“I escaped to Maui in 2001 when I saw that Silicon Valley wasn’t the most humanising place. I still teach at Stanford, and my behaviour design lab is there, but my happiest moments are spent in nature in Hawaii with Denny, my partner of 30 years. Here, I step away from technology and don’t think about the stresses of work.
I’m an early riser and I start every morning with the refrain, ‘It’s going to be a great day!’ I have a TED talk on the subject of tiny habits; I think it’s important to set the right tone for the day. I play my recorder – maybe a little Joni Mitchell – which is almost a meditative exercise, and have a glass of water infused with electrolytes. I wait at least an hour before having coffee. A sleep-expert friend recommends this for maintaining cortisol levels and I’m interested in sleep optimisation, so it’s worth the delay.
Once I’m fully awake, I’ll put my surfboard on top of my Honda and head for Kihei Cove for some stand-up paddleboarding, surrounded by turtles, whales and fish. The early morning time is quite spiritual; there are always about five of us regulars there who are upbeat and appreciative of the natural beauty.
When I return home to Makena, Denny cooks us breakfast to enjoy on the lanai [patio]. I’ll have my coffee with Brain Octane Oil from Bulletproof, mixed with sunflower butter, tahini, cinnamon, cocoa powder and some turmeric for its anti-inflammatory benefits. I’m a habits guy, as my new book will attest, so I don’t deviate much from this routine. I’m a big believer that people should find what works for them and triple down on it – don’t take someone else’s prescription for life.
I’m rabbit-like and eat veg throughout the day, so I always visit Hawaiian Moons Natural Foods to stock up on local vegetables and salad greens. I’ll also pick up sardines – one of the healthiest foods on the planet – avocado oil and fermented foods. Eating is less about taste for me and more about being the healthiest and most creative I can be.
We’ll drop into Ace Hardware to pick up things for home projects – a stop that makes me feel like a local – and then, for a bit of afternoon ‘research’, I’ll go to Upcountry Farmer’s Market where I talk to people about their passions – anyone from a local ceramicist to a baker. People light up discussing the things they love. My findings aren’t formal research, but I like seeing the world through other people’s eyes and I always learn something that informs my work.
After a picnic lunch in Kula Botanical Gardens, I’ll go to Hi Tech Surf Sports or Second Wind for surfing gear – and I am constantly on the hunt for better hats for sun protection. I also like Da Warehouse, an excellent resource for used furniture from the island’s hotels. And the secondhand store Nita’s Hidden Treasures, where I bought a set of wooden screens for filming my videos so you would never know where I am. Living on an island really makes you think about the environment and the cost of shipping; I’d rather have something that’s already here versus sending it by Amazon, which drives me bonkers.
My afternoon often involves calls about a climate change programme called Behaviour Design for Climate Action that I’m working on with students at Stanford. We’re working with scientists to help people change their behaviours. Scientists understand the shifting ecosystem, but not always how to get people involved in a more positive future. After my calls, I’ll put in earbuds and listen to Sapiens – an audiobook history of humankind – or maybe Kara Swisher’s Pivot podcast, and walk to Makena Landing to watch the turtles; or to Chang’s Beach or a little beach near our home that has no name – and almost no people – for a swim. I love being by myself and watching the tide pools and aquatic life with a spectacular sunset. I don’t use my phone camera or post on Instagram; I like to be in the moment, experiencing the waves and the sand.
In the evening, we often go to our friend Dorothy’s house for a potluck supper and some competitive ping pong. Dorothy is 91, but incredibly young, and I am always trying to surprise her with a weird little gift that she’s never seen before: a tiny drone, amber glasses to keep her circadian rhythms intact, or 200 ping pong balls with words such as ‘awesome’ inscribed on them.
On Sundays, Denny and I often do projects together – staining wood, making things – and we’ll get fish tacos from The Market in Wailea for lunch. In the evening, Denny cooks ahi tuna or mahi-mahi with roasted vegetables and a huge side salad for me – it’s like a trough. Our TV is typically hidden, but this is the one night we’ll watch something light and fun: The Voice, or a movie like Groundhog Day.
This is also my time for reading practical non-fiction such as I Will Teach You To Be Rich by my former student Ramit Sethi, or books about Hawaiian life. I might look at Instagram to see what my relatives are doing, or read my Apple News feed. We’ll also watch MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, though this breaks my rule about politics before bedtime. She sees the deeper trends and puts everything in a historical context. I think people will study her one day.
I try not to think about Mondays the night before. I wear my TrueDark amber glasses – they filter out blue light to optimise my sleep – for at least an hour before bed. There is no light in our bedroom and there is a grounding mat under our mattress, which balances you out. I am up and ready to go at 5am, whether it’s running my lab or answering emails and phone calls. A perfect weekend is one where I’ve invested in the good habits that will carry me through the craziness ahead.”
Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, by BJ Fogg, is released on December 31 (Virgin Books, £14.99).