Peter Shankman is the author of the new book “Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain.”
I’ve seen my future. Honestly, I have. It involves me, about 100 or more pounds heavier.
It has me doing virtually no work of any value, while sinking further and further into a spiral of depression, sadness, shame, and anger.
It involves fattening food, increasingly high blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, and more than likely issues with my liver thanks to drowning all of my feelings in alcohol, but at the same time, simultaneously smiling and not showing a hint of trouble to anyone on the outside.
I’ve seen my future, and it ends with a whimper, not with a bang.
Now, thanks to Doc Brown, we all know that anything we do in the past (now) can have tremendous effects on what happens in the future. (Remember, it was originally Twin Pines Mall until Marty ran over one of the pines in 1955…)
So while I’ve seen my future, I know that every day, I have the opportunity to make sure it’s not the future with which I’ll end up.
And that little bit of knowledge, that awareness that anything can change on a dime, is the reason why my daily routine has been called “crazy,” “weird,” and “truly insane,” but also the singular reason why I am where I am in my life today, personally and professionally.
To understand my daily routine, which starts at 3:45am each morning, you have to understand one thing about me: I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD,) and my ADHD is one of the key reasons I’ve been fortunate enough to have the success in my life that I’ve had so far.
The primary benefit of ADHD is a massively quicker brain. We react much, much stronger to dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline than most people, because we don’t get as much of it as “normal” people do.
This is a tremendous advantage if you know how to use this speed. If you don’t, however, the downsides can be game-ending.
Most people who have discovered that ADHD can several commonalities. As I’m very open about telling people, I only have two speeds in my life: “Namaste,” and “I’ll cut a b—–.” That’s it. There is no middle ground for me. It’s because of this that I live my life the way I do.
My routine is powered by, and because of, ADHD, and when “regular” people start following some form of my routine, they find themselves getting several hours in the day “back” to them, that they didn’t know they ever had. This leads to higher productivity, better sleep, and a more successful life.
My routine guarantees that I live my life to the best of my ability, every single day, and it begins with drawing an initial wake-up hit of those three brain chemicals I mentioned above, a hit that’ll last me long into my day, and ends with pure exhaustion, and a wonderfully rejuvenating sleep to start the cycle over the next day. No pills needed, no external stimuli required.
First and always first: exercise.
When my alarm goes off at 3:45 and my bedroom lights have finished their automated program to light my room, I rise out of bed, already in my workout clothes, because I always put them on the night before.
I slip on my bike shoes, and walk move six inches to my Peloton bicycle, which sits right next to my bed. I snap on my heart-rate monitor, and start my first 45 minute workout of the day.
By the time the sun comes up, I’ve either done two rides already, or I’m finishing an outdoor long run or a lifting workout at the gym, depending on whether it’s a day my daughter is staying with me.
Second: elimination of choice.
By 6:45am, I’m back in my apartment, showered and dressed, and ready to start my day. I’m wearing either a t-shirt and jeans, or a button down shirt and jeans, depending on whether I’m traveling/going to the office, or speaking/going on TV.
How do I know what I’m wearing? Because my bedroom closet has two sides, one is labeled “traveling/office,” and the other side is labeled “speaking/tv.”
All my suits, sweaters, vests, different shoes, etc, are in another closet in another bedroom. Why? Because if I had to look at them each day, I’d without question start remembering how I got them, where I got them, or who gave them to me, and three hours later, would be naked in the living room looking them up on Facebook, having yet to leave the house.
Elimination of choice has radically improved my life for the better, and not just from my wardrobe. I routinely eat the same things because I know it’s good for me, I know I like it, and I know it’s easy to make. It also removes the opportunity to walk into a pizza place on my way back from a meeting, which could start a spiral of bad food and health choices.
I quit drinking, not because I had a problem, but because most people with my type of personality simply can’t have one drink. In my world, one drink is like leftover pizza. It’s simply not a real thing. So I avoid the chance of drinking a lot, which would lead to eating poorly, which would lead to not getting up early, which would lead to no exercise, which could potentially start a cycle that could ruin me.
To quote from the movie “War Games,” “the only winning move is not to play.”
My workday is spent similarly to how you spend yours, probably. But I continue to give myself brain chemical drips during my working hours, whether that’s walking up stairs, or sometimes even dropping for pre-meeting pushups or jumping jacks before walking into the room.
It’s the difference between you meeting someone who’s functional and interested in what you have to say, and you meeting someone whose focus is clearly somewhere else.
Third: use what works for you.
I’ve written five books, two of which became bestsellers, all entirely on airplanes. My most recent two have been written on flights that I had no other reason to take. In other words, I flew to Asia and back to write a book on the plane. Why? 14 hours each way of uninterrupted deep-work, no distractions, no Internet, no mobile phone, no alerts. Just a blank page and my headphones. And it works.
Fourth: put on your own oxygen mask first.
I finally learned that I needed to stop caring what others thought about the things I do, and do the things that matter to me, for me.
The second I did that, my world opened up for me.
If you’re not taking care of yourself first, how can you possibly expect to take care of others, to better the world, or to create epic things?
Surviving on three hours of sleep a night as an entrepreneur isn’t something to be proud of, it’s a sign of stupidity, and worse, an indicator that you’ll be a terrible CEO, because you have no idea about priorities.
Taking care of you, whatever that might look like to you, isn’t optional.
In the end, I’ve set up these life rules for myself because I know they make me better all around.
That’s what’s important to me.
Ask yourself what’s important to you, then figure out ways to live your life so you never forget that those things are your top priority.
Adapted from “Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain” by Peter Shankman, published by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Peter Shankman.
This article originally appeared in Business Insider.