UPDATE: When this journal started, I set out to write three books in a month. On Day 4, I decided this trilogy should instead be consolidated into a single book, Overlap, containing all three parts.

Days 1–3 have me talking about the three parts as separate books, but I have left things unedited for archival purposes.

You can continue reading the story as it happened, or skip to the journal entry on Day 4 to read what happened.

I was in bed by 10pm last night. The lights were off by 10:30pm, but I can tell from my SleepCycle app that I didn’t fall asleep until 11pm.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is an awesome app. You go through several different sleep phases when you’re asleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep (which is the dream state). A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. It varies from person to person, but not by much—maybe only a few minutes. Generally, sleep cycles last 90 minutes and are repeated several times in the night. Your movements will vary depending on which phase you’re in, and this is something that can be tracked using your phone’s accelerometer.

You can configure Sleep Cycle to wake you within a window of time at the optimal moment. I have mine set to 30 minutes. It’s weird at first when you’re used to getting up at an exact time. Having an alarm window of 30 minutes sounds like a strange concept, but once you use it, it’s fantastic. If you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, that’s the worst. Ideally, you want to plan your wake time to land in between sleep cycles. This means, it’s best to get either 6 hours, 7.5 hours, or 9 hours of sleep. If you get 7 hours or 8 hours exactly, you’re going to be waking in the middle of a sleep cycle and that is why you feel groggy.

This is not an exact science because everyone’s average sleep cycle varies by some minutes (possibly from person to person, or even differing for a single person from night to night), but that is why you have the 30-minute window.

Video Recap:

  • Fall Asleep Time: 11:00pm
  • Wake Time: 5:14am
  • Total Sleep: 6hr, 15min
  • Run: No, Yoga Instead
  • Writing Start Time: 5:30am
  • Writing End Time: 3:00pm
  • Words Written: 8,064
  • Total Words: 25,572

Never Take Advice From a Quitter

This morning, I didn’t want to get up. That’s not unusual, but the thought of snoozing crossed my mind briefly. I’m glad I didn’t.

It’s timely, because I ended up writing the chapter on Waking Up Early today. Here’s an excerpt:

The single greatest method I have for getting out of bed is what I call No Snooze. As soon as your alarm goes off, you turn it off and you put your feet on the floor. There is nothing in between, it is an instant reaction. Alarm. Feet on the floor. Tell yourself the night before that you are going to do this. You must train your subconscious. There are no excuses. The reason you hit snooze eight times is because you tell yourself that you don’t remember hitting snooze and it just happens. You are actually creating that reality for yourself by speaking it. Your words are powerful and so is your subconscious.

I once heard a speaker say, “Never take advice from a quitter.”

My response was an emphatic, “Yeah! That’s right!”

But then he said, “How many of you have quit a thousand things in your life?”

I wore a look of confusion on my face.

“You quit every day,” he continued.

“Uh, oh…” I thought.

“If you snooze the alarms you set, you just quit on your goals and your plans. You just quit on yourself.”

He got me. I was on board with his approach of never taking advice from a quitter, but then he called me out and told me I’m quitting every day when I snooze. I didn’t want to believe that I was a quitter, but what is the definition of a quitter? Someone who quits a lot. A quitter is someone who habitually quits. Snoozing was part of my routine, which meant I was a quitter.

Once I realized I was being a quitter, I made a decision not to snooze anymore. I set my alarm for 6:00 AM. The night before, I told myself over and over, “I am not a quitter.” I told my wife the story. “I am not a quitter,” I said. The next morning, I woke up without my alarm at 5:00 AM and bolted out of bed. I didn’t even look at the clock. I didn’t realize until five minutes later that I was so scared of being a quitter that I jumped out of bed at 5:00 AM. It wasn’t even time for my alarm to go off! That is the power of your subconscious and that is the power of your words.

This is first draft content. I feel very good about what I’ve been writing. The chapters are clocking in at 3,000 to 4,000 words pretty consistently.

