High productivity: mastering the art of the 4am start

Nutrition and productivity blog 34

Having a full time job can make being productive on a side hustle a challenge. It can be difficult to get distraction free time, time to go deep into a task and engage it in full flow. Distractions from other peoples agendas get in the way. Emails, instant messenger and social media are distractions on crack. These uber-distractions kill productivity by disrupting the process of getting a problem deeply absorbed into the gray matter for solving. Not only do these uber distractions take your focus off the job at hand, they really do reduce the ability to think deeply by re-wiring neural pathways1.

4am: get up before the enemy does

One way to avoid other people’s agendas and distractions is to get up before they do. Get to work early whilst the willpower and mental focus are strong. This is an approach that was used by Benjamin Franklin and recently popularised by ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink. Get up before the enemy does and you have the advantage. This is all good on paper: get up early, get focused and smash out the work you need to do. Achieving this isn’t so straightforward as this example explains:

You commit to getting up at 4.30am to work on your side-hustle. You go to bed early. The alarm goes off, you snooze it several times. You end up getting up an hour earlier than you promised yourself you would and you feel groggy. To make things worse you react to the pop-ups of emails / facecrack / instacrack / snapcrack as soon as you interact with your device. When do you do sit down to start your work, you’re not properly energised or clear on the priorities. Your action list is overwhelming. You decide to do ‘research’ (i.e. procastinate).

Our biology, circadian rhythm, technology and lack of preparation all conspire against us. Luckily, these are obstacles that can be negotiated to achieve an uber productive 4am start.

Making 4am starts a breeze

My protocol for getting up and getting into high readiness for attacking my top priority is as follows:

  • Get to sleep early enough to get 6-7 hours sleep to allow a natural wake (with out alarm) up at 4am. This means aiming to be asleep by 10pm latest if aiming for a 4am start. With sleep, quality is more important than quantity. I aim for roughly 80% sleep quality using the Sleep Cycle app.
  • Upon waking at around 4am, plug myself into the HumanCharger. This little device shines light onto photoreceptors on the brain and hacks the circadian rhythm. The body is tricked into thinking it’s later in the morning than it actually is and tells itself “time to get up buddy”. This makes getting out of bed so much easier.
  • I drink salt water (using Himalayan salt). This raises my blood pressure in readiness for work and reduces the burden on my adrenals to produce cortisol to raise blood pressure. I would only do this is if I was on a good diet.
  • 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation. Needs no explanation.
  • Breakfast: Bulletproof® Coffee. This gets the mind thinking clearly.
  • Boost energy with 5 reps of any exercise: this could be 5 burpees, 5 kettlebell swings, 5 pull ups or whatever I think up.
  • Cold shower: give yourself another energy boost2, just for good measure.
  • This is then where the works starts:  spend 1.5-2 hours on my highest priority task. I know what this is from reviewing priorities in the previous night.
  • No social media, messages, emails or news before the 1.5-2 hours has been completed on the highest priority task.

Eat your problems for breakfast.

Thanks for reading,



  1. The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember, Nicholas Carr
  2. https://www.foundmyfitness.com/?sendme=cold-stress ‘Report on Cryotherapy & Cold-Water Immersion’

Bulletproof and Brain Octane are registered trademarks owned by Bulletproof Digital, Inc. Bulletproof Diet, XCT and Upgraded are marks owned by Bulletproof Digital, Inc.

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