Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t know Bill Gates?
Realistically speaking, yes, but I doubt anyone reading this right now is unfamiliar with the man. But if you need a refresher, Bill Gates is the brain behind Microsoft and Windows, the operating system I’m using to write this.
Growing up, Bill was somewhat of a kind of legend. Not in the sense that I looked up to him, but in the sense that he seemed very much removed from everyday life. I seemed to have more in common with, say, a pet frog than I did Bill Gates.
It wasn’t until I recently watched Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, a three-part Netflix documentary on the Microsoft founder, that I found myself starting to see him more like a fellow human. One that was seemingly a hundred times smarter than me, and like, a billion times richer.
After watching the movie, I almost feel like I know him now. So, I’m going to call him Bill for the rest of this article.
Like many other billionaires, his capacity for work is on a different level. It takes a specific kind of disposition, intellect, and will to be that accomplished.
But this article isn’t to gush over Bill’s genius. Rather, it’s to emulate his morning routine. I might not have his brain or his riches, but I technically still have the same 24 hours.
288 chunks of time
In 2016, journalist Mary Riddell spent three months with Bill for an in-depth look at the businessman’s lifestyle.
One of the most fascinating points of this article was how his long days were carved into five-minute segments. Meaning, the days are planned right down to every five minutes.
Watching Inside Bill’s Brain, this made a lot of sense. Bill had revealed that his biggest fear is his brain not working. In a way, I think that fear is more about the passage of time and ageing—two things that even he cannot control.
It’s no secret that Bill is an incredibly ambitious man. Even now, it seems like there’s so much left for him to do. But if his brain stops working as he grows older, he wouldn’t be able to achieve that.
Thus, perhaps a perfectly structured daily routine is needed for one to truly maximise their time and make full use of each and every day.
To do this, I set up an Excel sheet (Bill didn’t invent that, his employee Charles Simonyi did) and began planning out my week. I would include basic things like making coffee, sending a specific email, and more.
Doing this made me understand a lot better what I devote my time to in a day, and made me pay more attention to where I was spending too much time and how much I realistically and effectively needed for each task.
I also printed out my schedule so I could easily check on it throughout the day and scribble in any new and urgent tasks that popped up.
With that, I was ready to take on the work week.
7AM: Wake-up call
After a restful 7 hours, Bill awakes rearing to go.
This was easy enough, as 7 hours is my personal ideal number of hours for sleep. Who knew Bill and I were so alike?
Waking up is one thing. Doing something productive immediately after is another.
Apparently, Bill starts his days with an hour on the treadmill, something that I did not like the sound of.
Bill has his own personal and private gym, but I don’t. Thankfully though, I do live in an apartment complex that has one, so it’s not so bad.
It was a little scary at first to visit the gym so early. It felt like everyone in there was super fit, and I did not belong. But I kept the image of Bill steadfast in my mind and pushed through.
Since Bill is known to spend around an hour a day (minimum) learning, I spent this time watching educational videos such as TED Talks.
I’ll be real candid with you. Most days, I was not able to hit the hour mark. Yes, Bill Gates is fitter than me. Have you seen him play tennis?
Complaints aside, I actually really liked this part of my morning routine. I usually would’ve spent the time using my phone as my “waking up” routine anyway, so it was nice to do something mindless but good for my body while I woke up to educational videos.
I’m not sure if I have the discipline to do this every day of the week for an hour each morning, but I do feel more comfortable hitting the gym after this experience.
9:30AM: America, we have a Coke problem
Much to my dismay, Bill Gates is yet another Diet Coke enjoyer. I thought I had managed to escape this fate after my attempt at Elon Musk’s routine.
“Once I’m at the office, I usually open a can of Diet Coke. Over the course of the day, I might drink three or four,” he had written on his blog.
I already know for a fact that these sodas do not do it for me at all, so I decided to just drink one in the morning, substituting my usual coffee.
Oh, and did I mention? Like Musk, Gates also does not eat breakfast.
This week, I learnt just how it feels to drink a bubbly soda first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, after working out.
It feels insane. You should try it.
Bill loves a good hamburger. Big Macs from McDonald’s, in particular, seem to be a guilty pleasure for him.
I don’t eat beef, but I love a good McDonald’s, so I ordered my usual (Filet-O-Fish—don’t judge me) with a good old cup of Coke.
I can’t fault this lunch—it’s quick, easy, and good. But for the sake of health, it’s definitely not a good idea to have this too often. I hope you’re eating well, Bill.
9PM: Wash the dishes
Isn’t Bill Gates so relatable? I, too, wash the dishes every night, so this wasn’t a big departure from my usual routine.
I wonder if Gates does it all by hand, which I of course do, or if his version of “doing dishes” is just loading the dishwasher…
Something tells me it’s the latter, not necessarily because he seems the kind, but because dishwashers are more water-efficient. And, boy, does Bill care about water.
10PM: Late-night reading
Bill has quite a plethora of reading recommendations. Just visit his blog, gatesnotes.com, and you’ll understand.
This was also highlighted in Inside Bill’s Brain. The truth is, inside Bill’s brain is an immense amount of knowledge. One of his friends also said in the docu-series that he retains a huge portion of that knowledge, which is what truly matters.
Watching him talk to researchers in the series also shows that he not only retains that information, but is able to apply it in real life too.
His library is filled with extremely dense topics, memorably, academic books on energy written by Vaclav Smith.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the same level of appetite for that, so I just read from my own little collection of books at home (i.e. fantasy novels). Not very Gates-esque, but to each their own.
It was interesting reading right before bed. It’s not an uncommon practice, but I’m usually the kind to use my phone right up until I must sleep, but I think it’s a great way to unwind and ease the mind.
Verdict: Planning is a full-time job
I’m not going to lie, I’ve really enjoyed Bill’s routine throughout the course of the week.
When fully committed to following my schedule, I found myself being quite diligent and productive. Instead of pushing work off and saying I’ll only start it on the hour, every single five-minute mark was an opportunity for me to get started on a new task.
While on the treadmill, I had watched a TED Talk on procrastination. It had basically shared procrastination is the most prevalent and dangerous whenever there isn’t a deadline.
But using the five-minute schedule, there was a deadline set on basically every single life task. This means I was essentially living on the precipice of failing said tasks at every given moment, which in turn pushed me to do it.
Yes, a therapist would probably tell you it’s not a good idea to live like that. But what can I say, I live on the edge.
Jokes aside, I did find the five-minute technique to be useful, but would perhaps limit it to just the busier days of my life.
Plus, you realistically don’t need it for your regular days where you just follow your typical routine, as it would just be a waste of time to put in stuff like “commute”, “do task A”, “lunch”, and “do task B” every single day.
But on those busier-than-usual days that don’t reflect your day-to-day schedule, it’s a nice thing to do for yourself.
It is very tedious, though, to plan your day in all those little segments. It’s even more tedious having to follow it.
Bill probably has a team of people working to organise his life, and another team of people who enforce those rules. Shake a hand for too long and someone would probably come to tell Bill he’s out of time.
As an alternative, I suppose I could just set alarms for myself, but thinking about an alarm going off every five minutes is a new kind of hell.
Like almost every other routine, though, discipline is the key here. If you’ve got that, it shouldn’t be an issue to live how Bill is known to live.
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Featured Image Credit: GatesNotes