20 Questions with Jeff Sanders

We caught up with Jeff Sanders, author of The 5 A.M. Miracle, host of the 5 AM Miracle Podcast, and the founder of the Rockin' Productivity Academy. I had the chance to ask Jeff everything I wanted to know about waking up early and what it’s like being productivity guru. Hope you enjoy some of these great tips! - Charlie

1. Why did you write The 5 A.M. Miracle?

The 5 AM Miracle book stemmed from my podcast with the same name. I started the podcast because I wanted to share the joy and results I got from waking up early. I formed new habits, increased my productivity, and improved my health because I decided to shift how I woke up every morning. The book was a natural fit from the podcast to find another way to share the lessons, strategies, and habits that have shaped my own life in so many positive ways.

2. What has waking up at 5am done for you?

Waking up at 5:00 am has shifted how I think about how I utilize my time. Over the years I have become more intentional about scheduling important tasks first thing in the morning in order to jump start my productivity. I also take my evening routine more seriously, which helps guarantee I get to bed on time and get plenty of quality sleep.

3. Do I have to wake up at 5am to experience the benefits laid out in the 5 A.M. Miracle?

Nope! You can wake up at any time of the day. The key is intentionality. When you choose your wake up time and the first few key objectives for the day, you will likely find that your productivity will dramatically increase. Proactivity beats reactivity every time.

4. Why do you think it's difficult for some to maintain an early wakeup habit?

Unless you have a compelling reason to wake up early, it's just too easy to sleep in and get more rest. Most people who find it difficult to maintain an early morning wake up call are those who never truly connected with their desire to get up early in the first place. Late evening activities can also easily throw off anyone's schedule.

5. Do you have any tips for someone just beginning to embrace an early wakeup?

Clearly identify your reason for waking up early. Then, slowly transition to getting up a little earlier each day and use that new time for something you value. For example, if you wake up  just 15 minutes earlier than normal, plan to use that 15 minutes for reading, yoga, or catching up on an important project. Over a few weeks, slowly shift your alarm clock in 15-minute increments until you reach your ideal wake up time.

6. A lot of our users struggle with procrastination around their bedtime. What's your go-to approach to squash procrastination?

As hard as it is, turn off all of your electronics (TV, computer, phone, tablet, etc.) about an hour before your desired bed time. Spend the final hour of your day preparing for sleep by reading, taking a shower, or meditating. Avoid work-related activities or anything that you know that would keep you up later than normal.

7. Outside of waking up early, what our your top key behaviors for maintaining a productive day?

Optimizing a few focused blocks of time (FBOTs) throughout my day is my favorite productivity strategy. Focused blocks are pre-scheduled, distraction-free blocks of time on your calendar devoted to your most urgent and important daily tasks. When you cut distractions it's incredible how much you can accomplish.

8. Do you have a weekly review? What does that look like?

I have been conducting a weekly review every week for the last 5 years. I spend about 90 minutes on Friday afternoons reviewing my progress from the previous week and preparing for the upcoming week. I run through a set checklist that focuses on my current projects and brainstorming ways to improve my habits that didn't go well in the previous days.

9. How do you feel about goal setting? What goals do you have? What goals do you recommend people set to maximize their productivity?

Setting clear and specific goals has driven my personal and professional success for many years. Crafting goals that maximize productivity is based on clearly outlining the steps that help you move directly towards your desired end result, and then tracking that progress on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc.). I use Evernote to track the individual steps for each of my goals, and I update those checklists at least once a week.

10. Do you have a go-to format for journalling or reflection?

Journaling has been useful for me as a brainstorming tool, especially when I'm stuck in the middle of difficult problem. I start by writing down one important question I want to answer and then free write as many solutions as I can think of in a short time frame. This process helps generate many new ideas. I also intentionally schedule reflection time every week, month, quarter, and year to look back on the previous time frame and determine my next best steps.

11. I keep my phone in a physical lockbox during the workday to mitigate distractions. What's the weirdest productivity hack that you swear by?

I hide in the library when I want to get my most important work done. My greatest distractions come from other people and my own house (as a I work from home on most days). The library provides cubbies where I can focus without the common distractions that pull me away from my work.

12. Is there such thing as being "too productive"? How do you keep people from overdoing it?

It's extremely common to optimize activity over results. Many people believe that if they stay busy they are being productive, when in fact they are usually doing many things that never have to happen in the first place. Productivity is only as valuable as your results. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and that you're not getting anything done, cut as much as you can from your task list and focus only on the few tasks that truly have to happen to move your goals forward.

13. On that note, how do you recommend balancing work productivity with other types of "productivity" like health and leisure time.

I take a health-first approach to productivity, meaning that if I don't have time to workout consistently, I am too busy. If I don't have time to make a healthy meal, I am too busy. If I don't have time to get quality sleep most nights of the week, I am too busy. If I don't have time every day for my family, I am too busy. Work is important, but without your health and time for recreation, work can backfire in serious ways.

14. If I allow myself, I'll spend way to much time on Reddit. What's your guilty pleasure that can ruin your productivity if left unchecked?

I check email and social media way too often. In part, I need to respond to important messages and interact with people online, but there are so many other tasks that need my attention. I utilize focused blocks of time because of these distractions. I also use apps like Freedom to block websites when I'm working and need to ensure I don't get off track.

15. Talking and thinking about personal development has been around for a long time (Marcus Aurelius's Meditations written in 167 C.E. comes to mind), in the next 5-10 years, where do you see self-improvement going as an industry?

Technology is increasing everywhere, which includes endless distractions and flashy new gadgets to try out, adopt, and optimize. Personal growth will come from ignoring what doesn't matter to focus on the fundamentals that have always provided the results we seek. The only way any of us can overcome the onslaught of new tech is to establish the key habits that make us healthier and more disciplined human beings. 

16. Who have been some of the key influences in your career and work life?

When I first discovered personal development I became an instant fan of John Maxwell, Darren Hardy, and Michael Hyatt. Over the years I have modeled my own life and business after those who set ambitious goals and found creative ways to achieve them. Recently I have been following the work of Dean Karnazes, Jesse Itzler, and Kelly Roach.

17. How do you feel about life coaching?

Life coaching can be the perfect fit when you're going through a major transition. If you're considering restructuring your career, business, or family life, the right coach can be the voice you need to clarify the confusing and contradictory thoughts running through your mind. I'm a big fan of getting opinions from smart people when you're making big decisions.

18. You've been doing the 5am Miracle Podcast for quite some time. How has the program evolved?

The 5 AM Miracle has gone through many phases and covered a wide variety of topics. In the beginning I focused quite a bit on health and fitness. I shifted a few years in to productivity and business strategies. As I enter my 6th year with the show, the focus will be making another transition towards entrepreneurship.

19. Tell us about The Rockin' Productivity Academy and what someone signing up can expect.

The Rockin' Productivity Academy is a video-based training program designed to bring The 5 AM Miracle to life. It's based on the core principles that have shaped my life and business the most, including step-by-step trainings on task managers, goal setting, and connecting with brilliant people. On top of video trainings, I also provide one-on-one custom coaching every month for every member.

20. Anything else you want to share with the Emile community?

Personal growth books and trainings have shaped my life more than any other force in recent years. When I find myself getting stuck, I return to the fundamentals of improving my health, mindset, and attitude and then set an ambitious goal to propel me forward.

Emile is an Affiliate of the Jeff Sanders Rockin’ Productivity Academy which means we get $$$ if you sign up here!

charlie molthrop