The 0 Dark 30 Experiment

This post is more productivity-related than technical, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, look away now…

Still here? OK, then, here goes.

Dawn City - original illustration by ilco on’ve been spending some time thinking about different ways to get more productivity out of my days. Email has often been the bane of my existence, and I’ve ended up with a massively full inbox on more occasions than I’d like to admit.

And too many times, dinner time rolls around and I can’t believe the day’s already over, and don’t feel as though I got nearly enough done.

Meanwhile, I’ve long considered myself a night owl, and it’s not uncommon for me to be up (and online) as late as 3am, which makes it pretty hard to get up early and be productive.

I’ve read various productivity books (Getting Things Done, Take Back Your Life, etc.), websites, etc. and while there’s good advice to be had there, it wasn’t really helping.

So I’m starting something new this year. I’m calling it the 0 Dark 30 Experiment. As often as possible, and every day on the weekdays, I’m getting up at 5:00am (I know, there’s no 30 in 5:00am…work with me here).

I’ve been at it for less than a week, so the experiment is still young. But I’m already seeing benefits:

  • Time to work out
  • Time to crank out a few emails before new ones start coming in (or deal with those that came in overnight so as to start the day fresh)
  • Quiet time to read before everyone else is up (and while I’m not falling asleep because it’s late)

5:00am is about 2-3 hours earlier than I’d usually get up (and sometimes a little more). You can get a lot done in 2-3 hours a day. And it’s 2 hours before my two boys are up, which means no interruptions, and it’s quiet.

The 0 Dark 30 Experiment is only a small portion of what I’m changing this year. I’m also working on improving my fitness, personal finances, and reducing clutter in my life. So the Experiment is really part of a holistic approach to making life better and less stressful. Time will tell if I can stick to it, but so far, I’m a big fan.

Oh, and occasionally watching the sun rise with your kids is cool. Try it.

Have any favorite time-management or productivity tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

Comments (7)
  1. John Baird says:

    I’ve been doing this for years.  It is amazing how much extra time you find when you do this.  

    Now to lose weight….

  2. Sean says:

    I think you started off right.  I think one can get things done easier early in the morning than burning the night.  I read before going to bed than after waking up cos its my sleep medicine. 🙂

  3. Robin says:

    A tip to declutter — Every day throw 10 things out.  Make it easy, anything counts.  Old magazines, broken toys, a single sock – doesn’t matter.  It’s not so overwhelming and I’m already seeing the cumulative effect.

  4. DmitryLyalin says:

    Leave it to a search engine query to help me figure out what the heck you were talking about on Twitter 🙂

  5. DEvHammer says:

    Well, FWIW, Dmitry, I *did* tweet a link to this blog post the same day I blogged it. 🙂

  6. JJ says:

    FYI: This doesn’t work if you have kids that are preschool age, are also morning people and you work from home! FWIW, morning can also be the most fun time with the family because the energy level can be off the charts! Who needs coffee when you have a 3 and 5 year old using you as a jungle gym?

    Sunrise is also pretty darn nice if the breakfast table is pointed at the proper window…

  7. DEvHammer says:


    Agree completely. I’m very fortunate in that my boys sleep ’til 7, so I’m able to get a good bit of quiet time in. But it’s very nice when they get up, too.

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