My Morning Routine

Firmly planted in my forties, conversations have started shying away from professional sports teams and started leaning more on a quality life. It’s awesome! I’ve shared my daily intentions with a few friends over the last few weeks. Intentions led into a bigger conversation about setting up your day to win and the importance of morning routines to supercharge the day ahead.

Morning routine starts the night before

I know what you’re thinking, “Your morning routine starts the night before? That isn’t fair.”

You’re right. I create a tremendous advantage by preparing the night before. Preparation is a massive multiplier.

Either you control your day or your day controls you.

For me, preparation is particularly important. My wife and I have two young kids, so the morning hustle is real. Getting organized the night before leads to more success and produces optimal results. Here are the items I’m thinking about the night before:

  • Sleep
    • The foundation of life is health. And, health is diet, exercise and sleep.
    • I’m fully committed to sleep my “Solid 7.” If I’m going to wake up around 4am, this means I’m going to bed at 9pm.
  • Organize for 4 (am)
    • Setup my coffee for the morning – less noise that could wake anyone up and faster coffee
    • Set out workout clothes
  • Calendar
    • One of my early mentors said, “Either you manage your day or your day manages you.” For 25 years, I’ve tried to manage my day. I live my life on my calendar. If I intend to be part of something, it’s on my calendar. Diligently using my calendar provides a glimpse into tomorrow. I even publish my calendar for efficiency of setting meetings.
      • What’s on the schedule? Does anything need to be confirmed? Does anything need final prep?
      • What challenges am I facing? I believe the subconscious works miracles while you are sleeping. You have to feed it challenges – or else it will think of other extraneous thoughts.
  • 3 things to quiet mind
    • Before I go to sleep, I take a mental inventory. Is there anything creating anxiety that I need to deal with mentally? Two options: if it is easy, I pop out of bed and deal with it. If it is hard, I make a note on my phone for the morning. By making a note, the item has been heard and initially addressed and falls away silently.
    • My brain is like a coffee machine. I use this analogy because my brain percolates ideas that I put in it before I go to bed. I think about problems I’m trying to solve and I let the subconscious hammer away at it. When I wake up (and more specifically when I’m working out), I have plenty of ah-ha moments. Try it! Promise! [Note: And this podcast sheds insights too.]
  • 5 Minute Journal
    • I use an app called the 5 Minute Journal to help me journal. It is fast, it sends me reminders (at 5am and 8pm) and effectively ensures I journal
    • Celebrating progress creates momentum. Did I win today?
    • Gratitude also helps create the openness I crave to solve problems. I cannot always choose my circumstance, but I can always choose my attitude and approach. I know that my mind at positive outperforms my mind at negative, neutral or stressed. 

Order Creates Clarity

Creating order at night creates clarity in morning.

When I wake up, there is no confusion for the day. My agenda accelerates me up and out of bed and into the day with purpose. I know the plan.

We are most productive for three hours after sleep. When you think about what you should be doing during that time, do you want to be rushing around making lunches and searching for car keys while you are at your peak to perform? I don’t. It’s why I get up early.

Wake Up Time

I wake up early. 4am early. I’ve been waking up for so long that I don’t normally set an alarm. I’m literally clockwork.

I need 7 hours sleep. If I’ve prioritized a nighttime activity over my wake up time, I adjust. It does drive my wife batty because I’m a terrible movie partner; I’m normally asleep within 37 seconds of any moving starting. And, if I’m anywhere and tired, I will fall asleep. My family and closest friends could share many pictures of me sleeping in strange places: on a bar stool, on a couch during a party, in a restaurant, during halftime of an NFL game. I think of it as an extraordinary skill; my wife thinks of it as mildly embarrassing. She’s probably right.

I started rising early when I was outsourcing programming to India. I would catch the end of their day at the beginning of mine to answer questions and set them up for success. This meant I woke up at 4 am.  The side effect: my productivity skyrocketed. It was like I found a secret door of life and it was intoxicating. It was the only part of the day I owned. At the time, I didn’t understand the science behind how powerful your creativity is when you wake up.

“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well. And if we end up squandering those first three hours reacting to other people’s priorities for us, which is ultimately what voice mail, or email is, is a list of other people’s requests for our time, that ends up using up our best hours and we’re not quite as effective as we could be.”

Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review

“I Can’t Get Up Early”

When you have clarity of the work ahead and it aligns with your values, it is easy to get up. [Here are my values if you’re interested.]  When you’re blowing like a leaf in the wind with little defined purpose, it is hard to get out of bed. If you have had proper sleep, getting out of bed is a mindset; it isn’t based in actual tiredness. It’s based around tackling the day. It is a choice of what you’re telling yourself. What is your choice?

Still need some strategies about waking up early? This article is excellent.

