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  • You've been looking at the lives of the  incredibly successful and want to know how  

  • you can replicate their success. Want to know the  secret? It's not their superhuman discipline or  

  • overpowering ambition. It's a matter of devising  the optimal systems to keep you consistently  

  • running at peak performance, helping you  slowly inch your way closer to your goals,  

  • day after day. This is how to  optimize your daily routine.

  • Dr. Jubbal, MedSchoolInsiders.com.

  • There is no single perfect daily routine  that works for two different people.  

  • We each have our own needs and priorities, and  our schedules should reflect that. However,  

  • there are a set of principles shared amongst  top performers. Once you've set your daily  

  • routine foundational pillars, we'll then  fill in the details based on your needs.

  • We must first lay the foundations, or  fixed elements, of our daily schedule.  

  • Consider these the pillars that hold up the rest  of the daily practice. They are of the utmost  

  • importance and are non-negotiable. These include  your wake up time, exercise regimen, meals,  

  • and wind down time. By doing the work upfront  and determining when each element will occur,  

  • you reduce the mental energy needed  to carry these out in the future.  

  • Rather than the mental exercise of asking  yourself and planning when you should exercise  

  • or eat lunch, you already have it figured out  and know exactly when it's going to happen.

  • Maybe you're rolling your eyes right now  and looking for a shortcut. If you're  

  • interested in nootropics, meaning drugs or other  substances used to improve congnitive function,  

  • understand this: there is no nootropic that  has ever even approached the cognitive boost  

  • you'll receive from optimizing your sleep  and regular exercise. In other words,  

  • nootropics have a much lower return compared  to dialing in your sleep and exercise.

  • Start with your calendar or planner of choiceand fill in the fixed elements that you must  

  • attend and cannot changethink classes, small  group sessions, club meetings, and the like.

  • Next, determine your sleep and wake timesYou should allow yourself adequate sleep,  

  • as skimping on sleep results in multiple  downstream effects that will compound toward  

  • diminished effectiveness. If you're putting  in the effort to build a daily routine to be  

  • more productive and effective, it will all be for  nothing if you sacrifice sleep. It's best practice  

  • to set aside between 7 to 9 hours per night. I  actually err on the side of planning for too much  

  • sleep - that way, if my body is feeling well  rested I'll wake up before my scheduled time,  

  • and if I need additional  recovery, I have the opportunity.

  • How you start the day sets the tone  for the remainder of your waking hours,  

  • and how you wind down at the end of the day  dictates how restful your sleep will be.

  • Your sleep and wake times will be largely  a function of your other fixed commitments,  

  • like school or work. Since I'm no longer doing  plastic surgery, I have complete freedom in  

  • setting the start and end points to my dayCurrently, my day ends at 10:30PM and begins at  

  • 7:00AM. For my recent client, who we'll  call Lawrence, he was subject to a more  

  • typical medical student schedule. He decided to  start at 6:00AM and finish his day by 11:00PM.

  • Most people can get behind the idea of havingwakeup time and bedtime each day. Many can still  

  • agree with set times for meals. But few people  treat exercise with the same level of regularity  

  • and rigidity. To get those sweet cognitive  benefits of brain derived neutorophic factor,  

  • or BDNF, you'll need to prioritize regular  exercise into your schedule. Remember,  

  • those who treat exercise with a high degree of  importance have an edge over those who don't.  

  • The type of exercise you do is less important  than the question of whether or not you exercise  

  • with regularity. I opt for cycling and weight  training, but maybe you prefer running or pilates.

  • Lawrence is one of those people who, as a busy  medical student, knew he wasn't going to exercise  

  • unless he did so first thing in the morningotherwise there was always something else that  

  • he felt was more urgent. For that reason, he  starts his days early and squeezes his workout  

  • in before class starts at 8:00AM. Whether that  will be sustainable during his clinical years is  

  • yet to be determined, and that's ok. Your  schedule will adapt based your demands over time.

  • To ensure something like exercise actually sticksit's best to anchor it to a clear marker in the  

  • day. For some, it's the first thing they do  upon waking up. When I was in medical school,  

  • it was the first thing I did after class each day  – after all, the last thing I wanted to do after  

  • several hours of class was hit the books, so going  to the gym instead was a productive mental break.

  • Last, fill in your meal times. Again, this  will primarily depend on the fixed elements  

  • in your schedule, in addition to your personal  preferences. I practice time restricted feeding  

  • and don't eat until noon on most days, and  have dinner before 7PM. Lawrence follows  

  • the more traditional 3 meals per day and eatslight breakfast between his workout and class.  

  • Whatever you decide, it's best practice to not eat  too late at night, close to your bedtime, as data  

  • suggests this is detrimental to your nighttime  restfulness, blood sugar, and various hormones.

  • After setting the foundations, it's  time to adjust the details of your  

  • schedule. Your foundations from  step 1 will largely be fixed, but  

  • it's ok to move things around as needed  to dial in your perfect daily routine.