Someone on Twitter commented on my 8,000-word day yesterday and said, “3,000 of those are bound to be good!”

I had to chuckle. If anything I’ve been removing too much as I go. When I’m reporting an 8,000 word day, that’s the final count. I’m writing more like 9,000, or sometimes 10,000 and cleaning it up as I go. Trust me, the 8,000 words are near-final. I’ve had a lot of practice from cranking out hundreds of podcast outlines, video scripts, courses, and newsletters. The practice is coming in very handy.

The Hardest Thing I’ve Done (+ Rapid Fire Thoughts)

I’d heard people say writing a book was hard.

Now I understand why authors say writing a book is the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

I guess writing three books in a month may also be a contributing factor.

This has definitely been the most intellectually challenging thing I’ve ever done before. It requires prolonged periods of intense focus unlike anything I’ve experienced. There is no way I would push myself this hard had I not set a big goal, but it excites me to see, three days in, that this is very possible. I know it is doable.

I convinced myself that it was possible to hit my 8,000-word goal by 2pm or 3pm in the afternoon, and I’m proud to say I did that today. As of 2:58pm, I had written 8,064 great words. I’m immensely satisfied with the day’s work.

I’m grateful for my wife’s support. The past two days have been intense. Part of my motivation for staying focused and maximizing my output so I can finish sooner is to be able to spend time with her. At 5:30am this morning, I purposed to finish early enough to take her to dinner. After I publish this journal entry, we will be going out. It feels very good to have achieved that.

It would be great to keep up this new pace consistently. If I’m able to reliably hit my goal by early afternoon, it may open up the option to be a little more flexible with my day and routine. Usually, my wife and I try to go on a coffee date in the morning on the weekend. My wife was sad that it seemed like that would not be possible for the month of July given how things were looking. I am purposing to make that happen. That will be another layer of my motivation.

It’s About the Quality of Your Sleep, Not How Much

One of the biggest reasons I think today went so well is because I got good sleep. Yes, it was still six hours, but it was a good six hours. That matters.

It’s a Good Thing I Didn’t Travel

I had to laugh when I remembered that a few months ago, I was actually considering traveling during the book-writing month. I thought that would be fun. I could go up to the pacific north west, rent a cabin, and peck away on a laptop keyboard while overlooking a colorful view.

That obviously didn’t happen, and boy am I glad. I have my friend, James Clear, to thank for that. On a recent retreat, he said it would only be good if I felt I needed that to be productive. He asked me if I was productive at home. I said, “Oh, yes.” He replied that I shouldn’t go anywhere then.

That was good advice. The intensity of the work is enough of a challenge. Traveling would present another layer of unnecessary stress. I would have to get used to a strange place, a strange bed, figure out where to eat, what to eat, if we should eat out or cook in, how to cook in a different kitchen, and a lot more little things like that.

Staying home was the right choice.

30 Days Is Not a Long Time

I wrote on my shower notepad last night: “30 days is not a long time.”

The Early Momentum Was Good

I knew today was a good day when I knocked out 1,000 words in the first 45 minutes. I also hit 2,800 by 2.5 hours into the day.

I really didn’t want to get out of bed, but after an hour, I felt really good.

I think the sun was coming up at that point. Probably not a coincidence.

Focused for 90 Minutes, Took Breaks for 20 minutes

I also wrote and finished a chapter on Increasing Your Focus today. In it, I talked about 90-minute blocks of focused time. I realized I hadn’t been been very purposeful about focused blocks of time and breaks. Today, I made a point to stay extra focused for stretches of 90 minutes and then take 20-minute breaks.

Dictating Didn’t Work Very Well

I tried dictating today. It wasn’t super successful. I’m not ruling it out, but it wasn’t as accurate as I needed it to be and it ended up just slowing me down. I was doing just fine writing anyway. I think I’ll keep that in my back pocket for the next time I get stuck.

Tomorrow is Monday and I’m pumped!

Add me on Snapchat to see behind-the-scenes: 👻 seanwestv

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Learn more about the book: OverlapBook.com