Designing my daily schedule for 2017

2016 has been quite the challenge.

We achieved a personal goal to buy (what will hopefully become) our dream house but we have spent six months renovating it (and are nowhere near done yet).

I also run a digital marketing agency in the UK called Bowler Hat. The business is evolving from offering just search engine optimisation to offering a range of services: Strategy, SEO, PPC, Content, Social and Web. Gobbledygook to most I guess but a necessary and difficult change for the business and industry as a whole. Managing this change is fun and rewarding but a challenge at the same time.

Then I have three children of 12, 11 and 5 and a wife – all of whom I want to see more of. Twelve hour work days leaves little time for family in the week. Factor in popping to the shops, walking the dog, exercise, cooking dinner and trying to wind down… there just is not enough hours in the day when you work 12 of them.

Time flys by so fast

This previous year (2016) I became more aware of how this stage of life parenting young children will soon be over. That makes me sad. But I can use that energy to focus my time better so I can enjoy all the time we have left with the children. In a blink of an eye, I will be 50 and I don’t want to look back and think “well Marcus, would have been good to get home a bit earlier and do a bit more with the kids”. Prioritise and change now. Don’t have regrets.

The overarching purpose of this blog is how to be happy, healthy, productive and successful for those of us 40 and above. How to navigate the modern world where we are all just so damn busy.

Clerly a big change I need to make here is to work fewer hours and spend more time with the family. This will require two major factors:

  1. Routine – less chaos to enable planning
  2. Productivity – removing all wasted time at work and home

My day

During the week most days I will be up at 6 am and in the office from 7 am. Often I will not be back home till 7 pm. Factor in some running around and various after school activities for the kids and it is pretty much a routine of wake, work, cook, eat, sleep & repeat.

This needs to change.

My priorities

This year my priorities are:


I want to spend more time with my family. More time helping my eldest kids with their homework. More time being around to spend quality time with my youngest and playing with him after school. More time to spend with my wife. Just more time at home and less time wrapped up in the stresses of work.


Health is a difficult one to pin down and is primarily about doing more of the good (food, exercise) and reducing the bad (inactivity, stress, alcohol, bad foods). My main focus here will be to improve our diet even further (which is already pretty damn solid) which really just comes down to cutting out alcohol & sugar and then having more time to shop, cook and prepare food for in the week.


I want to be as fit and strong as possible for as long as possible. This is primarily so I can continue to enjoy my life into my fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties even. I would also like to be lean and strong and look good (just being honest here). I have a desk job where I sit down most the day so it’s super important for me to exercise for my physical (and mental) health.

I also want to get better at mountain biking and a large component of this comes down to fitness. So, I want to exercise but tailor it towards my general goals and towards my chosen sport (which requires cardio and strength).


I want to have a less stressful year. I am developing a business and still renovating a house. This is alongside a fast-paced life at home with two near teen children, my youngest (5) and my wife (who has MS that we manage through diet). My life is a little stressful. So, this will be more about stress management than the removal of the things that apply stress.


I can tend to use alcohol to wind down after a fast paced day. It allows me to switch gears from work mode to chilled mode. Usually whilst cooking on the evening. Due to the hours, I work this tends to be unhelpful and just feeds into bad sleep, more stress and negatively impacts my fitness and health goals. I am going to revisit my thoughts about alcohol in a future post but for now, I will cut out all alcohol in January whilst I revisit that.

Time for myself

Whilst most of this involves improving the time I spend with my wife and children I also want to have some more time for myself. Maybe regular exercise and meditation go most the way for this but I may also want to spend an hour on the games console a couple of nights a week. Not too much to ask I hope.


Sleep. Often overlooked but so, so important. I want to allow for 8 hours sleep each night. I tend to need somewhere in the region of 7 to 8 hours. Closer to eight when I am exercising. So any schedule has to allow for a full eight hours with some time to wind down before that. Ideally three hours of time to just chill out and 15 mins to

My schedule

The below looks at my daily schedule – I will detail my work schedule in another post covering all the time management and productivity hacks I am working into my daily routine in 2017. The goal is work less hours but eliminate wasted efforts (80/20 rule) and push productivity up.

To summarise I am looking for:

  • More time with the family
  • Regular exercise
  • Less stress
  • More relaxation time
  • Improved health, fitness and lose a bit of weight

Monday to Friday

  • 5:30 am – get up: cold shower, coffee, some chess tactics for fun
  • 6:40 am – leave for work
  • 7:00 am – work: 8 hours 30 mins at work
  • 7:10 am – meditate for 10 mins
  • 3:30 pm – finish: drive home
  • 4:00 pm – home: see the kids
  • 4:15 pm – exercise, shower and get everything ready for tomorrow
  • 5:15 pm – cook
  • 6:00 pm – eat as a family
  • 6:30 pm – walk the dog (as a family)
  • 7:00 pm – two hours to relax or even catch up on work if needed 🙁
  • 9:00 pm – go to bed to read for 30 mins
  • 9:30 pm – sleep for eight hours

This allows me to get three hours of time each night to just chill out and get an eight hours sleep each night if I need it due to increased exercise. If not I can read more.


