Terry Spillard - Elevate your life with The 5am Club

Books In Action Conversation

Sketch note by Sam Warburton

Sketch note of a Books In Action episode with Terry Spillard

The conversation

Terry Spillard is the Assistant Director of Customers at Golding Homes, a housing association providing homes and services across Kent on the East coast of England. Build a habit for focus in the morning to win your day with the 20/20/20 formula. See how Terry has sustainably applied this method from Robin Sharma’s book, The 5am Club.

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Table of Contents

What is the 20/20/20 concept?

Rhiannon Gibbs:

So, first tell us a little bit more about the book and the 20/20/20 concept.

Terry Spillard:

Yeah, sure. This is a story of a billionaire, and he is with an artist and entrepreneur. The story itself is a little bit elaborate. It’s intriguing so you stick with the book, and it leads you to, a bit of a path around how the billionaire wants to share this success with these two characters. The objective of the book is to rise at 5AM. No surprises there, but this is to focus the mind. At the beginning of the day, there’s no distractions, you’ve not got TV or social media, and hopefully it’s an area or a time of the day where the brain isn’t in worry mode or it’s not getting anxious; it’s a perfect opportunity to focus on one thing. The idea behind the book really is to talk about the tranquillity of the daybreak and getting up early. Most people are still asleep, and you’ve got that precious time to focus.

So that’s the story. I’m not giving away too much, because it’s not a book review after all, but what a way to start your day. The author talks a lot about, ‘healthset, heartset, and soulset’, which in a nutshell is physical health, wellbeing and spirituality.

If you apply these at the peaceful time of 5AM, he’s basically concluding that you’ve got a 20/20/20 formula; he calls this the victory hour. You break down the 60 minutes in 20-minute pieces. The first 20 minutes is around physical health, so doing something where you might break into a sweat and release those good chemicals; it almost settles the mud in the brain, so you’ve got clear vision and focus. The second 20-minute block consists of reflection and meditation. You do a little bit of reflecting for the day and maybe a gratification journal that I’ve got, which I find useful.

The last part, the last 20 minutes, is it’s time to learn. It could be, I know you and I are big fans of audio books Rhiannon, but listening to your favourite book, or some sort of self-help, I’ve got Inside Housing magazine, and you can pick up on what’s going on there. There are certain things you can do, but that first 60 minutes between five and 6AM is what the author would refer to as the victory hour and that’s the formula that he refers to in the 20/20/20.

How Terry started to apply the 20/20/20 formula

Rhiannon Gibbs:

He makes you wait ‘til about halfway through the book. We all know something’s coming at 5AM because during the book he makes them get up before 5AM to start everything. He refers to this 20/20/20 rule and it’s gone halfway before he actually tells you the formula for it.

But you’ve been applying this 20/20/20 formula for just over three years now. Tell me a little bit about how you started and how your adoption of that formula has evolved.

Terry Spillard:

Yeah, sure. Please don’t think that I spring out of bed at five o’clock soon after reading this. There is an evolution here.

This kind of came about when I was doing exercise after work and I was spending most of my time down the gym, and my partner didn’t really appreciate that. So, I had to do something where I still had work-life balance, where I was spending time at home as well. So, I started going down the gym when it opened, which was six o’clock. Still feeling like it was a bit of a rush afterwards, not applying the formula. So, I was doing bits subconsciously, but when I got handed this book as a, I think it was a birthday present three years back, it really hit me, I thought, “right, okay. I can do more with my mornings.”

This is that light bulb moment. This really resonates with me. It started from there. I thought, I’m going to try and get up, maybe 20 minutes before I’m ready to rush down the gym at six, and then I just pushed it round to 5AM. As time’s gone on, and particularly through the pandemic, I’ve just built it into a habit.

It even spills into my weekend now. You think of the weekends and lay-ins, but I find it useful to apply it to the Saturday mornings as well. So, that’s kind of how it came about Rhiannon.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

That’s commitment, at the weekends as well. I think the artist and the billionaire gave themselves the weekends off.

Terry Spillard:

I still have Sunday morning, I’m human. (laughs) I still have Sunday mornings, but I’ve started to extend that out to Saturday mornings as well.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

That’s brilliant. Yeah, they talk about own your morning, elevate your life. It’s an anchor through the book, the thing they probably say more than anything else.

How the 20/20/20 formula became a habit

Rhiannon Gibbs:

So, would you say this routine is now second nature to you in the mornings? You found the niche with it.

Terry Spillard:

Yeah, I would be confident to say it’s almost my medicine. I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I talk about this. I don’t want to bore people with it, but it does work for me. It’s my medicine; when I move, when I exercise, I do feel better and then I’ve got the gratification side. So, it’s a healthy habit to have, rather than hitting the snooze button 16, 17 times previously. So, for me, it’s been a bit of a lifesaver.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Excellent. When, when we were chatting about this initially, we were discussing the fact that my husband has a 5AM routine. It’s not quite 20/20/20, but to maintain his sanity, he gets up at five. He exercises, he does his breathing and his cold showers. He developed that habit through COVID and it’s helped keep him sane through lockdowns and things like that. You were reflecting on a similar experience during COVID.

Applying the 20/20/20 formula during lockdowns and COVID

Terry Spillard:

I was, yeah. Last year was hard for most of us, but, where the gym was a place for me, where it helped my mental health and exercise, when that was taken away, it was difficult. So, this formula really did help to stay focused and create a habit that’s good for me.

