The One Routine That Guarantees The Rest.

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"Most people know what to do, they just don't have the willpower and structure to get to it consistently."

Routine – it's become dreaded word in our culture, a word we closely correlate with monotony. But for these 21 days, I want you to break that notion.

When directed towards things that matter, routine is what allows us to stay on track, reduce the willpower we have to expend, and move further, faster.

It is what will help you break your current habits and build new ones.

By definition, a routine is simply a sequence of actions you follow regularly. In this case, we'll be talking about the routines you set up and follow each night and morning. These are what will ensure you are able to create the space you need.

If you take the time to set them up properly and, most importantly stick to them, you'll walk away from 21 Damn Early Days further than you thought possible.

There is one routine that will help you "win" 21 Damn Early Days. If you can nail this one, nothing can stop you.


Let's TALK Bedtime 

Getting up at 4:30AM doesn’t start when your alarm clock goes off, it starts the afternoon before. Yep – a full 12 hours before you wake up you should be thinking about it because the decisions you make then will effect how easy it is for you.

We've got some things to think about and do below:

1. Your Bedtime

This is one of the biggest things you'll need to understand – how many hours of sleep do you need?

For most men, it’s between 7 and 9 hours and for most women it’s 8 to 9 hours. Of course, this is a uniquely individual thing that you have to figure out for yourself. 

Spend time figuring this out and then count back from 4:30AM – that’s your bed time. If you need 7.5 hours of sleep, then you need to be asleep by 9PM. Given that it takes roughly 15 – 30 minutes to fall asleep, you should be in bed with the lights out by between 8:30PM and 8:45PM.

This might sound early right now, but once you get the hang of early mornings and realize how much you can accomplish early on in the day, it won't be seem so bad. Trust us.

figure out how much sleep you need.
determine what your bed time is.


2. Building a Night Time Routine

The easiest way to consistently get to bed at an hour you aren't used to is to have a routine around it. The body is way smarter than most of us give it credit for and creating a night time routine serves as a cue that it should start getting ready for sleep.

During it you can prep yourself for bed, sip herbal tea, read a book, prepare for the next morning (setting up coffee, getting out gym clothes, etc.), set your alarm, mediate to something that calms you, and/or mentally go through the process of getting up in the morning.

Keep things simple and you will thank yourself.

Note: Preparing for the next day, the night before, is one of those little things that’s going to help you succeed. You are much more likely to get out of bed and hit the gym in the morning if your bag is already packed and all you have to do it throw on your shoes and head out the door.

Three simple rules to your routine:

  1. Your routine should take at least 15 minutes.
  2. Be similar each night.
  3. Be done at the same time each night.

To do:

  • Spend some time developing a night time routine. Think about how you want to wind down. We put some suggestions and an example below.
  • Write it down, print it out, and leave it somewhere you can go back to each night
  • Set your alarm clock for 30 minutes and then 10 minutes before this starts. This will be your reminder that you need to start thinking about closing it down for the night.

You can find an example of a nighttime routine here:

I need a solid 7.5 hours each night and generally fall asleep quickly, so I need to be in bed by 8:45PM and asleep by 9:00PM. I like to do a little more with my night time routine as I use it to decompress from the day, remind myself where I'm at, and get prepped for the next so I budget 30 minutes.

Here's an example of what it'll look like:

7:45PM - First alarm goes off telling me I have 30 minutes until I have to start winding down.
8:05PM - Second alarm goes off, telling me I have 10 minutes. I begin shutting down what I'm doing.
8:15PM - Brush my teeth, make tea, shut off my phone, and set my alarm for tomorrow.
8:15PM - Turn on some chill music. I use the same song each night, which tells my body it's time to go to bed. Spend the next 15 minutes decompressing from the day, writing down thoughts, going over what happened that day, understanding what went well and what did, and looking at my agenda for tomorrow. This takes about 15 minutes.
8:30PM - Read a book for 15 minutes.

8:45PM - Crawl into bed.
9:00PM - Good night.

spend some time and figure out how you'll wind down your nights

3. Some (Tried and tested) Afternoon & Night Time Rules

Trust us when we say we've messed this up just about every single way you can. Whether it's been 21 Damn Early Days or the chases we've done, more than once we've found ourselves sitting there at midnight, wired and not able to fall asleep.

To save you the struggles, we've put down some of the best rules for making your nights easy:

1. Ditch The Phone

As powerful as they are, your phone is likely the biggest distraction in your life. We recommend leaving your phone charging outside of the bedroom and investing in a $20 on an alarm clock to get you up each morning. This does two things: 1. it stops you from being on your phone in bed and 2. it forces you to get up to check-in each morning.

2. Technology Cut-Off

Speaking of technology, we recommend cutting it out at least an hour before bed. The blue light from your phone/computer screen will tell your brain to stay awake and stop the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). Unplugging at least an hour before will tell you body it's allowed to fall asleep. The science is here .

3. Food Cut-Off – Try not to eat 2 hours before bed. It makes a different in how you well you sleep.

4. Caffeine Cut-Off –  Cut out caffeine six (yes, 6) hours before bed. That means if bedtime is 9PM, then 3PM is your last call for lattes.

5. Gym Cut-Off – If fitness is a part of your routine, get your work outs in by the early afternoon at the latest. Exercising late in the day can signal to your body that it shouldn't be ready to sleep yet.

6. Have A Plan and Stay The Course
You are saying yes to an unbelievable morning, so stick to your plan and feel good about saying no to things that come up last minute – no to a late meal, no to going out (even for just one drink), no to (insert pseudo FOMO or shiny object here).

And last but not least, have some damn confidence in yourself. You got this.

The end.

Gordon Swenson