How to get things done 400% more quickly (Four Quarters Method)


“The days are long, but the years are short.” — Gretchen Rubin

What to do

Get four shots to ace your day instead of one – by dividing it into four quarters.

Why it works

I used to have an “all or nothing” mindset when going about my days. Whenever I wasn’t acting in line with my noble intentions, I’d tell myself that I’d try again tomorrow – and screw the rest of the day. An early morning spent procrastinating would turn into an extended frenzy of unfocused, shallow work. A chocolate bar in the afternoon would spiral into an unplanned cheat day. And a glass of wine in the evening would turn into a bottle at the end of the night more often than I’m comfortable sharing.

Fortunately, this all changed after I bumped into a quote from bestselling author Gretchen Rubin (pictured above) in James Clear’s great newsletter: “Instead of feeling that you’ve blown the day and thinking, ‘I’ll get back on track tomorrow,’ try thinking of each day as a set of four quarters: morning, midday, afternoon, evening. If you blow one quarter, you get back on track for the next quarter. Fail small, not big.”

This is a powerful mindset shift. Instead of writing off an entire day, you only get to screw a quarter of it – and then start fresh again in the next one. As my friend Ben Meer argues in this terrific article, most people only get one or two solid quarters a day – and “quit” when things don’t go as planned. By getting that number up to four quarters, Ben writes, you “close the gap between where you are and where you want to be […] up to 400% more quickly.” Here’s how to apply Rubin’s Four Quarters Method in three simple steps.

How to do it

1) Divide your day into four quarters. If you sleep for 8 hours, you’re left with 16 waking hours every day. Split those 16 hours into four quarters. If you’re like me and start your day at 6 am, here’s your breakdown: quarter 1 (morning): 6 am-10 am; quarter 2 (midday): 10 am-2 pm; quarter 3 (afternoon): 2 pm-6 pm; quarter 4 (evening): 6 pm-10 pm. If you wake up later or earlier (cheers to the 5 am Clubbers), adopt the times accordingly.

2) Whenever you slip, start fresh again in the next quarter. Didn’t manage to focus on that challenging task early in the morning as you had planned? Try again during the midday or evening (here’s how). Went for the unhealthy option at lunch? Commit to eating clean in the afternoon and evening (here are some ideas). Spent the better part of your midday struggling to concentrate and scrolling mindlessly instead? Set yourself up to win the afternoon with deep rest (here are three powerful types).

3) Nail the fourth quarter to end the day on a high note. The best way to do that is by adopting good evening habits. While morning habits are all the rage, a great day starts the night before. Here are five habits to own your evening and win tomorrow: 1) Have a shutdown routine; 2) Create a 3-3-3 plan for tomorrow; 3) Practice intermittent digital fasting; 4) Read a book (non-fiction or fiction); 5) Do the “physiological sigh”. Learn more about each of these habits here.

Away with “Screw it, I’ll try again tomorrow”. 

There’s always another quarter waiting for you. You got this.