About a year ago, I established a small set of rules for myself about how I should conduct myself remotely, so as not to burn out and continue to wake up regularly at six in the morning while working with countries in different time zones. Over the course of a year, this set of rules has been amended, shortened and supplemented more than once. After a while, this set of rules gradually became permanent and I wrote this article in order to fix it somehow, rather than keep it in my head.
This is what your sleep schedule might look like if you work as a freelancer and have joined a team on the other side of the world, where their working day starts at 05:00 for you. How do you not burn out in such a regime?
I’ve tried a lot of early awakening options, and even settled on the monetary and social punishment option for a while: Tom Frank’s method with Buffer and Beeminder in tow.
But at the end of all my experiments, the option I have described below has been really effective for me.
To wake up regularly at six in the morning
I set a very loud alarm in the other room so that there is a need to get out of bed and walk some distance to the alarm clock. I have about ten meters.
Plus, the alarm can’t be turned off in the usual way by pressing a button. It can only be disabled by scanning any QR code.
My work room must be full of fresh air by morning, so I leave the window open at night. Fresh air in the morning is not only useful, but also a great wake-up call!
And, to finally wake up, I drink a glass of water, which is next to the alarm clock. If the alarm clock and 10 meters to it — helps your brain to wake up, the water — helps your body to wake up. And after drinking a glass of water, even if you go back to bed, it’s harder to go back to sleep.
In order not to burn out, regularly waking up at six in the morning
My body is not me. And most of the time my body is a capricious creature that fights against me for easy work, easy money, for not being given any discomfort.
But… Remember, when you just started a new job — in the first days you behaved more than usual: your brain was more active, new ideas and solutions were generated, and every morning you got up without much effort — in general you were on top. This is because at that moment your body was under “positive” stress: a new job, a cool new desk and a powerful new iMac with 32Gb of RAM on board and an i9 stone, as well as new plans and a bigger salary. All these new perks are as valuable to your body as they are to you, but only for a while until you get bored of everything again.
“Positive” stress is an immediate but not lasting reward for the body.
Activating your body at six in the morning is a great stress for it, especially if it happens regularly and without any reward. Like everything capricious, our body needs the awareness that there will be some kind of value waiting for it at the end of the path it has traveled. I call it “Awareness” value.
And for quite a long time my conscious value, as a freelancer, was a weekly cash income. And the logic here is simple: the earlier I get up, the more money I make. And at this rate, after a while I naturally began to burn out.
Any kind of conscious value that contains the principle: “You will earn as much as you work” is a false conscious value and will absolutely always lead to burnout, and therefore cannot be a motivator for waking up painlessly at six in the morning. This is why for many people a fixed-paying office job is ideal.
Money as a motivator is like a Trojan horse for the body — Sooner or later you will start to burn out.
The idea of right conscious value is that in the future we can put in the minimum effort and get the maximum profit for it in any equivalent, be it hundreds of thousands of saved man-hours or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And as soon as our body realizes that the time it spends is multiplied by tens or hundreds of times, it will take our side and begin to give us its energy itself. After that, waking up at six in the morning every day will not be a difficult task for us.
And that’s it! We get it… in order to wake up painlessly in the early morning and not burn out — we need the right conscious value that will multiply the effectiveness of the time we spend a hundred times over.
The efficiency of the time we spend on our work should eventually multiply by hundreds of times.
There’s a video on TED talks with the intriguing title “How to Increase Your Time,” and it begins with the words “we don’t know shit about time management. Be sure to add this video to your playlist and review it periodically.
It was because of this video that I started to think, “Am I wasting my time effectively? And now I wake up at six in the morning to devote as much time as possible to developing methodologies and passive earnings. So there is more to spend exactly those hours that I know will multiply my efficiency hundreds of times in the future.
Here’s a personal example.
In my case, my value that makes my hours spent a hundred times more efficient, and thanks to which I get up at six in the morning every day and don’t burn out, is my digital product: the DS Osmi design system, which I have been working on 1) only in the evenings for the third month now. In the future it will allow me to 2) save hundreds of man-hours per year, and 3) spend more time on other more important things, like analytics, empathy training, or just flying home to my parents. That would move me forward in my field a lot. And if it appeals to other designers, too, then 4) it will be another big passive income for me, which is definitely a big plus, too.
Observe the daily routine “until 10 p.m.”
A proper daily routine is as much an integral part of an effective wake-up call as are good morning habits and a faithfully chosen conscious value.
And it’s simple…
Anyone will tell you that you should go to bed at 10 or 11 p.m., following the principle: the earlier you go to bed, the earlier you get up. But for some reason no one says that the same rule naturally works in the reverse order: if you wake up at six in the morning, by eleven o’clock at night you won’t have to force yourself to sleep.
The only thing to do is to prepare your brain and body for sleep at 10 p.m. You just need to adjust your weekly schedule so that by 10 p.m. all the major chores are done and you can devote yourself to getting ready for bed.
Previously, I didn’t believe in the effectiveness of Google Calendar reminders, but exactly after I discovered the auto-scheduler in Google Calendar, I use it on a daily basis. Now weekly to-do planning takes me a couple of minutes. And all the to-do’s are done by 10pm. Google calendar comes highly recommended.
Listen to your body thanks to Biorhythms
I am a follower of human biological rhythms, and I always keep track of my two biorhythms: physical and intellectual.
It’s very simple: when they show “-100%” — I give myself rest, sleep or try not to overload myself too much, interrupt training, not do some of the work.
And when they show maximum “100%” — sometimes I even prepare for these days in advance and leave the most creative or the most difficult task for these days.
For example, by following the charts below, I was able to finish this article on December 14, dedicating only half a day to it. And on November 29th I was diving into the Star Wars universe to be ready for the release of Skywalker. Rise.”
Of course I don’t always follow this math advice, I just listen and then prioritize.
A list of good habits
This is a list of helpful habits I developed over the course of about two years, after I became a full-fledged freelancer. These helpful habits will keep you from burning out even at your most active pace.
- I sleep for 15 minutes when I feel like it and 30 minutes after dinner (but maybe not right after a meal);
- I try not to eat a lot of complicated food and try to drink more water;
- I work for two hours in the morning, then the rest of the day for an hour with breaks of 15–30–40 minutes;
- I do 35 push-ups from the floor, mostly after my lunchtime nap and as needed;
- I do meditation when I need to get back to normal.