Saturday I tend to do my big bike ride for the week. This is the main goal of my exercise here and my benchmark. I don’t want this to eat into family time so up at 6.30am and meet my riding buddies at 7 am. I also need to sort out the meal plan and food shopping for the week.

  • 6:00 am – get up with my youngest (coffee etc)
  • 6:45 am – bike ride
  • 12:00 pm – home
  • 12:45 pm – meal plan for week
  • 1:00 pm – shopping
  • 3:00 pm – chill out


Sunday is just to chill out with the family so no schedule there. That said I do want to take the kids swimming every Sunday morning so I can teach the youngest to swim before our summer holiday.

  • 10 am – take kids swimming
  • 12 pm – sort out clothes and schedule for week
  • enjoy the rest of the day

Spend the rest of the day just hanging as a family. Walk the dog. Play some chess with my kids. Watch a movie together. Eat a nice dinner. Just fun.


To make this happen I also have to remove all the wasted time and inefficiencies in my day to day life. Time spent looking for my keys, time spent sat in traffic, time lost in my email inbox, doing our shopping day-to-day and any other wasted time but that’s a story for another day and a future post.

There you go

So there you go folks. I will be putting this into practice from the 3rd of January when I am back at work and will report back on the progress as I go. I will also follow this post up with a look at how I am going to strive to reduce time in my work and home life to give myself more time to relax.


Week 1 – went okay. Have made a few small revisions but in practice I am sticking to the schedule. Did not exercise as much as I intended but was tired post xmas and the shift from getting up at 8 am to 5.30am was not an easy one. First day of week 2 I am up and feeling good so exercise is starting in earnest today.

Parenting, change and appreciating what you have

It’s boxing day 2016. My children are 12 (nearly 13), 11 and 5. This is the first year that any of them did not believe in Santa. It’s a huge reminder that time just passes so, so fast and you have to work hard to appreciate every moment.


Christmas really is all about family. Even more so it is all about the children in your family. Particularly your own. And, I suspect, as time passes your grandchildren although I am not their yet.

The idea behind this blog was really just to document my own crusade to stay happy, healthy and productive as I tipped over the big 40 last year. A large part of that happiness is of course my own direct family.

Last year I was aware of two things that were having a negative impact on my life and happiness – work and alcohol. I am still somewhat conflicted regarding alcohol and I have ended up working harder than ever this year. Clearly, I did not learn my own lessons and as such I need to refocus.

This year and the unspoken but clearly apparent change in my eldest two children’s attitude to Christmas is yet another stark reminder that time is passing by and I really, really need to apply more focus on the positive areas of my life and less time stressing about work.

My relationship with my children will change. It is still highly positive. I have just finished a game of Super Mario Chess with my 11 year old. However I must embrace the further change that will come. I must make efforts to enjoy every single moment with my youngest who still believes in the magic of Christmas (well, Father Christmas at least).

Balance & Appreciation

There is no huge takeaway here folks – only that time moves fast, things change fast – appreciate what you have whilst you have it.

In 2017 my focus is going to be on balance. I want to achieve more at work yet I also want to allow more breathing room for my exercise and family. In my next post I will outline my plan for achieving a balance between work and play in 2017.

Happy Christmas to one and all. Here is to a happy, healthy and productive 2017 for all.

The Early Bird Doesn’t Drink the Worm


I don’t think it is any great surprise that it is easier to get up in the morning when you have not had a drink. What I am finding surprising is just how early I wake up and am ready to start they day when I have had a drink. In fact, this is something of a cumulative effect and it takes around three nights to really kick in and I am waking up about 5.30am.

90 Minutes for me

I am a happy and relatively healthy guy. I have a great wife and three wonderful kids. A job I mostly enjoy and a few hobbies like cycling, weightlifting, this blog etc. What I don’t have is any spare time.

What this means is things like this blog suffer. My exercise suffers. Doing things I enjoy like getting out on the bike suffers. If I cram these things into the weekend, which I often do that means my time with my family suffers.

I am time challenged. Work is largely to blame but I have to bring home the bacon. I can’t do a lot about that short term other than try to be more productive when I am at work.

So, with this 90 minutes there is just so much more I can do. I can go out on my bike, go for a run or an early morning walk, spend some time with my three year old if he gets up early, do my weights, write a blog post, meditate, read a book or just chill out and enjoy some good coffee. I could even get up early and play a video game on the consoles I get to watch the kids play on everyday.

