That Hasn't Tried Herbal Tea Meme

I’m really into herbs and especially herbal teas. I believe there are numerous benefits to drinking good herbal teas and they work wonders for sleep when enjoyed before bed.

Pre-bed, I usually choose to drink something lavender or camomile based (rooibos/redbush teas are also great). There are some delightful night tea blends by Pukka and Clipper which you can buy in UK supermarkets—I’m not sure about the rest of the world, let me know what brands you guys like. I’m a huge fan of the Yogi Tea brand too, but you’ll have to venture into a health food shop to find that.


For those nights when I need something a bit stronger (or if I don’t fancy a hot drink), I often take a Valerian based sleep aid pill. The brand I usually go for is called Kalms, but some supermarkets make their own versions which I’m sure are just as effective.

To quote WebMD:

Valerian is most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially the inability to sleep (insomnia). Valerian is also used orally for anxiety and psychological stress

I’ve found it to be remarkably effective, though I try and only use it when I need to. I make an effort not to rely on any chemical (herbal or otherwise) for my day-to-day functions. #nocaffine

5. Get Natural

This one is going to be super tricky for some folks. Don’t set an alarm.

I know what you’re thinking: “Are you crazy? I’ll sleep forever if I don’t set an alarm”. That might be true for the first few nights, but once you’re caught up on sleep, your body will naturally wake up after around 8 hours after you went to sleep, and you’ll feel amazing!

If you’ve been waking up to a horrible alarm for the last 50 years, please give this one a shot. I personally have a huge increase in awareness and wellbeing if I wake up naturally.

A backup option if you cant risk being late for something is to use a sleep tracking app like Sleep Cycle. Apps like this measure your movement throughout the night using sound or the devices accelerometer. They aim to wake you up when you’re in a light sleep state—usually in a chosen time window (e.g. 07:30 – 08:00).

I’ve found them to work really well and I genuinely wake up feeling fresher when using Sleep Cycle compared to one of the default alarms on my phone.


There you have it! My top 5 sleep improvement tips: Get dark, quiet, calm, herbal and natural.

Please leave any feedback or your own sleep hacks in a comment below or on our community Facebook group: Peak Performance Freelancers.

Cover Image Credit:  Jay Wennington

The Quest For Ultimate Performance

If you’re self employed, motivation and performance are everything. Every day is a hustle and you’ve got to be on top form if you want to make your business successful.

This blog is dedicated to peak performance. That means all things personal development, physical and mental health, business strategy, biohacking and loads more. The business related content will be focused towards freelancers, business owners and entrepreneurs, but all other content will be useful to anyone interested in being high performance.

My Quest For Peak Performance

I started this blog because for the last 10 years I’ve been obsessed performance. My main fixations have been diet & physical health (and how they relate to our mental wellbeing
and focus), motivation and business strategy. This blog will be a record my findings and a place to share and explore these topics with others.

If you want to learn more about me, checkout the about page!

Facebook Group

This blog has an accompanying Facebook community called Peak Performance Freelancers which I would love you to join. We have discussion groups, polls, live streams and loads of content that doesn’t make it onto the blog so please check it out here.

Once you’ve joined the join, drop a comment to introduce yourself, your favorite peak performance tip and a topic you’d love to learn about!