Jeff Bezos: A Fixed Routine
Episode #10 of the course Productivity hacks: Lessons from top leaders and billionaires by John Robin
Welcome to the final day of our course!
I’ve saved the best for last and I mean that. The richest person in the world as of 2018, from whose example we can learn—and put together everything we’ve learned in the last nine days.
Jeff Bezos isn’t just worth more than $100 billion ($138.2 billion as of December 2018), he’s the leader of a company whose worth recently reached $1 trillion. While his company, Amazon.com, is not the first to reach this size (Apple got there first in August 2018), what’s remarkable is that he grew Amazon from a humble online bookstore that he started in his garage in 1994, where he warned early investors that the company had a 70% chance of going bankrupt.
Despite this, he’s gone from being worth the $300,000 his parents invested in the company to get him started, to now being worth $138.2 billion. This means he’s doubled his wealth almost 19 times.
To get a sense of how HUGE this accomplishment is, if you doubled the width of a piece of paper 19 times, it would be 262m high (as tall as a skyscraper).
Keeping Your Workaholic in Check
Like our Day 1 star, Arianna Huffington, Bezos swears on the importance of life balance and setting limits of work. This is the wealthiest man in the world, leader of one of the most successful companies in the world, and he’s remarkably in control of how he invests his personal time.
Jeff Bezos gets a good night’s sleep and swears on it. He wakes up every morning naturally, with no alarm clock. He always gets eight hours a night.
This ties back to what we learned in Day 1 about that last phase of REM-heavy sleep from about seven hours and on. Here’s yet another reason to listen to that sound wisdom and do whatever it takes to get the right amount of sleep.
Bezos takes this all a step further. Routine is key to all he does, and in fact, it’s a final clue for us as we close up our course to help you build your own pattern for success.
Rituals and Routines: Training Your Inner Clock
The core problem with workaholism lies in being out of touch with time—more specifically, time as your body knows it.
Jeff Bezos, for example, has a fixed routine. He wakes up naturally. He makes sure to get in what he calls “high-IQ meetings” before noon, usually never before 10 am. After waking, he eases into his day by reading and having breakfast with his family and spending time with them.
He does not schedule meetings unless they are critical (according to one interview, he has a “two-pizza rule,” which means unless there are enough people to feed two pizzas, it’s not worth having). He keeps his afternoon open to focus on the top-priority tasks he can do to grow his company.
By 4-5 pm, if something urgent comes up, he deliberately puts off making any decision on it until 10 am the following day. (Can you see how his work schedule is about six hours, which is 20% of his time?)
The evening is for him, which means winding down for the night so he can wake up naturally again the next morning with eight hours’ sleep. He does the dishes every evening and swears on this as a staple habit that’s part of his overall success (in his words, it’s “the sexiest thing to do”).
There are two important principles we can extract from this:
• deliberate progress
• delayed reaction
Mastering these two forces is critical to keeping limits on work time.
In deliberate progress, you find a way to set limits on how much you need to get done during your limited work window. Especially when you are working on long-term projects that span days or weeks or sometimes even months, it’s important to have a larger routine that not only tells you “STOP” each day but also lets you see your continued progress.
For example, I use a series of to-do lists that let me batch all my work once a week, then a larger list that lets me see how all this work drives progress over a longer period of several weeks. This course, for instance, is on my larger to-do as one item, and I’ll cross it off when I’m finished. For each week, I’ve allotted exact blocks of time to put in to help me make progress on it.
Delayed reaction is also just as critical.
If you react to whatever comes up, deliberate progress will suffer. It’s best to eliminate distractions. One thing I find helpful is a separate to-do labeled “COMES UP.” If something comes up beyond what I already planned for the week, it goes on there. It doesn’t get done unless it’s a world-ending emergency (these tend not to happen a lot).
Jeff Bezos teaches us that being amazingly successful is about showing up on time—and knowing what time to show up! Being predictable doesn’t mean being boring when it comes to innovation and success: It means being consistent, and part of being consistent means consistent improvement.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this course and practiced its concepts each day. And I hope you’ll take these tools and still be working on them one year from now. The habits gleaned from the routines of the world’s most successful people are habits we all can learn from, especially now that we’ve learned that all of them started from the same place you and I are right now: aspiring, believing that the power of improvement and innovation can open the door to endless possibilities!
How to Create a Productivity System by Paul Minors (this is seriously one of my favorite Highbrow courses!)
Other courses by John Robin
How to market your book online
How to begin (and maintain) your career as a writer
Great math problems for the 21st-century mind
The world’s most compelling logic puzzles
Most brilliant social psychology experiments
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