For a man that does not feel that he has 9 minutes to win 90 minutes like this every day and so easily is just so much better than the time I would spend boozing.

You booze you lose

For various reasons I have come to the conclusion that alcohol is a largely negative factor in my life. I am 39 and think this has been bubbling up for a few years now. I don’t get smashed and argue with my wife and kids. I have not lost a job or anything like that. I score relatively low on the typical ‘are you a drunkard‘ questionnaires but they are largely ridiculous.

I am more of a few drinks every evening to wind down kind of guy. But, what this actually does is tend to keep me up. I am relaxed now so I will watch some crappy TV. Probably stay up that little bit later.

I will then have an less relaxing nights sleep. Maybe up a few times to go to the toilet. Maybe tossing and turning a bit. Waking up tired around 6.30am.

By the evening I get back home, tired, need to wind down and…. off we go again, few drinks, get relaxed and repeat the whole thing all over again. When the weekend rolls around the volume probably goes up a bit – start a bit earlier on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and increase the volume.

Why is this happening?

Without booze though this is a different story. I will tend to go to sleep earlier. l will certainly wake up earlier, usually around 5.30am and when I wake up I am pretty much awake and ready for action.

There is nothing magical here really, sleep is super important and without booze I get better and more restful sleep. I think we have all collectively numbed ourselves to just how much even a couple of drinks takes our edge off. For years I wanted to do just that but now I seem to be enjoying feeling sharp the next day.  I want to get up and feel good and be productive.

Early bird activities

I figure this wins me about 90 minutes per day. From around 5.30am to 7am when everyone else is still asleep. I don’t get much any time to myself with three kids of 11, 9 and 3 with varying requirements in terms of running around, homework etc so this space to just do something for myself is really rewarding.

Certainly, this is far more rewarding than the couple of drinks I would have as my reward for my days toil.

What I get from alcohol

So, my somewhat wonky thinking that has been in place for 20 years or so is that a drink is my reward. Something good. Something that helps me relax. But, in fact, if I analyse how it impacts my life – which I can only do whilst trying to remove it – it is anything but.

My couple of drinks on the evening habit that is similar to so, so many other folks is actually something holding me back. Something keeping me mentally subdued and sucking the joy out of many basic moments as I am tired, cranky, craving a drink or really, just not 100%.

Booze also makes me and keeps me fat. No doubt about that. I exercise. I have ran a bloody marathon. But, those booze calories that are likely somewhere between 3500 and 7000 a week can’t be discounted. Liquid calories are the worst anyway but cider. Jesus. Lovely cider.

If my drinking ramps up say for instance when we are on holiday I notice much more severe effects in terms of my thinking. Booze makes me dark. Dark thoughts. Increased anxiety. Lack of coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. I think this is always there but to a level you begin to feel is normal – it is just adult life, not the booze – right? Remove booze though and I am calmer, I cope better, have less anxiety and am just generally more present.

I have goals for my business, goals for my health, goals for my physical appearance and ultimately booze is that old friend who is holding you back. So really, it is no friend at all.

Ultimately, booze makes me fat, grumpy, stressed and anxious  – looking at it like that it is really not quite the reward I have held it up as for so many years.

Putting this into practice

So, here is a simple way to put this into practice for yourself. I think you will really need a month but a week would likely give you an indication. If the thought of a month without booze is just too scary (I get it 100%) then aim for a week.

You have to be careful not to tip your weeks worth of booze down your neck over the weekend here so I would say have a drink if you must on Friday and Saturday but keep it super moderate like three drinks max each night. Then, absolutely don’t drink Sunday. Try to get an early night on the Sunday around 9pm and see how early you wake on Monday.

Make a list of things you want to do this week and pin it on your fridge or some such and then work away at that list. You have like ten extra hours here and there is just so much you can do with that.

So, in summary

  • Don’t drink heavily over the preceding weekend
  • Get to bed early as you likely have some catching up to do
  • Wake naturally and get up
  • Have a list of specific goal for the week that you are working towards
  • Review at the end of the week.

Just imagine what you could do with an extra 90 minutes each day? That’s ten hours a week. What is it you want to achieve? That is time to do it. Write a book. Start a blog. Run a marathon. Lift weights and get jacked. Take life by the scruff of the neck, ditch alcohol for a few weeks, even if only in the week and see how you can be happier and more productive – oh, and comment here to let me know how you get on and to help keep me motivated”

My morning

This morning, I got up at 5:15am. Just woke up. Felt rested and ready for the day. This is stark contrast to being jolted out of bed by my alarm or my youngest being up and not being terribly happy about it most mornings around 6.30am. I have got up and written this blog post and am now off out to the garage to do some weights. I will be showered by 7am and off to work for an early start, feeling good and ready for action.