5 takeaways from implementing CEO habits

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In business, the role of CEO is to exude power, leadership and brilliance. Six figure bonuses, leather classed board rooms and private jets, its the top of the tree when it comes to business, but what separates a Chief-Executive from us mere mortals? What do they know that we don’t? What’s in the water on the executive floors?

In an attempt to answer these questions, we spent a week putting into practice some of the most outlandish habits that fill the days of the most successful people in the world. We would in essence, spend a full working week, acting like a CEO.

We hand-picked 5 habits to insert into our daily lives, and documented if they made a difference to our performance, wellbeing and general state of mind. They were as follows:

  • Wake up at 4am, and clear inbox (Tim Cook - Apple)
  • 1 hour learning in AM (Sundar Pichai - Google)
  • Cold shower in AM (Tony Robbins)
  • Relaxation bath every night (Arianna Huffington - Huffington Post)
  • Journalling before bed (Tim Ferris)

Our week began with the startling shrill of the iPhone alarm-clock, the one noise in everyone’s life that brings with it a crippling sense of anxiety and dread. But this time, those feelings were overshadowed by the realisation that it was 4am, a time only ever seen on the weekends when dragging yourself into bed after a long night.  Usually, the phone would have been launched across the room, and the alarm disabled immediately, but on this occasion, with the determination of a true CEO, the day had begun.

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The first thing on the agenda, was to fire up the computer and coffee machine, and start to clear the backlog of emails that had flocked in overnight from the various offices around the globe. At this point, a realisation was made, our inbox was empty. Unlike CEO’s, we are not important enough, sought after enough, or busy enough to justify a brimming 4am inbox, so after quickly deleting an email from GoCompare and NatWest, this task was complete.

The next item on the agenda, was an hour of learning. It is incredible how many of the top businessmen and women set aside concrete time to learn and develop. Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn has 2 hours every day for this type of thinking, Bill Gates famously spends 2 weeks of the year locked away reading papers, journals and books that help him grow his understanding of various topics. They both attribute some of their biggest decisions and ideas to this process.  We both decided to apply ourselves to useful skills. James concentrated on YouTube tutorials on creative skills (Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects) whilst I decided to sharpen up on my Spanish linguistics, using the Duolingo app and various podcasts to broaden my bi-lingual capabilities. 

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After the learning phase, it was time to awaken the senses fully, and jump into a freezing cold shower. The successful entrepreneur, investor and podcast phenom Tim Ferriss swears by a blitz of cold water to start and end his day, it brings the mind and body to life, and pushes any sluggish, sleep deprived (yeah, 4am!) behaviours out of the system, it is the catalyst for the day.

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After suppressing the shivers, and regaining the feeling in our extremities, the day carries on as normal. Our regular lives ensue, and we go about our business. No fancy lunch meetings, golf-course schmoozing or helicopters, just the usual.

When we arrive back home, the evening habits come into the frame. The first is an Arianna Huffington (CEO and founder of The Huffington Post) special, a 45-60 minute relaxation bath. No tech, just candles, bubbles and calm. An oasis for the modern day man. At first, the thought of running a bath, lighting candles, and creating a den of zen seemed like an annoyance. Fast forward 60 minutes, flushed and light-headed from the heat, the relaxation bath had done wonders. Now I personally hadn’t had a bath in over 10 years, they seemed unnecessary, and frankly I found the idea of sitting in a pool of your own filth for an extended period of time quite strange. James however, is more of a bath man, so enjoyed enforcing this habit into his routine.

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Once the evening had drawn to a close, the last thing on our CEO list was journalling. This entails being present with a pen and paper, and simply writing down thoughts and feelings about the day, about your life, about…anything! It is a total mind-dump, a blank canvas to offload stress and anxiety, identify gratification and celebrate success. 

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This 24 hour routine repeated itself for a 5-day cycle, we did our best to fully embed these habits into our lives, and really try to understand the thought behind each one, here is what we found:

4am start:

It soon became evident that 4am may be slightly too early. This was a full 3 hours earlier than our usual wake-up time, and we struggled to fill this time effectively. However, there is definitely something to be said about being the only person awake in a 10 mile radius. There is an undeniable early-bird smugness, a sense of superiority that whilst others sleep, you are up and operating, siezing the bloody day. Over the course of a week, the early starts did take their toll, and afternoon crashes became a regular occurrence, but with practice and a more punctual bed-time, there is a lot to be said for the pre-dawn wake up call.

1 hour learning:

This was a revelation. In a modern world where time is a precious commodity, having an hour set aside to develop yourself is absolute gold. For those with that entrepenurial tendency, but lack the time to peruse that big idea, this is your calling. We all have time if we want it bad enough. In that short-period of time, we both progressed rapidly in our learning. There was no distractions at this time of the day, no texts or emails rolling in and disrupting our trail of thought, the perfect setting to fully focus on the task at hand. We have both since carried on with this, dedicating at least 1 hour ever day to personal development.

Cold Shower:

As painful as it is to drench yourself in ice-cold water, and the ever present danger of having a self-inflicted heart attack always looms, the shower genuinely does kick start your day. Even though we haven’t taken to doing it every day, we do hold it in reserve for those especially sluggish/hungover mornings, in which it acts like a shot of adrenaline to the blood-stream.

Relaxation bath:

Onto the polar opposite of the shower, the relaxation bath became a much anticipated part of the day. By leaving the phone outside, you are forced into the present, and soon find yourself lost in your own tiny flat. This environment is phenomenal for thinking. It allows you to truly deconstruct your day, and get to grips with what’s going on inside. We would highly recommend this to anyone who is suffering with stress at work, it is a total CTR-ALT-DELETE for the mind.

Journalling:

Being honest, this was quite weird at first. Initially it was hard not to feel like a teenage girl jotting down her latest crush, but with a bit of practice, journalling became a valuable tool that we still do today. Our biggest learning was not to think too thoroughly about the construction of the words, but just to throw down whatever came into our heads. By putting pen to paper, it brings the thoughts into the realms of reality, and in many cases, unloads a weight from the shoulders.

 

Overall, the week was a real eye opener. Although we struggled with a few of the components, each had a clear purpose for being. There are a wide array of other habits we could have chosen, and we have become insatiably curious about trying these out. We highly recommend you do the same, take your pick, try and test, mould and shape them to fit your lifestyle. Experimentation is key, you never know what you may learn about yourself. What have you got to lose!? See you at 4am friends…enjoy!

The Tempest Two