Brad Stulberg: Sleeping 8-Hours a Night Isn’t a ‘Hack,’ It’s a Priority

The writer and expert on human performance on dealing with email, why running matters, and how to make the most of 15 spare minutes.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Brad Stulberg: Make a pot of coffee. At this point, I think it’s probably more about the ritual than the caffeine. After that, I try to read for 30–45 minutes. It’s a real challenge not to look at my phone. I don’t always succeed.

TG: What gives you energy?
BS: Movement in nature. My physical practice (mainly running) is an integral part of my life.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
BS: I’ve become somewhat averse to the word “hack.” I think it promotes a kind of short-termist, quick-fix mentality that often leads to disappointment at best and harm at worst. I do sleep 8-hours every night, though I wouldn’t call this a hack, moreso a priority.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
BS: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
BS: My phone does not sleep with me. If it did, there wouldn’t be sleep. I really struggle to avoid constantly checking my phone. I find that rather than trying to resist the temptation, it’s easier to remove the phone from my sight altogether. When I’m sleeping or trying to do any kind of meaningful, deep-focus work, my phone is turned off and in another room.

TG: How do you deal with email?
BS: Anything that takes less than 3 minutes I respond to as soon as I see it. Anything that takes more than 3 minutes, I batch process toward the end of the day.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
BS: Play with my cats. I love my cats.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
BS: When I was working for a large management consulting firm. I couldn’t figure out how to turn-off my racing mind. Even when I wasn’t at work, my mind was.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
BS: I try not to think in terms of success and failure about results, but moreso about how well I execute on various processes. I failed two days ago when I spent significantly more time on browsing the internet and checking my phone than I had intended to, and as a result, didn’t write/read as much as I could (and should) have.

TS: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
BS: “Quality is love.”

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Brad Stulberg researches, writes, speaks, and coaches on health and the science of human performance. He is a columnist with New York and Outside magazines, and coauthor of the new book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.

Originally published at

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