In January 2019, I was a panelist on a Turkish international news show, talking about minimalism. Having written just a little about minimalism, I was surprised to be asked, but it was far too cool an opportunity to turn down. There was a downside, though.
The show was taped in London, at 11 AM GMT. That’s 5 AM US Central Time. Which meant I had to get up at 3:30 AM if I wanted to shower, grab some breakfast, and generally get my head together before spouting off opinions in front of lots and lots of people.
Listen, 3:30 AM is early. It’s easy to sleep through a 3:30 alarm, and doing so here would have been pretty bad. I therefore had to make absolutely, completely sure of two things:
- My alarm would go off
- I wouldn't shut it off and go back to sleep.
To guarantee success, I took a page from former Navy Seal commander Jocko Willink and set two alarms: my smartphone (as usual), plus an electric alarm clock I picked up on Amazon.1
What did that second alarm do? Three things.
First, it guaranteed something would be beeping at me at 3:30 AM. It’s possible for one device to fail, but the odds of both failing are vanishingly small.
Second, it prevented me from groggily shutting my alarm off without waking up. Not going to happen with two alarm clocks.
Third, it helped me get a decent night’s sleep. Having a second alarm clock helped me trust my plan, which reduced my anxiety about accidentally standing up a whole studio of people halfway around the world. I now use this two-alarm technique whenever I need to wake up at an ungodly hour or want to squeeze in a 10-minute nap before an important event.
Increasing trust in our personal systems is vastly underrated as a method for reducing anxiety. When we depend on something but don’t really trust it, we feel anxious. On the other hand, when we trust something absolutely—whether it’s a wake-up system or our entire personal productivity system—our brains can relax and take part in the world around us.
Which sometimes means talking about minimalism at 5 in the morning.