10-3-2-1-0: Sleep and Productivity

I came across a recommendation by Craig Ballantyne, author and health and business coach, providing this simple formula to improve sleep and next day productivity. It’s called the 10-3-2-1-0. Most business and entrepreneur coaches would stress the importance of a consistent morning routine, but I would argue that the day’s productivity and flow begin the night before. I like to think about starting my next day at bedtime. If tomorrow is of any importance to you, this cognitive restructuring process can have profound impacts on how you value sleep. I personally use his 10-3-2-1-0 method, though admittedly am still struggling with the “1”.

This isn’t the first time I have written on the importance of sleep.  If you have seen my other posts, you have probably read some of my sleep hygiene recommendations.  I do my best to simplify things, but I will admit, even my simplest recommendations require some time, preparation, or money.  But this 10-3-2-1-0 method requires none of those things.  All you need is a little commitment and compliance.  I will outline this technique below…


Caffeine is not a bad thing, but it does stay in your system for a long time.  Ten hours is a general recommendation on the time required to clear it from your system and let all the stimulatory effects dissipate.  As you’ve read in one of my previous posts, your genetics determine how quickly you metabolize caffeine.  If you are a slow metabolizer, one could argue to push the “10” to “12”. 

Caffeine includes coffee, black tea, green tea, energy drinks, and stimulating pre-workout powders.  If you are in a habit of drinking coffee or tea in the afternoon, consider switching to decaf coffee or herbal teas.  Even still, decaf coffee still contains some caffeine, but this is a great place to start.


We are fully capable of doing multiple things at once, but sleep always takes priority and our body wants to put its full attention on it.  For your body to have the ideal hormonal response to sleep, it needs to have time to digest the most previously eaten meal.  As well, eating a meal and then lying down can increase the chances of heartburn which will negatively affect sleep.  And beyond all this, eating before bed can lead to unnecessary weight gain.

What about alcohol? Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it severely interrupts your natural sleep cycles.  Drinking alcohol causes more wake-ups during the night and can result in insufficient amounts of deep sleep.  If you want to have a glass of wine with dinner on occasion, go for it, but stop drinking when you finish the meal.


Refrain from taking phone calls, responding to emails, reading emails, creating to-do lists, or any other work related activity before bed.  We have to take time to “shut it off.”  Ballantyne recommends an evening “brain dump” for those that have a tough time “turning it off.”  I have found this to make my mind even more restless.  If you struggle with a mind that never stops thinking, try setting aside a time first thing in the morning that allow you to quickly to write down all of the first things on you brain. Typically, those things that are first on you mind in the morning usually are those things that should take priority during our day.  This has worked well for me.


Now, this is the one I really struggle with.  The blue light that is emitted from phones, tablets, computers, and TV’s can interfere with our ability to fall asleep quickly.  As well, this blue light can cause us to miss out on our first (and usually the longest) chunk of deep sleep. 

So where specifically do I struggle?  Sometimes, my wife and I just enjoy watching a show at night to unwind.  If I do watch something, I always make sure to wear red-tinted glasses that block 100% of the blue light emitted from the TV.  In an attempt to not watch TV at night, we have set the timer on our wifi modem to shut off at 10:30 PM.  This takes away the temptation to stream stuff late at night.  On a side note: if you aren’t using a timer on your wifi modem, you should.  There is no need to sleep in a room filled with wifi!  It’s not good for us so turn it off at night!

I also struggle with the temptation to check emails and social media at night.  I have my “Do Not Disturb” feature set to come on each day at 10:30 PM and set time restrictions on social media apps.  


Did you know those extra few minutes of interrupted sleep actually make you feel more tired?  Ideally, you would fully understand the benefits of getting up immediately when your alarm goes off.  It sets the tone that you are ready to take on the day.  This is easier said than done.  If you are really struggling with this, it could be a sign that your sleep is just not where it needs to be.  If you want an extra five minutes of sleep, go to bed five minutes earlier! 

If you are still struggling, put your alarm clock (or phone) across the room so that you have to get up to turn it off.  If you are married, I recommend getting approval from your wife first!  Actually, in a perfect world, you would never set an alarm.  If you are retired or have a career that allows you to wake when you want to, consider by-passing the alarm and allowing your body to get the sleep it wants.  I usually do not set an alarm, but I have the luxury of having 3 cute little alarm clocks under the age of 5!

These are the types of lifestyle changes that can have profoundly positive impacts on your health and longevity. At Tolleson Health Advisors, I push my clients to re-think societal norms: bigger isn’t always better, the early bird doesn’t always win, working harder is not always smarter. I challenge you to try this 10-3-2-1-0 method this week and send me an email to let me know how you feel!