How to 3X Your Productivity using Ed Mylett’s 21-Day Work Week — I tried it, here are my results
Ed Mylett is a bestselling author and top 10 podcast host. He co-founded the Arete Syndicate mastermind group and became one of the youngest CEO MD’s in World Financial Group’s history.
Ed Mylett’s weekly routine is long. He’s the type of person that gets more done before noon than the average person gets done in an entire day. If you’re a person with big dreams (my hand is raised), his schedule is probably for you.
Mylett recently released a podcast explaining how he uses a simple hack to triple his productivity every week. The way it works is simple: instead of working one eight hour shift per day, he uses a zone approach to split his day into three 6-hour chunks.
I followed his advice yesterday and found that, while squeezing task after task into one-hour sprints was incredibly taxing, overall I felt great and easily got a week’s worth of work done in a single day. Mind you, I have a newborn son who makes getting things done quite difficult.
Throughout this experiment, I kept a running log of everything I did, how I performed, and what I loved — and hated — about the routine. Here are a few of the ground rules I set for myself and what I learned in the process:
- Like Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL commander, I believe routines should be strictly followed to avoid time thinking. No cheating.
- I split my day into three 6-hour mini-days (Day 1: 5am-11am; Day 2: 11am-5pm; Day 3: 5pm-11pm).
- Every 30 minutes, I stopped for a checkpoint to measure my performance. If things felt off track, I had to do a “5-second awareness check” to reassess, readjust, and get back to work.
Day 1/3 — (4:50 am — 11 am)
The night before, I decided I was going to mimic Mylett’s day and begin working at 6 am. My newborn son had other plans and started crying uncontrollably. For a moment there I wondered if this productivity hack could work for someone with a 3-month old baby.
Whenever people tell me they’re going to achieve something or change a behavior, the number one indicator I’ve found to predict whether they’ll succeed or not is how quickly they take action. If you don’t want something bad enough to start immediately, you might as well give up and not waste your time on it. Never believe that you’re above the process because you’re not. Gains are won through repetition and by keeping the promises you make to yourself. So I started immediately and pushed my day up an hour and 10 minutes, no sweat.
I got up at 4:50 am, took him downstairs, and put him in the baby swing while I made coffee and prepared for the first step of the day: meditation. I spent the entire time focused on changing my relationship with time. I’m not sure if it worked or if it was the excitement I had about Mylett’s routine but time felt like it was both flying by and standing still.
Having to regularly check in every 30 minutes filled me with a sense of urgency. I felt like I was constantly racing toward a non-existent deadline. What was most surprising was that rather than give me anxiety or stress, this made me stop overthinking and commit to action and only action.
The biggest lesson, however, was that if you want to function at an elite level you have to get used to being flexible. If you constantly let distractions, challenges, or unexpected occurrences get in your way, you’re never going to accomplish anything.
If you don’t train yourself regularly, you will find this process difficult at first. Stick with it. What else does this work for? Pretty much everything. You can train how you think, what you do, and how you react. Here are some examples:
- Language learning: Practice it daily. Can’t attend class? Use flashcards, DuoLingo app, or YouTube videos.
- Fitness: Exercise daily. Can’t go to the gym? Walk around during meetings, walk in place while you cook, or do 20 push-ups every hour.
- Meditation: Meditate daily. Can’t get a minute to sit down? Do it while you’re in the shower, using the restroom, or right before bed.
Here’s everything I completed by 11 am:
- Meditated for 30 minutes.
- Wrote (3) blog posts and (1) video script.
- Drafted client’s digital advertising strategy and completed an SEO audit for (3) web properties.
- Wrote an email thanking Ed Mylett for his content/daily lessons.
- Did 120 push-ups.
- Read a case study on management and drafted 15 principles that power my leadership philosophy.
Day 2/3 — (11 am — 5 pm)
After my power morning, I did something I usually have a hard time allowing myself to do: I took a break.
About 10 years ago, I got into a car accident that sent my truck off an expressway exit, flipping multiple times in the process. Since then, I’ve had a rough time accepting the idea of “free time.” Every moment since that crash has felt like extra time on earth. I can’t just sit around or sleep in late anymore. It destroys me. It makes me feel like I’m wasting away the second chance that many others never get to have. But this time, I felt like I had earned it.
Usually, when my wife wants to eat lunch and go for a midday walk, I find myself at a crossroads. Do I want to argue about how I can’t “waste too much time,” which she finds incredibly offensive, or do I give in and take the anxiety walk with her while I freak out in silence about all the things I think I should be doing.