For instance, consider those people who ‘can’t wake up early’, but suddenly are energized to pop out of bed at 4am for the Black Friday Sale or the offshore fishing trip. What changed? A sense of purpose. And, the choice to do something about it.

What if you could define your purpose and your life, so you would bound out of bed?

PS – You can. So, do the work.

The Morning Routine

A positive morning routine is all about a Creator or Consumer mentality. Am I going to impact the world or is the world going to impact me? Am I living life on my terms or am I aimlessly blowing like a leaf in the wind? In a bulleted view, here’s a snapshot of the morning routine, which helps cement my Creator approach to life:

  • 4am: Bound out of bed. [Note: If I had to pick one thing that I’m better at than anyone else in the world, no one gets out of bed and to 100mph faster than I do. No one. 🙂 ]
  • Grab my workout clothes I’ve laid out and get changed
  • Start Coffee
  • Drink glass of water – sometimes lemon water because science says it’s good to do
  • Use the bathroom
  • 4:09am: Check phone – Did world blow up? I do not respond to anything unless it is a critical emergency. Why? Mindset becomes reactive instead of proactively creating. I’m not building other people’s dreams.
  • Breathing and Meditation – I use the Headspace app
  • Prayers
  • Say My Daily Intentions
    • Our actions will follow our intentions, so why not bolster them?
    • Saying them out loud helps create moments of daily clarity. Am I on the right path?
    • Yes, I say them everyday.
  • Beyond intentions – what one big thing will I do today?
  • Light Classical Music – or Brain.fm – on in the background
  • Read or Write or Both – about stuff like living life out loud or almost killing myself 🙂
  • 5am: Start with Gratitude
    • Currently using 5 Minute Journal app
    • Or simply write: one word; one sentence for the day
    • Send a random text or write a handwritten note telling someone I love them
  • Continue to read or write or both
  • Use the bathroom
  • 5:30am: Exercise – my keystone habit that allows everything else to flow
    • Exercise became a keystone habit for me. It transformed my mindset towards food as fuel and made me fully committed to my Serious 7 of sleep.
    • Yes, I’m 100% comfortable spending 2 hours of my day protecting my health and accelerating all positive aspects of my life. It sure beats mindlessly watching 2 hours of TV in the Consumer mentality.
    • Where I workout, class is led and prepared by amazing Coaches. It requires no thought of my own. This provides an amazingly large canvas for thinking. I’ve had some stunningly  creative breakthrough moments at the gym. I’m unafraid to call or text anyone when leaving the gym with ideas – even thought it is 7am.
  • 5:31am: Turn on “That was a Crazy Game of Poker” by OAR (Yes, every day. It matches almost perfectly my ride to the gym.)
  • 7:20am: Share my workout graph with a handful of friends, which builds camaraderie and accountability
  • 7:25am: Back home
  • Help Rachel make the lunches – talk with the kids
  • [Note: The only reason I have the flexibility to leave at 5:30 and work out daily is that Rachel tackles the morning routine with the kids. Pick your partner wisely who supports the family efforts. I couldn’t be luckier.]
  • Shower and dress
    • I wear jeans, a brown belt, the same brown shoes (4th pair) and a matching button down everyday. It takes nearly zero thought for me to dress = more space for thinking and creativity. Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Bill Belichick all believe in the same thinking.

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. – Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair article profiling Barack Obama

  • Eat
  • 8:05am: Leave for school drop off and client work

The morning is by far my most productive three hours of work during the day. By the time 7am hits, as most people are still hitting snooze on their alarm clock, I’m celebrating many wins that create momentum to win the rest of the day.

Flex It

A routine sounds so rigid. And, in many ways it is rigid, which is why it effectively eases and calms the mind. But, I’ve built in flexibility for those late date or dinner nights – or for when Rachel is traveling. The basis of the structure is always the same. The amount of time spent in each changes. For instance, I’ll shorten my Headspace session (they have ones as little as 3 minutes!).  Or, on the days I don’t workout at OTF, I’ll make sure that I stretch and roll out. On those days, I’ll spend more time in quiet thought and reflection, reading or writing. The key is the mindset to own your day and the structure to live a fulfilled life. After all, I only have so many days left before I leave this earth.

Make it Work

It takes little to no mental energy to accomplish my routine. It is so ingrained. As a result, I get to focus my full energy on the big things I want to accomplish.

As far as I know, I’m only here on Earth once. I’m trying to make everyday epic. It’s particularly true when you have moments that can wipe you out in an instant. You are worth it.

No matter what – protect your mornings. It sets your entire day up for success and paves the way for a life on your terms – a fulfilled life.

You are worth it.

How do you invest your mornings?

Random Quote

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

— H Jackson Brown

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