On Thursday, I was ready for work with my iced vanilla latte from Dunkin’.

I’ve been trying to implement a productive morning since moving for work in January.I decided to challenge myself and copy the morning routine of Apple CEO Tim Cook.There’s no way I’ll ever wake up as early as him, but I did start to enjoy a morning coffee.

Since moving to the New York metropolitan area in January 2024, I’ve been working on establishing a productive morning routine to help me succeed in my transition to adulthood.

You know, that scary thing everyone warns you about when you graduate from college.

So far, adjusting to the 9-5 life has been exactly that: an adjustment. And while I haven’t quite reached the same levels of existentialism as some of my fellow Gen Zers (give me time), I’ve definitely felt that I’ll never finish my never-ending to-do list.

During my first week of work, I was ready to sleep by 8 p.m., and truly couldn’t fathom how anyone had the motivation or energy to work out, let alone raise families or be social, which prompted a very empathetic phone call to my parents.

I’ve found a much better rhythm since then, but the experience got me thinking: What kind of productive person could I emulate to achieve my goals better?

A CEO.

CEOs are famously at the top of their games, known for their extensive industry knowledge, packed Google calendars, and ability to lead others. As someone just beginning my career, I couldn’t think of a better position to aspire toward.

The next question was: which one? Mark Zuckerberg’s daily routine starts with running and MMA training, so that was an immediate no from me. But Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes early — 4 to 5 a.m. early — responds to emails, does strength training several times a week, then showers, gets ready, and has some coffee and maybe a light breakfast. Minus the early wake-up time, his routine seemed very approachable, with realistic opportunities to integrate healthier habits into my own life.

With my decision made, I was excited to begin a weeklong challenge to see if copying Cook’s routine would help kick-start my own productivity.

Here’s how it went.

I used Monday night to prepare for Tuesday’s early wake-up time, finishing chores, and going to bed early to ease the transition.
I prepped my leggings and T-shirt combo for my morning workout.

I know challenges like this would normally start on Monday morning, but during the week I chose to complete it, the combination of daylight-saving time and a late night watching the Oscars left me needing a bit more time to prepare for this massive change in routine.

In a 2023 episode of “Dua Lipa: At Your Service,” Cook said he’s “an early bird” who usually wakes up between 4 and 5 a.m.

The benefits of waking up early can include putting you in a better position to succeed, Business Insider previously reported.

“Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, my survey showed,” biologist Christoph Randler told the Harvard Business Review in 2010, referring to his study of college students. “They’re proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, productivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages,” he said.

I normally go to sleep between 11 p.m. and midnight and wake up around 7:30 a.m., so I decided to take a pretty liberal approach to Cook’s routine and set my alarm for 4:45 a.m., planning to sleep by 10:30 p.m.

I work from home on Mondays, so I could immediately transition into completing the household chores and minor tasks I’d put off during the weekend.

By 10 p.m., my kitchen was clean, laundry was folded, outfits for the gym and work were picked, and my night routine was complete — which never happens. I allowed myself 30 minutes of TikTok time because I still can’t seem to stop making the mistake of watching screens before bed, then I shut off my phone and did my best to fall asleep.

Day one started productively with an at-home pilates workout.
My living room workout setup featuring Pilates Body Raven.

I don’t think anything can truly incentivize you to wake up at 4:45 a.m. except maybe a flight to a tropical vacation, and since this wasn’t a vacation, I was very disappointed to be up so early.

But apparently, that’s not how Cook feels. In fact, in his podcast appearance on “Dua Lipa: At Your Service,” he said he spends his first hour on his email.

“I’m pretty religious about doing this,” he said. “I read emails from a lot of customers and employees, and the customers are telling me things that they love about us or things that they want changed about us. Employees are giving me ideas. But it’s a way to stay grounded in terms of what the community is feeling, and I love it.”

There’s no way my inbox is anywhere near as filled as his, so I checked my ad-filled email and read a few Slack messages before drifting back to sleep.

I awoke again at 6:20 a.m. and promptly put on my gym clothes and contacts, then headed to my living room for a workout.

Cook, 63, told Lipa, “I spend an hour in the gym, usually doing strength training, and I’ve got somebody to really push me to do things I don’t want to do, and I do no work during that period of time at all, I never check my phone.”

Cook might have a trainer, but I have Pilates Body Raven YouTube videos. Although I only worked out for about 30 minutes, the activity helped me wake up, and it felt good to push myself by trying something new.

Since I quit playing soccer after high school, I’ve struggled to maintain a consistent workout routine. Typically, I work out for a couple of days or weeks, then do nothing again for months at a time, so it was exciting to find a new activity I enjoyed. It motivated me to believe this could be part of my normal routine.

Watching the sun rise over New York City was a special moment that made me feel accomplished.
The sun was just starting to rise as I finished my workout.

After my workout, I stopped to look at the sunrise, something I’m never awake to appreciate, and then it was time to get ready for work.