I think you can often feel like Groundhog day when you, especially in lockdown, it was very repetitive, but when you are going through the gratification journal and doing a bit of a reflection yeah, the roof over my head, the clothes that I’m wearing, the warmth of the radiators, for example, the heating that we’ve got on, you just feel like, “I should be grateful for a lot more things and not to get complacent.”

I found it helpful when the going was tough last year. There were some challenges at work, and you ride through it because you’ve built in a really healthy habit through that 20/20/20 formula.

Are all parts of the 20/20/20 formula equally important?

Rhiannon Gibbs:

And do you think that all parts of the 20/20/20 formula are made equal, because you were clearly always doing the exercise? Granted not at 5AM, but at the end of the day were you doing the reflection and learning bits as well, or was the reflection new?

Terry Spillard:

Yeah, the newest part of this for me was the meditation. I had thoughts of somebody on the mountain top with their legs crossed and humming, but it’s not that. It’s just not like. It’s so simple and it’s so accessible. We’ve got some really good free apps on any smartphone. I personally like guided meditation. It does help me focus just on my breathing, but I didn’t realise how easy it was to do and how effective I find it, the stress levels, etc. Out of all of the formula, I would probably say for me, the meditation was a bit of an eye-opener. I didn’t realise how beneficial that was.

We were talking about another book that we’ve just listened to around the Tools of Titans and most of those successful people use meditation as a form of lowering stress levels. So that’s probably one that’s a takeaway for me in the formula.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Yeah. It’s fantastically enlightening when you hear about all of these really big business people and they all do that meditation. It’s not something that they often talk about in interviews until they’re actually asked about it.

Tips for getting started with the 20/20/20 formula

Rhiannon Gibbs:

And have you got any tips? So people listening to this are going to think, yeah, that sounds fantastic in theory. In the book without wanting again, to give too much away, the entrepreneur talks about how long it takes to develop a habit. And anybody that’s read any books on habits, whether it’s micro habits or the one by James Clear about habits, will know that it takes you around 60 days sort of to form a habit. And in the book, the billionaire talks about going to sleep in his gym gear.

Terry Spillard:

It’s pretty extreme, isn’t it? Yeah, I would certainly say don’t go straight into it. For example, I will prepare the night before, so I will have the gym gear out ready, so it’s looking at me when I do wake up and not hitting snooze button. Maybe go for 20 minutes before you’re due to wake up, and once you’ve got that into routine, push a little bit further into 40 minutes, then reach that hour. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if you can just stick to it, I think you will realise the benefits and my partner will vouch for that. I’ve been boring her for years about this, and she’s really adapted well to it. She’s even accepted the fact that our mornings are calmer. We’re not rushing around to get the kids to school, and we’ve got time to have that little bit of conversation before the day starts.

I would advise people just take it step by step. Don’t expect this to happen overnight, but give it a go and stick to it, try and build that habit in. If it’s 60 days plus, then you’re going to have that as a good habit.

Better work life balance with the victory hour in the morning

Rhiannon Gibbs:

And other side benefits, you were talking about were things like better work-life balance later, because when the children finish school, rather than you being down the gym you’re there for them, because you’ve done everything already in the morning, right?

Terry Spillard:

Yeah, I’m also home before the kids get up so I’m preparing them breakfast as

well. The great thing about my job is it is very flexible so I’m not rushing off to the office all of the time because I’m working from home. So I can prepare the kids breakfast, I can take them into school when I need to, so it’s that feel good factor of being an active dad and playing a part in their lives as well. I’m very fortunate, very grateful for that.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Fantastic. The principle is always meant to be flexible. They do emphasise that in the book as well. They talk about the 20/20/20 formula at 5AM, they were saying that, it’s not something to be rigidly stuck to. They realise that that the rigidity could be a barrier to people adopting the underlying principle of you exercise, reflect and learn.

I’ve got a young baby daughter and doing something for an hour at 5AM isn’t possible for me, because my husband does his thing at 5AM. So he can, like you, help with breakfast and getting the kids to school and stuff. Through the day, one way or another, I do some… probably less reflection – I’m going to adjust that now based on conversations, but do the exercise and the learning, as you say, we both like listening to audio books and podcasts and things. I think over time, that will naturally become a sort of morning routine.

Final thoughts for applying the 20/20/20 rule

Rhiannon Gibbs:

Excellent. Any final thoughts for people that might be listening and thinking, “Yeah, I could give this a go?”

Terry Spillard:

Yeah, don’t rule it out. Like I said, I get a lot of people raising their eyebrows and going, “well, what on earth is he getting up at five for if he’s not got anywhere to go?” But actually, if you are feeling like you’re struggling in the mornings or throughout the day, and you’re not focusing, I would say, just have a go at it. Like you say Rhiannon, it’s not going to be rigid, like “20 minutes now I’m finished. I must move on to the next thing.”

No, it’s evolved through time and I know exactly what suits my body. So, I’d certainly recommend it to anybody that maybe wants to make their day a little bit more productive.

Rhiannon Gibbs:

I love that. Thank you so much Terry for joining me on the Books in Action podcast. For our listeners, you can find Robin Sharma’s book, The 5am Club, from any good book retailer.