How to properly use the most critical 5% of your day

1,440 minutes.

Every single day you get to choose how to spend 1,440 minutes.

Most of us spend about a 3rd of them sleeping, a 3rd at work, and in some combination, for the remaining 3rd we work out, eat, spend time with our families, do chores, and whatever else it is we decide to do.

99% of Americans (totally made up statistic) live their lives just like that, and that’s just fine.

This post isn’t about how to sleep for 2 hours, work for 18, and manage a home life out of 4 (looking at you GaryVee), it’s about how to take 80 of those 1,440 minutes, and set yourself up for success day in and day out.

Proactive vs Reactive

Ideally, we’d be in full control of our days. We’d be well aware of every little thing that was going to happen to us and know how to react perfectly to every situation.

We’d proactively have the answer to our clients toughest questions. We’d proactively have the perfect sized socket wrench to fix an impromptu mechanical issue. We’d proactively salt the driveway for the un-forecasted snowstorm. Etc, etc.

The reality is, though, is we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. We don’t know what our client will say on the other end of an unexpected phone call. We don’t ‘know how we’ll react to an emotional argument and we certainly won’t think of the perfect comeback to that argument until 3 days later when we’re reliving it in our heads in the shower (or is that just me?).

The reality is, we’re often proactive with things we already know about, and forced to be reactive with those that we don’t. That’s life, and that’s normal.

But what if we could get a head start? What if, no matter how reactive the day would turn out to be, we could find a way to be proactive first? What if we could get ahead of it all by setting up ourselves for success? And what if we didn’t have to rely on anyone else in the world to help us do it?

Enter 30-5-5-30.

The rules of 30-5-5-30

30-5-5-30 is a simple concept. 4 blocks of time out of your day, two of 30 minutes, 2 of 5 minutes.

These are blocks of time that you control. That you schedule. That are 100% non-negotiable, designed for you, and you alone.

But first, an analogy.

Catching a ball (even one of varying size and speed) is an easy task, IF you’re expecting a ball to be thrown in the first place.

Catching a ball becomes increasingly more difficult if you’re in a china shop full of signs that say “no ball throwing allowed” because you’re simply, not ready.

My point? If you’re prepared for something (even something that varies in size, difficulty, etc.), your reaction to it can be much more appropriate, useful, productive, than if you’re completely and utterly blindsided.

So how do we get ready for something when we don’t even know what it is?

By being proactive in our preparation.

The first 30

The first 30 minutes of 30-5-5-30 come when your eyes first open in the morning.

These are sacred minutes.

In the first 30 minutes you’re awake, you should aim to do two things:

  1. Completely and utterly ignore the outside world
  2. Accomplish something for yourself

Ignoring the outside world

The reaction of many is to wake up and immediately check your smart phone. Check emails, Facebook notifications, oddly late night texts from your great aunt Patricia full of cat photos, you know.. the usual stuff.

Any one of these items (including the cat photos), could have a significant impact on your emotional state in the first 30 seconds of your day.

An angry client email sent overnight. A mean Facebook post from a so-called “friend”. A poorly angled photo of the cat (stretching with the cat thing here.. should have picked a better example). Etc.

So why? Why put yourself at the risk of something completely out of your control to alter your mood for the rest of your day?

How about instead you…

Accomplish something for yourself

I’m not talking about anything monumental. It’s only 30 minutes after all. But there are plenty of things you can in that time period.

For example you could:

  • Drink coffee, sit on the porch and admire the sunrise (weather permitting of course)
  • Read a chapter of your newest book
  • Do some yoga (or any exercise really)
  • Write in a journal
  • Meditate

The options are endless. But what do all of these things have in common?

You control every single one of them.

Not once did I mention reading the paper or watching TV (full of news you can’t control), checking your phone (see Patricia’s cat example above) or otherwise interacting with the outside world.

These 30 minutes are for you to do something for yourself that you’ll enjoy. Something that will energize you for the remainder of the day, and nothing else.

The first 5

So you’ve done it. You nailed the first 30 minutes of your day and you’re off to work (let’s assume it’s a work day..).

Work is (typically) not a place where you have the luxury of ignoring the outside world. In fact, you have to do the exact opposite of that. You have to interact with co-workers, clients, superiors, peers, that idiot in the parking lot who takes up two spaces for no conceivable reason what-so-ever, the list goes on.

So why not apply the same thought process to the first 5 minutes of your work day that you did to the first 30 minutes of your entire day?

Settle in to a 5-10 minute “work” routine.

Use this opportunity to be robotic. Go through a set series of motions when you arrive at the office to get yourself into the best mental state to take on the day.

For me, I go through this exact routine every time I walk in the door:

  1. Put my laptop on my chair
  2. Put my lunch in the fridge
  3. Hang up my coat
  4. Plug-in & boot-up my laptop
  5. Make coffee, get water & grab some breakfast

By the time I return to my desk, I’m ready to rock and roll.

My jacket isn’t cluttering my desk, food is put away, computer is on & ready to go, and I’ve got my morning refreshments.

Now I can sit down and not have to get up in ~2 minutes for something I’ve forgotten. I’ve already taken care of it.

Now I can focus all my mental energy on the day to come.

The second 5

The second 5 happens in the last 5 days of work.

Just like the first 5, the second is entirely based around setting yourself up for success by being proactive.

Use the second 5 to make sure your next 5 the next day goes as planned.

For example, in the last 5 minutes of your work day, clear off your desk of plates, cups and other mess. Shut down your work station in the opposite fashion as you set it up and leave your desk ready for the next day.

The second 30 is the most important of the day

Just about everyone who has a “9-5” job either gets up early, or wishes they could get up earlier. The problem with getting up early is that it usually requires going to bed early.

In the modern age of holding a bright light screaming with information 3 inches from our faces while lying in bed smart phones, we’re often too stimulated with information at the end of the evening to lay down and effectively go to bed.

Consider Non-24, a condition that typically impacts the blind community where there is a disruption in their circadian rhythm. Lack of contrast between daytime (light) and nighttime (dark) makes it hard for their body to know when it should be going to sleep vs when it should be awake.

I bring this up not as a direct comparison, but as an example of an extreme comparison to something many of us do to ourselves. We often confuse our body with outside stimulus (whether a cell phone, tv show, etc.) late at night keeping us awake, when we should be winding down to sleep.

If you spend the last 30 minutes of your day going through a specific routine leading up to when your head hits the pillow, you can actually train yourself to become tired. If every single day you spend 30 minutes prepping for the next day doing things like:

  • Laying out your clothes for tomorrow
  • Scheduling coffee to be made
  • Making breakfast
  • Organize your bag for work
  • Brushing your teeth (4 out of 5 dentists, something, something…)
  • Laying down

Your body will get used to the routine and by the time your head hits the pillow, whether at 11pm or 9pm, you’ll be lights out.

It’s just 80 minutes

We’re talking about 5% of your entire day.

Reading this in the middle of the day? Perfect. It’s better to start with the second 5 & 30 than the first.

Prep your work station for the next day.

Document your 30 minute routine before bed. Make it habit.

Then when you wake up tomorrow, spend 30 minutes on you, and only you.

When you walk in the door at work, give yourself 5 minutes to start your day exactly how you want to.

Try it one day, see how it feels. It’s 5% of your day, what do you have to lose?