The Fully Optimized Day

A handy guide to being more productive, sunup to sundown

The Fully Optimized Day

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A little while back, a Navy SEAL schooled your pals at InsideHook on the philosophy of “eating the elephant one bite at a time” — in short, the idea is that daunting tasks, when broken down into manageable pieces, can be accomplished much more easily.

For example: if you were to begin with the goal of “having a healthier, more productive day,” chances are you’d be largely ineffective in your quest. Too vague, too amorphous, too large to wrap your head around. Classic elephant.

However, if you break that day down into several smaller parts, each can be more easily optimized. You take one bite at a time, and, before you know it, the elephant is eaten.

And thus we bring you the The Fully Optimized Day, a handy blueprint to tuning up your life from sunup to sundown. From waking up refreshed to maximizing your work day to powering down and getting a good night’s sleep, we’ve got the tips, tricks and products to get you there.

So read on, and remember: one bite at a time.

Waking Up

The incessant beeping of your phone alarm will no doubt rouse you from your slumber, but science shows that light is actually a better wake-up cue for your body — it suppresses melatonin (your brain’s “sleepy” chemical) and allows you to ease into the morning feeling more refreshed. Natural sunlight, however, tends to be in depressingly short supply early in the a.m., especially during the winter months.

The Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 makes a great solar stand-in (and is the best of its ilk that we’ve tried), kicking off with a soothing red-tinted sunrise simulation that gradually morphs into bright white light, coupled with calming wake-up sounds like birds chirping or waves crashing on the beach. Try it and tell us you don’t feel better right from the jump.

Eating Breakfast

While fasted training is all the rage these days, the majority of us are going to want to put something in the tank to help power through our morning workout (more on that in a minute). We chatted with a certified nutritionist and health coach to break down the healthiest options among two of the most common on-the-go breakfast choices: yogurt and energy bars

If all you’re looking for is a quick liquid pick-me-up before hitting the gym, consider Monster Energy. According to several international sports nutrition organizations, knocking back an energy drink (such as Monster) prior to exercise may improve overall athletic performance, including focus, alertness and endurance. Good enough for folks like Tiger Woods and Tour de France champion Mark Cavendish, good enough for us.

Working Out

We recently spoke with a variety of fitness professionals who agree, believe it or not, that age (specifically an age over 40) is not nearly the kryptonite to attaining a “jacked” physique that you might think. 

But we get it — waking up early to work out is a slog. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of 9 key tips to help get you into the morning sweat routine. In terms of how to spend your gym time once you’ve done so, our editors have been enamored of Centr, a nifty workout app presided over by Chris Hemsworth and a cabal of fitness pros. With a smorgasbord of short (see: 30 mins or less), manageable sessions running the gamut from jump rope cardio to barbell breakdowns, Thor & Co. not only get you in and out of the gym expeditiously, but also mitigate the all-time fitness motivation killer: boredom.

Evergrip Weighted Jumprope
Everlast
$12

FWD-01 Sport Wireless Headphones
Adidas
$149

Getting Dressed

Of all the things that shouldn’t require too much time in the morning but invariably do, choosing what to wear reigns supreme. Our style director, however, has discovered a handy tool to not only shorten the process, but optimize the results: Instagram.

With just a little bit of effort and knowhow, the platform can become your go-to resource for sartorial inspiration, via the stylish kits showcased on everyone from celebs to style “influencers” to folks in your own life. Get dressed better, faster. Win win.

Commuting

Whether you’re spending it in the car or on mass transit, your commute is a great chance to knock out some content that’ll have an overall positive impact on your day/life in general. A few of our recent favorites:

Reads:

Tonic: A new app from Canopy that provides five personalized reads each day, chosen by human curators and Tonic’s AI, which learns about your reading preferences and adjusts accordingly as you go. Plus they keep no personal data, which is comforting.

Forge: the new publication from Medium dedicated specifically to productivity and innovation. Start with “Your Focus Is Priceless, Stop Giving It Away” by Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Richtel.

The Download: a “daily dose of what’s up in emerging technology” courtesy of the MIT Technology review, with quick reads on out-there stuff like UPS drone delivery and shape-shifting robots from NASA. Great cocktail party fodder.

Podcasts:

Market Snacks: quick, digestible financial information delivered in a humorous, accessible tone that makes it easy to forget you’re listening to, well, financial information.

The Savvy Psychologist: “quick and dirty tips for better mental health” from Dr. Jade Wu, who uses evidence-based research to analyze subjects like the link between social media and depression or whether or not love can actually last.

Up First: NPR’s daily news breakdown, bringing you the biggest stories in everything from politics to pop culture in just 10 minutes.

Working

While maximizing your commute is no doubt helpful, the office itself is the true battleground in terms of productivity — potential for time-suckage, split-focus and general procrastinatory nonsense abound, and thus you must be prepared. 

Our guide to the 19 best productivity apps out there is just the ticket, helping you streamline everything from your email correspondence to your meetings and scheduling to your insidious time-wasting habits.

But all the productivity in the world is for naught if it’s at the expense of your health, your posture in particular — use these easy steps to avoid permanently slouched shoulders and the dreaded “tech neck.”

Powering Through

Around 2pm, when you get that familiar urge to make a run for the Keurig, stop. Take a beat. Instead of your umpteenth cuppa joe of the day, consider switching it up with the previously mentioned Monster Energy — ounce for ounce, Monster contains half the caffeine of standard coffee-shop coffee, with the added benefit of vitamin B-12, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-6. Sustained energy through the rest of your day without the caffeine crash.

Additionally, they’ve got a deep bench with flavor and formula options for everyone. Cutting calories? Try the Zero Ultra or Lo-Carb lines. Tea fan? The Dragon Tea line features green tea, yerba mate and white tea options. Really missing the taste of that coffee? The Java Monster line has you covered.

In terms of where to enjoy it, might we suggest taking an afternoon constitutional?

Decompressing

An important but oft-overlooked part of most people’s routine — taking time to properly decompress after work lets your brain know that it’s time to switch gears, allowing you to enjoy the rest of your day (see: the “life” half of “work/life balance”) more fully.

A recent trial of Wave Meditation yielded positive results for our fitness editor, with a deft combination of music, guided breathing, and a vibrating pillow to help melt away the day’s stresses. And if you’re still feeling the physical effects of the morning’s workout, a quick session with the new Hypersphere Mini is just what the doctor ordered.

WAVE Meditation Kit
WAVE
$199

Hypersphere Mini
Hyperice
$99

Eating Dinner

It would be a shame to cap such a healthy and productive day with take-out, but cooking is understandably low on the priority list when you’ve had a long one. We are now, however, living in the Golden Age of the Dinner Subscription Box, with healthy, easy-to-execute options for just about any palate. To wit:

For Variety: Blue Apron
The longest-running outfit in the game, offering an impressively wide menu selection as well as wine pairings, if you’re so inclined.

For Non-Carnivores: Purple Carrot
Hearty, plant-based recipes like pumpkin walnut chili and beluga lentil tacos. 

For the Truly Time-Starved: Gobble
Specializing in 15-minute dinners you can cook using just one pan, with many of the ingredients pre-prepped. 

Powering Down

And now the day is done. Your watch is ended. Time for some much needed rest. Easier said than done, however — recent studies show that as many as one in six Americans suffer from some sort of sleep-related issue.

Thus we enlisted two experts — a former NASA scientist who specialized in astronaut sleeping patterns and a certified clinical sleep-health specialist — to analyze 12 pieces of popular sleep tech and weigh in on which they think can help us on the path to better Z’s.

After all, you’ve got to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.