That didn’t happen today. I felt surprisingly calm and at ease. High off my ability to get things done and my newfound state of relaxation, I jumped back into work with a renewed sense of productivity.
Big mistake. I severely underestimated how much other people not being awake had to do with my early success. Because it’s rare for me to micromanage my day in 30-minute increments, I became acutely aware of how I was repeatedly distracted by client emails, text messages, and jumping in and out of taking care of the baby. These tiny distractions were extremely deceptive because although sometimes they lasted as little as 30 seconds, every time I stopped what I was doing, I got out of the zone and it took a lot of effort (and time) to get back in the same groove once I snapped out of it.
I like to think of myself as a productive person but this was an eye-opener. Productivity is the multiplier through which we impact the world. If I can handle email faster, that gives me more time to help others. If I can stay disciplined, I spend less time reading text messages or handling emergencies, and more time finding new business opportunities, making sales, and writing (for visibility).
The biggest lesson I got from Day 2 is that there’s no such thing as a productive person. The only way to be productive is to keep producing. If I stop, then I’m no longer productive. If you want to be fit you can’t just get in shape and then go back to eating doughnuts. If you want to be creative you have to keep creating. These aren’t titles, they’re ways of living life.
Here’s everything I completed by 5 pm:
- Lunch and 4+ mile walk with my wife.
- Solved (2) client fire drills.
- Did another 120 push-ups.
- Applied to (3) startup jobs.
- Conducted (4) 15-minute sales calls with follow up assignments.
- Finished Day 1 of Rob Cressy’s Launching Podcasts course.
- Answered a HARO request for Entrepreneur/Huffington Post.
- Wrote an email thanking Ed Mylett for his content/daily lessons.
- Started writing an audio script for a recorded resume add-on.
Day 3/3 — (5 pm — 11 pm)
The clarity and focus I had earlier in the day completely dissipated and I felt an extreme wave of exhaustion. How, I wondered, does Mylett do this every single day? I suppose it gets easier the longer you do it, but this was awful.
As much as I’d like to say that I powered through it and rode the next wave of action into new heights of success, I didn’t. I crashed and took a nap.
I woke up completely disoriented, it was horrible. My wife was starving by this point and needed some help with the baby so I got up, prepared a bottle, and started feeding the little guy. I didn’t have it in me to get my head back in the game, complete my to-do list, AND stop everything I was doing to cook, so I ordered her some Indian food. She was happy about that. Awesome, crisis averted.
Luckily, after feeding the baby he went right to sleep. I remembered that if I ever felt off track, Mylett recommended taking a 5-second awareness check to get your head back in the game. I did that, took a moment to put my running shoes on, and immediately went outside and knocked out a 9-mile run.
I’d like to chalk this up to superhuman willpower, but that wasn’t the case at all. I don’t remember where I read it, but I once learned that besides repeating the behavior you want to try you need to address weaknesses and get on top of them as soon as they happen. Although this sounds like a no-brainer, most people do the exact opposite. They move away from the parts they’re bad at or stop as soon as things get difficult.
The lesson I got from Day 3 is that the reward for accomplishments is not always happiness. The idea that people at the top of their game are the happiest people is misguided. David Goggins has transparently admitted that he hated running 100-mile+ ultra marathons and disliked every second of his attempts to break the Guinness World Record for most chin-ups in a 12-hour period. The end-goal is not the achievement, the end-goal is the habit. It’s the person you become in order to be at the top of your game. There is no end, no retirement phase where you sit back and enjoy life doing absolutely nothing. That would in itself take away from the achievement. You need to keep doing.
After exercising, doing some resume work, and working on a few assignments, I decided to sit down and look at my day as a whole. I read through my notes and I was happy with everything I accomplished. Ed Mylett is a magician and the 3X theory definitely worked.
Here’s everything I completed by 5 pm:
- Ran 9 miles
- Ate dinner with my wife and stole a few pieces of her garlic naan.
- Worked on my Demand Generation eBook.
- Completed a few lessons from Google Digital Garage.
- Listened to an Ed Mylett podcasts on his advice to young people.
My main takeaway from completing this experiment is that you shouldn’t congratulate yourself on outcomes because they’re not in your control. Some days the baby is going to be out of control or you’re going to be too sore to give it your 100% during a workout. Other days you’re going to crush everything you try and life is going to go as planned. No matter what, success is your commitment to the process. If you stick to the process and continue to keep the promises you make to yourself, you’ll eventually get to where you want to be.