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The Lever #034 - 7 Lessons From Jay Gatsby’s Daily Routine

If you want a strong daily routine, you need to first DESIGN a strong daily routine.

Here is an example from F. Scott Fitzgerald's character, Jay Gatsby.


But first:

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Jay Gatsby's Daily Routine

The following passage details a conversation between Nick Carraway and Mr. Henry C. Gatz following (Spoiler alert!) Gatsby’s untimely death:

He seemed reluctant to put away the picture, held it for another minute, lingeringly, before my eyes. Then he returned the wallet …and pulled from his pocket a ragged old copy of a book called Hopalong Cassidy.

“Look here, this is a book he had when he was a boy. It just shows you.”

He opened it at the back cover and turned it around for me to see. On the last fly-leaf was printed the word SCHEDULE and the date September 12, 1906. And underneath:

Rise from bed 6.00 A.M.

Dumbell exercise and wall scaling 6.15-6.30

Study electricity, etc. 7.15-8.15

Work 8.30-4.30 P.M.

Baseball and sports 4.30-5.00

Practice elocution, poise and how to obtain it 5.00-6.00

Study needed inventions 7.00-9.00

General Resolves

No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]

No more smokeing or chewing

Bath every other day

Read one improving book or magazine per week

Save $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per week

Be better to parents

“I come across this book by accident,” said the old man. “It just shows you, don’t it?”

“It just shows you.”

“Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what he’s got about improving his mind? He was always great for that…”


There are 7 lessons that can be learned from this routine:

1/ He prioritized sleep

The schedule shows Gatsby rising at 6 a.m. and finishing his evening study at 9 p.m.

Allowing an hour to wind down in the evening means he would still get a solid eight hours of sleep each night.

Sleep is vital to our health and development; both for consolidating knowledge learned and for repairing our bodies.

While there is a range in the required amount of sleep each person needs it is generally accepted to be somewhere between seven and nine hours.

Anything less is shortchanging yourself, and any perceived productivity gains made by sacrificing that sleep is an illusion. Studies show that productivity declines drastically when sleep deprived.

2/ Fitness played a major role

Following a vigorous Victorian style workout of dumbbells and wall scaling (an early form of parkour?) first thing in the morning sounds like an excellent way to get the blood flowing. Then after work a more social bit of sports takes place, with some baseball or other team sport.

Notice that it doesn’t mention “drinking at the pub” or “watching reruns on Netflicks”.

The lesson here is one that you already know.

Exercise and physical activity makes us feel good. And when we feel good we do better work.

Also note that Gatsby was working to give up both smokeing (sic) and chewing. Nice to know that we aren’t alone in struggling with vices.

3/ He was studious

An hour’s study of electricity, etc. every morning, for what is obviously due only to personal interest is impressive. On top of that, one improving book or magazine each week shows the dedication to increasing his general knowledge.

An hour every day PLUS a book per week is an excellent start to learning a new skill.

The key of course is to maintain consistency in doing so.

4/ He was focused on solving problems

A natural entrepeneur, Gatsby finished his day “studying needed inventions” .

The key word is “needed”. Entrepeneurship in a pure sense is identifying a problem, then solving it.

The key to doing so successfully is simple; you’ve got to put in the work. Whether you are following the solopreneur model, starting an agency, or opening a brick and mortar, you’ve got to put in the work daily.

There are no shortcuts.

5/ When he worked, he worked

On top of his rigorous schedule of self improvement Gatsby still managed to find the time to work an eight hour day.

There is an idea online that your 9-5 is something to be escaped. And that its okay to work towards some other personal goal while on company time.

I challenge that your day job will become your dream job, once you are good enough at it.

Perhaps the work isn't what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, but it is what allows the freedom to pursue the other activities.

Combining your day job with careful project layering can help ensure that you are taking the most possible value from it.

6/ His finances were in order

Three bucks a week in 1922 (the year Gatsby met an untimely end) would be worth around $50 today.

Knowing the power of compounding interest, and having some cash on hand for when an opportunity arises is one of the smartest things a person can do.

Gatsby, what with his inventing and all, would be able to weather a financial storm, or invest in an amazing opportunity when needed.

The moral is simple; stop buying so much shit and save your money for something that can truly change your life.

7/ He was careful who he hung out with

Managing relationships can be difficult.

Gatsby had relationships that were not serving him well.

He attempted to distance himself from the people dragging him down, which creates space for healthier relationships.

He also resolved to be better to his parents, indicating a growing maturity and realization that in the end there are few people in the world that will support you unconditionally like your family will.

Your Own Perfect Day

The schedule presented by Gatsby holds a number of universal truths.

You are at your best when the Big-5 areas that you spend your time in are well balanced:

Personal, Professional, Community, Life, Fitness.

Everything you do is a task. All tasks need time to complete.

The best way to complete them is by building a strong daily routine that allocates the time needed.

And the best tool for managing this schedule is Time Blocking.

I'm building a short course now that will walk you step by step through the creation of your own perfect day, and managing it using Google Calendar. It’s the same method I share in Peaceful Productivity, and will give you the balance you need while helping you achieve the goals you dream about.

Pre-register at


Do you have a daily schedule or list of general resolves?

Or do you just let the days happen as they may?

I think we can all take a lesson from the Great Gatsby on this one and plan our today’s for a brighter tomorrow.

What say you old boy?


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

1. Subscribe to The Lever (if you haven't already)

This covers a science-based productivity concept each week, in about five minutes. Try a free chapter of my new book when you subscribe. And if you like it...

Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done. Also available on Amazon  

This short course will teach you the fundamentals of a powerful timeblocking system to make sure you never miss an obligation and always show up prepared. Give yourself the space you need to create the life you deserve.

Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.


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