I showered and dressed, but waking up so early gave me a false sense of time security, so I actually ended up running late and skipping breakfast to make it to the office on time.

However, overall, my first impressions of this new routine were positive.

Although I felt a bit tired by mid-afternoon, day one felt like a success, and I was happy to have had a productive start to my day with a workout already completed so I could relax when I got home.

On Wednesday, I struggled to wake up early but enjoyed taking the time to make breakfast and coffee.
I started my morning with egg whites and coffee for breakfast.

I went to bed on Tuesday somewhere between 10:30 and 11 p.m. and felt like I’d barely slept when I tried to wake up at 5 a.m. I’m sure the pilates had something to do with that.

Through half-opened eyes, I quickly scanned my email and Slack notifications before letting myself go back to sleep. When I woke up again, I used TikTok to put off working out before finally forcing myself to at least do something.

I settled on a quick 20-minute strength workout consisting of crunches, leg lifts, push-ups, and some “weight lifting,” a.k.a. me lifting my cute light-green 6-pound weights from Target.

Since I was working from home, I had time to make breakfast after showering and getting dressed.

Business Insider reported that Cook’s usual breakfast isn’t clear, “but he dug into scrambled egg whites, sugar-free cereal, unsweetened almond milk, and bacon” during a 2017 interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, a columnist at The New York Times. Cook also usually gets coffee.

I don’t like bacon and didn’t have any sugar-free cereal, so I made scrambled egg whites and a cup of coffee with sugar and unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Even though I don’t normally drink coffee (I didn’t even like how mine tasted), I continued to sip from my mug long after its contents turned cold, so I guess that means it worked — or that I needed it.

Throughout the day, I felt energized and was proud of myself for pushing to get even a small workout done, even though I didn’t succeed in every aspect of the routine.

I was beginning to see some practical room for improvement in my life outside the challenge.

Thursday was the best day of the week by far. I felt energized, strong, and ready for the busy day ahead.
I’m not brave enough to show my post-workout selfie, so consider this water bottle my proof.

I felt more awake on Thursday than I had the past two days, despite falling asleep around midnight on Wednesday.

Did that mean I jumped out of bed to start my workout? No. But it did give me extra time to charge my phone since I had forgotten to do so the night before. Then, I got out of bed at my “new normal” of 6 a.m. and did another Pilates Body Raven video, this time focusing on strengthening my core.

I may not be a fan of Cook’s wake-up time, but I do need to thank him for not being a cardio person. I finished my workout in 30 minutes, showered, and got dressed, but I didn’t have enough time to cook egg whites. So I decided to pick up breakfast at the Dunkin’ near my office.

My iced vanilla latte was the perfect treat and motivation for a busy day at the office.
On Thursday, I was ready for work with my iced vanilla latte from Dunkin’.

I picked up an iced vanilla latte and treated myself to a glazed doughnut.

Despite failing to cook eggs at home and, therefore, falling short of completing Cook’s entire morning routine, Thursday was the first day I felt things were starting to change.

I do tend to be a bit delusional and think I can see results a few days into trying something new. Still, I felt stronger during my workout and more awake throughout the day, and I don’t think it was just a coincidence.

Regular exercise helps boost energy, as well as improve focus and mood. Knowing that I was beginning to experience some of these benefits made me want to keep waking up early to exercise once the challenge was over.

I met up with a friend from college and some co-workers after work for happy hour, so I got home later than usual but fully satisfied with the energy I had to get everything done.

Friday morning, however, was a rude awakening. I woke up beyond exhausted and ditched the routine entirely.
This was my desk on Wednesday. I wish I could say this is how organized I looked on Friday, too.

Just when I felt like I had everything figured out, it fell apart.

I wish I had a photo to document the chaos that was me on Friday, but instead, all I can offer is a photo of how organized I was on Wednesday so that you can imagine the opposite.

My whole body was sore from the workouts, and I was just so tired. It was disappointing to feel such a complete shift from Thursday to Friday; it felt like all the adrenaline and internal motivation that had been pushing me forward throughout the week crashed.

My only goal for the day was to get through it, but I think that was an important lesson in this experiment, too.

At 22, I have no desire to become a CEO anytime soon, but the experience helped me gain a new perspective on productivity.
Tim Cook at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 2024.

Trying a challenge like this one was really helpful in shaping my overall perspective on productivity, but I wouldn’t recommend expecting yourself to make big changes like this overnight. Changing what time I go to sleep, figuring out what days I like to work out, and understanding when my body needs rest will take time, and rushing results only contributed to my Friday morning crash … and subsequent weekend slump.

At 22, I have no plans to become CEO of a multibillion-dollar company anytime soon — Cook was 50 when he took the reins at Apple, after all — so comparing myself to someone with significantly more life experience and resources would be a waste.

Instead, this challenge has helped me recognize that my life as a reporter doesn’t need to start at 5 a.m. to be “productive,” but I can understand how good it feels to work out in the morning and, of course, enjoy an iced vanilla latte now and then.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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