  • The main element we want to optimize  for is your focused work and study time.  

  • This is the most mentally taxing time of the  day, and should be when you get the bulk of  

  • your work done. Top performers have dedicated  blocks of deep work, as coined by Cal Newport,  

  • whereby they study or work with high  intensity and zero distraction. In contrast,  

  • most frustrated students practice extended periods  of low to medium intensity studying. This is an  

  • insidious feedback loop - it's less efficient and  disheartening because they always feel behind,  

  • causing them to spend more time on suboptimal  studying, and ultimately leads to subpar results.

  • In designing your daily schedule, look at  your fixed elements and consider at what  

  • points would you be most readily able to tap into  a focused state? If you're not a morning person,  

  • then expecting yourself to  get your best work done at 7AM  

  • is not setting yourself up for success. Similarly,  

  • waiting until 9PM when you're exhausted at the  end of the day is also less likely to be fruitful.

  • Again, everyone is different, and this should  primarily be a function of your mental states  

  • over the course of the day. I begin my deep  work block at 8:00AM, but for Lawrence,  

  • we decided on his first focused study block  at 1:00PM. In my case, I am fresh and thinking  

  • clearly in the mornings, able to do my best  focused work at this time. In the afternoons,  

  • I find myself less motivated or willing to  put up with difficult work. On the other hand,  

  • Lawrence isn't drained from his morning  lectures, and after a lunch break,  

  • is ready to hit the books hard  first thing in the afternoon.

  • Your focused study block should be at leastcouple hours in duration - my recommendation  

  • is between 2 and 4. Anything less, and you're  leaving high quality study time on the table,  

  • and anything longer, you're devolving into  lower intensity and less fruitful efforts.

  • Don't get ahead of yourself in this process  - remember this daily schedule needs to be  

  • sustainable over the long term, not  just for a few days. If you feel that  

  • you're pushing yourself 10/10ths  every day, you'll burn out fast.

  • That means breaks are essential. When taking  breaks, I like to focus on productive breaks,  

  • meaning breaks that ultimately serve a purposeeven if it isn't directly related to traditional  

  • productivity or studying. For example, after  a high intensity block of focused studying,  

  • take a break and run errands, like picking  up groceries, doing laundry, or even taking  

  • a shower. You're taking care of items that must  be done, and optimizing their timing by inserting  

  • them at a point where you wouldn't be able to  study anyway. As they are not mentally taxing,  

  • you're able to get an essential task out  of the way while still giving yourself  

  • space for mental recovery. Alternatively, go  outside for a walk to more quickly rejuvenate.

  • Incorporating forms of stress relief and  release from work is key. Exercise serves  

  • this function in a large capacity, but most of us  need something additional to maintain our sanity.  

  • Some people have a favorite show they want to  watch, others enjoy reading, or maybe you enjoy  

  • playing board games with your housemates. It's  best practice to save this for later in the day,  

  • as it's generally more difficult to get into  work mode at 9PM after hanging out with friends.

  • There are a few other details that most top  performers share - namely mindfulness or some  

  • form of reflection. I've covered this in  the anatomy of a perfect morning routine,  

  • but you can perform these habits any time  of the day. Lawrence opts for either a run  

  • or walking meditation at  5PM after his study block.

  • The fun part was planning your  daily routine. The hard part is  

  • putting into action and actually  sticking to it for the long term.

  • Rather than relying on brute force  and self-discipline, ask yourself how  

  • you can make it easier on future you to follow  the plan. For me, that includes using my calendar  

  • and saving a screenshot of my schedule on my  computer desktop and phone for quick reference.  

  • You may decide to lay out your gym clothes  and bag by the door to reduce the friction  

  • of starting your morning with a workout. And  to really make it stick, set your morning  

  • alarm across the room so you're forced to get  out of bed rather than go on a snooze-a-thon.  

  • For others, that includes having an  accountability buddy, or in the case  

  • with Lawrence, finding a mentor or coach to  help craft the routine and hold him to it.

  • Allocate time in your calendar to also  review the results of your new routine.  

  • Otherwise, you're likely to get  derailed and just give up on it.  

  • Rather, preemptively set a time in 1 or 2 weeks  to review what went well about the routine, what  

  • was perhaps too ambitious and not realistic to  sustain long term, and make adjustments as needed.

  • If you enjoy this type of content, balancing  productivity and lifestyle optimization on one  

  • hand with study strategies and succeeding  as a future physician on the other,  

  • sign up for my weekly newsletterVisit medschoolinsiders.com/newsletter,  

  • link in the description.

  • If you haven't already, be sure to  check out anatomy of a morning routine  

  • and anatomy of a night time routineMuch love, and I'll see you guys there.

You've been looking at the lives of the  incredibly successful and want to know how  

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Anatomy of a Perfect Daily Schedule

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    Summer posted on 2021/02/20
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