Mark Cuban fits a lot into each day: He stars on "Shark Tank," owns the Dallas Mavericks and is a father of three. Plus, he finds time to read "four to five hours a day," he tells CNBC Make It and he works out for at least an hour.
The self-made billionaire is productive from the moment he wakes up at 6:30 a.m. The first thing he does is check email from his bed and tackle any high-priority items. The rest of Cuban's morning includes catching up on the news, working out — he prefers pick-up basketball — and drinking a cup of decaf coffee.
"Every morning, I'm rising, I'm grinding, I'm learning," Cuban tells fellow "Shark Tank" star Daymond John.
To see if I could boost my own productivity levels, I tried replicating Cuban's morning routine for a week in New York City.
Here's what happens:
My alarms sounds at 6:30 a.m., about 15 minutes later than it normally goes off. Sleeping in, even if it's just a quarter of an hour, seems to make a difference. I feel more alert and well rested than I normally do on a Monday.
I don't receive work emails on my phone like Cuban does, so I grab my laptop that I laid out beside my bed the night before.
Thirty minutes of email later and I'm at inbox zero. I'm feeling pretty good about the direction my morning is headed — until I go to make coffee, that is. I only have regular beans in my apartment, naturally, and have to run out to the deli around the corner to grab a cup of decaf. I forget my keys, lock myself out and by the time I'm back in my kitchen, it's nearly 8 a.m.
I do a quick gym workout, break a sweat, shower and hustle to work. I'm running behind, but since I already cleared my inbox and made mental notes of what tasks I need to prioritize, I'm able to dive into work projects immediately.
I spend just 15 minutes combing through my inbox this morning to allow more time for working out and any other snafus that may arise. There are minimal distractions at 6:30 in the morning, and I'm able to get to inbox zero for the second day in a row.
I decide not to buy an entire bag of decaf beans for the remaining four days of the challenge and, after a 30 minute jog outside, head back to my neighborhood deli. Buying a cup of coffee sans caffeine seems like a questionable way to spend my money, but it's only $1.25.
Cuban eats the same thing for breakfast every morning: a package of eight oatmeal cookies from a company called Alyssa's that he invested in on "Shark Tank." I do the same. While a bit redundant, the breakfast is efficient and filling.
It wouldn't be a week of living like the Dallas Mavericks' owner without some basketball. After sorting through email, I meet a friend at an outdoor court near my apartment. We don't have a crew to play a pick-up game with, but I get a good enough workout just by running down all of my errant jump shots.
Trading in my typical morning jog or gym workout for a game that I grew up playing is an energizing start to the day. I don't even mind ordering a decaf coffee afterwards.
Getting to and from basketball eats into my morning, so I pack my breakfast cookies to-go and use my 30-minute commute to catch up on the news.
While I've been arriving at the office around the same time I usually do, I'm getting more done first thing in the morning, thanks to the time I've spent going through emails before I even get to work. And I normally read the news in the office — doing so beforehand means one less thing to check off before hunkering down and cranking out work.
Cuban sleeps in his gym clothes, which is what I've been doing, too. It's comfortable, saves time and is one less decision to make in the morning. Knowing exactly what I'm going to eat for breakfast also pares down the number of decisions I have to make at the start of the day.
Up until today, I haven't missed my morning caffeine — maintaining the routine of drinking a cup, even though it is decaf, is a nice distraction — but I cave at lunch time and buy a black coffee to help me power through the afternoon.
I don't have to go into work today — it's Good Friday — but I assume Cuban is just as active and productive on holidays and maintain his routine. I get through each of his morning activities — email, the news, a cardio workout and breakfast — but at a more leisurely pace.
After a week of living like the tech billionaire, I can see how he gets so much done. Here's what I liked about the routine:
I was much more efficient in the morning. By sleeping in my gym clothes and having my breakfast ready to go, I spent less time worrying about what to wear and what to eat. It seems like a small shift, but it's a way of avoiding a phenomenon known as decision fatigue, which describes the way choices become harder and harder as a day goes on and your finite store of energy gets depleted.
Cuban isn't the only successful individual who finds ways to eliminate decisions and free up mental space in the morning: Mark Zuckerberg, John Paul DeJoria and Barack Obama routinely wear the same thing to do just that.
"You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits," Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012. "I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.
"You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia."
I felt more prepared for the work day. I found that finishing small tasks, like sending emails or reading about current events, early on made me feel more in control over my day. Plus, it meant that by the time I got to the office, I had fewer things to do before really diving into my work.
Sorting through email and catching up on the news also helped me figure out what I needed to prioritize each morning. And experts say that there's value to attacking your most important items right away. As author Brian Tracy, who has studied time management for more than 30 years, writes in his book "Eat That Frog!": "The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning."
Exercising right away was an energizing start to the day. I try to work out in the mornings, but I don't always get around to it. This week, I had to make time for it for the sake of the challenge. I felt healthier throughout the day and less stressed at the end of the day, since I didn't have to rush home to squeeze in a jog or gym time.
Plus, science shows that exercise can help you out professionally by improving memory and mental sharpness, reducing stress and even promoting creativity.
For these reasons, I'm sold on Cuban's morning routine — minus the decaf, that is.
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