Experiment: Living Like a Caveman for a Month

by | Apr 4, 2016 | Productivity Experiments

Takeaway: For the month of April, I’ll be living like a caveman—moving 5-9 miles a day, getting as much sunlight as possible, eating like a caveman, and sleeping on my hardwood floor after sunset—to see what impact this has on my productivity.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 55s.


For the month of April, in the name of productivity, I’ll be getting in touch with my inner caveman.1

While cavepeople didn’t have modern luxuries like shelter, constant access to food, and the internet, on the surface, they did seem to get a lot of things right—especially when it came to how they managed their energy. For the month of April, I’ll be adopting a few of their best habits, including:

• Moving 5-9 miles a day. By modern standards, this is a lot. But as hunter-gatherers, we moved an average of 5-9 miles every day. For the month of April, my goal is to move a total of 150 to 270 miles, just like our distant ancestors would have. (I’ll be measuring my daily distance using a step counter.)

• Eating like a caveman. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one set diet that cavepeople ate—different cavepeople lived in different parts of the world, and the food that was available naturally also changed with the season. The diet that cavepeople followed is best characterized by what it doesn’t include—things like dairy products, refined sugar, alcohol, potatoes, and anything else that’s processed. This will be the toughest part of the experiment for me, but in some weird way, I’m also kind of looking forward to it.

• Getting a ton of sunlight. According to the EPA, we spend 93% of our time indoors—87% in enclosed buildings, and 6% commuting.2 Cavepeople, of course, got way more sunlight. For the month of April, I’ll be tracking how much time I spend indoors and outdoors—I’ll still have a good deal of work to do over the month, but I’ll also be getting a lot more sunshine while I’m at it. My goal is to at least triple how much sun I usually get—by working outside whenever I can, and spending a lot more of my free time outdoors.

• Sleeping differently. Once humanity discovered fire, we figured it would be safe to sleep in the ground, rather than in trees (whew). For the month, I’ll be sleeping on a yoga mat on my hardwood floor to simulate the soft ground that we used to sleep on. While the research on when cavemen slept is mixed, it seems to suggest that for our ancestors, “sleep [was] a very fluid state,” and that we basically slept when we felt like it—whether that meant keeping a biphasic sleep sleep cycle (sleeping in two blocks of time), or a monophonic sleep cycle (sleeping in one block of time, like we do today).3 In addition to sleeping on my yoga mat, after sunset, I’ll also be waking up without an alarm when I can, and following my body and sleeping only when I feel tired.

All throughout the experiment, I’ll be keeping tabs on how this affects my productivity—especially with regard to my energy levels, how well I’m able to focus throughout the day, and what impact these habits have on my personal life (I’ve already apologized to my girlfriend in advance).

I won’t be living like a caveman completely—I’ll still remain connected to things like the internet for the sake of my work—though disconnecting may the subject of a later experiment—and I’ll still be buying groceries rather than hunting with a spear—but in most ways that could affect my energy, I’ll be living like a caveman.

While cavepeople didn’t have many of the luxuries of modern life, they did seem to get a lot of things right.

I can’t wait to see how this one goes.

  1. For what it’s worth, my 23andMe results show that 2.9% of my DNA is from Neanderthals. 

  2. Source

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Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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