Everyone has the same exact 24 hours, every single person. Please absorb that. I’m Too Busy is a phrase often uttered by the unorganized in the hopes of deflecting new projects or problems. It’s easy to dig yourself into a rut, focused on the mindless daily tasks ultimately resulting in mental fatigue. Too Busy is never an excuse, again, we all have exactly the same 24 hours in a day, just 24 hours.
To avoid wasting time in the morning, Mark Zuckerberg just wears the same colored t-shirt everyday. Richard Branson starts his day with either a swim around his island or kite surfing if it’s windy. Gary Vaynerchuk wakes up at 6am and starts his day consuming content and information from sources such as TechMeme and Jason Hirschhorn’s email newsletter, MediaREDEF. No set standard dictates how you should begin your mornings but a common theme I’ve noticed from the successful entrepreneurs and CEOs, they all stick to a morning routine or ritual. Each one of them realizes the true value of time and they manage it with the same care and attention as they would any valuable asset.
I can personally attest to this, adopting and developing a morning routine of my own has attributed directly to an increase in productivity throughout the day. Creating my own morning routine and sticking to it has been nothing short of life changing and I want to continue to evolve and tweak my system. To do this, I’ve asked for the advice of other successful entrepreneurs and business owners about the routines that work best for them:
There is a book from Hal Elrod named The Miracle Morning that I have read through that has provided a mental model of how to take on the day. For me what works best is when your alarm goes off turn it off and just sit for a minute, maybe two. Most people hit their alarms and sprint off to their routine because they’ve set themselves up to be late as soon as the alarm goes off. During that period I go through a visualization process of what I’ll look like and what I’ll feel like after I accomplish my goals and understanding how today will be an incremental step to achieving those goals. Then I rollout of bed and do some form of exercise generally push-ups, sit-ups, air squats. It gets your blood pumping and kicks your body into first gear. Finally daily to-do lists tying each goal to an item on the to do list. The theme being “what can I do today to make sure I’m doing something to achieve my long term goals?”
The most important part of my morning routine is taking a few minutes for myself when I first wake up. Two or three minutes of quiet reflection on the successes & failures of the previous day puts me into a positive mindset & allows me to focus on prioritizing the opportunities & challenges for the day ahead. I visualize our success as a company, make mental notes of what we learned from our failures and how learning from those failures (and not repeating them) will make us more successful today than we were yesterday.
My alarm goes off at 9am (I usually stay up till 2 am working so I am a bit of a night person… I hate early mornings) but when I get up I always always make my bed. It’s a weird habit that I have. I honestly can’t get anything done until it’s made. I think for me it’s my official start of my day because I don’t want to mess it up again until I am ready to go back to sleep in it. Anyone that has been to my home can tell you that I am crazy organized and a tad of a neat freak. These morning things help keep me on track and have become my morning and early afternoon ritual.
I feel for everyone it is a struggle to find that work/life balance, entrepreneurs especially. Our work is our baby, and always on the brain. So as hard as it is, I always strive to wake up and stay unplugged. To not let the first thoughts into my brain come from my phone, email, or social media. I like to spend a couple quiet moments outside on the deck, focusing on breathing, what I’m grateful for, and what I want to accomplish for the day. It helps me find the balance and intention that I need to carry me through whatever tasks and challenges I may be faced with throughout the day.
There are 2 things I do daily that really help me stayed focused and productive.
1. At the beginning of each year I create a daily Outlook reminder that pops up every morning at 7am Mon-Fri. The reminder has my top 5 personal and top 5 business goals for the year. This way I am reminded at the beginning of everyday what is most important to me. Very simple but incredibly effective!
2. One of the most important things I do at the end of every day is to put together my to do list for the next day. Once I have my to do list for tomorrow, I prioritize them and leave the list front and center on my desk. When I come in the next morning I look my top 5 biz and personal goals from tip #1 and based upon those goals I make final changes to the list and then I get to work.
I developed this system many years ago and it has served me well for more than a decade.
Waking up early is the most important thing to my morning routine. If I am up early I can accomplish more during the day and I am less stressed because I am not racing to get things done. I try and get to the gym first thing in the morning so it is out of the way and then after the gym I try and tackle the one thing on my to-do list I dread doing the most. That way it is out of the way and I can focus on other tasks I enjoy doing.
My morning routine is music. I like to find something on Spotify to match my day. It could be something to get me fired up like Metallica or NWA or something to calm me down like Jack Johnson or Jimmy Buffett. If I need to have a smile on my face, I will listen to comedy like Lil Dicky or Hannibal Burress.
If you have a morning routine that you’ve found to be effective, tweet the details to @TrueMerchant and it may be featured in the follow up article! If you’re wondering about what I like best about my morning routine, my favorite part is blasting the song Everything is Awesome from the Lego Movie and turning the shower to completely cold and jumping in. Give it a try!