FIRST: I believe deeply that our actions cultivate our mindset and – in turn – our mindset determines our life / success / outcome.
Experience tells me this. Whether from my background in art or sports or…hell…anything. As a result, I’ve long been paying attention to the habits (read: actions) that I do on a regular basis…which ones benefit me and which ones do not. In line with this, I’ve come to understand that a key subset of the days that feel the best and are my most productive, all have a certain similarity. For one, they are intentional. I’m in the driver’s seat for my life. Thing two, from the moment I wake up to when I’m out the door, I’ve found that when I do a certain / rough set of 6 particular things, my days are waaaaay more creative, joyful, and productive. In turn, this makes my personal, emotional, and professional life better as well.
So I’ve whipped up a quick video above (shot in my kitchen) to outline these 6 things, the WHY behind these 6 things, plus a handful of add-ons that are like frosting on the cake of my day. My goal isn’t to be prescriptive in this list (have a bunch of things you do every morning? Pls share in the comments!), rather my aim is to tell you what I’VE come to know helps me crush…and be a better person. Do I miss some of these things every day? Absolutely. I’m so far from perfect with this stuff, it’s laughable, but the fact remains that I put a lot of effort into kicking off my day with these few things. So without further ado, here’s my listicle with a bit of additional context for good measure….
It’s hard to say this is a morning routine thing, because it’s really PRE morning routine, but it’s so critical to ensure I kick off my day right that I had to put it here as number one.
For a long time – I’m talking YEARS – I was a person who certainly wasn’t afraid of espousing that I didn’t need a lot of sleep. I probably went about 10 years on about 5-6 hours of sleep per night. I felt like it was genetic and I had a ton of energy (which is true), but one holiday season a couple years ago, as an experiment, I headed to Hawaii and decided to have ZERO schedule on vacation. What would it be like to literally let my body sleep as long as it wanted. Knowing that I’m not a huge sleep lover, I wasn’t afraid of the negative side of oversleeping…I was just going to let this one play out. I even used earplugs as an aid, borrowed from lots of airplane experience. The result? Holy cow. I slept 14 hours a day for 6 nights in succession. And it wasn’t the sleep that actually felt “good”. It was the in between times. I felt smarter. Happier. More creative. etc etc. You get it. In short, I felt completely different then I had the previous 6-8 weeks I was working 20 hours a day. Since that holiday season, I’ve started tracking my sleep and aim to say in bed for 8 hours a day. Right now some of you are saying “WTF?! Not possible. I’ve got X or Y or couldn’t do this because ABC [list all your reasons].” Fine. I get it. But I’m just telling you what I’ve been up to for the last 18 months, what the science says, and what I’ve been able to accomplish through some intentional effort. I can’t say that I’m perfect – there are still lots of nights I don’t get 5 hours of sleep, let alone 8 hours bed, but I gotta confess that getting more sleep has dramatically helped me.
#2. Drink Water
Considering the human body is around 60% water, it’s no wonder that drinking at least 64oz a day can make you feel better. I kick off my day by drinking 20oz of cold ass water. Why cold? It’s good for you. . Just try it over the next few weeks. I guarantee you’ll feel better, you’re skin will look better, and your body will literally just run better.
I’ve been on record for several years now sharing my experiences with meditation. Meditation and the resulting benefits, have probably been the biggest game-changers for me as an adult. Throughout my life I’ve tried a few different methods with differing degrees of “success” but it wasn’t until I found Transcendental Meditation that I really felt like I was receiving the greatest benefit. Again – I’m not aiming to be preachy here – just sharing what’s worked for me. It’s perhaps also worth noting that I am not at all religious in the classic sense. I consider myself spiritual (think that we are all connected and that life is a magical thing and the world a magical place), but I don’t look at meditation as a woo-woo thing, or a religious thing, or anything other than a healthy practice that connects our physical + mental worlds in a meaningful way. Again, I’m not advocating you use TM specifically — there are a lot of different methods out there …but it’s been hugely beneficial in my life and worth trying if you haven’t already. The science also, finally agrees with the thousands of years of practice, that meditation increases creativity, reduces stress, adds clarity and focus, and a lot of joy to the lives of many people the world over.
#4. Gratitude and/or Visualization
After meditation, each morning I can, I’ll go into a 1-5 minute gratitude and visualization practice. For gratitude, it’s not always being thankful for the big things, like grateful for my wife, my family, my career, health… but small things too, like a great run I had. The roof over my head. Even for the opportunity to experience fear or pain as a part of the richness of what it means to be human. From there, I turn my attention from gratitude toward briefly visualizing what I want for myself — in my day, week, month, or life. It might be related to the day, a problem I have to solve or a thing I want to be better at. I visualize – sometimes getting as deep into it as possible around other sensations, like feelings, smells, etc, what it would be like to have accomplished my smallest tasks or my biggest goals. This practice most certainly stems from my past as a competitive athlete (I played nearly every sport offered in school incessantly, grew up skateboarding, riding bikes, skiing, climbing, etc, even went to college on a soccer scholarship, was selected for youth US Olympic Development teams etc). In some of those higher end programs I was able to participate in earlier in life, we had mental coaches as well as our typical head coach…. and those coaches really helped us practice and understand the value of visualization. Overall, it was so powerful that I’ve carried that practice forward into my personal and professional lives with some success. Ultimately, IMHO, the combo of gratitude + visualization can be incredibly powerful medicine.
Some version of breakfast is also an important element of my day. I almost never leave with house without eating something. With a busy day ahead, we need fuel to keep us going. What kind of food, how much food, etc can vary on a variety of circumstances, but depending on how much time I have, I subscribe to a few different programs… my fav thing to do is eat some protein + some vegetable down the hatch within 30 minutes of waking. This is a trick I learned from pal Tim Ferriss. But I also have a few other stand-ins, if having the perfect breakfast it tough. For example, if I’m in a hurry, then I might just go with getting some good fats in my body, like a half an avocado, or a teaspoon of coconut oil and some almonds. Or another quickie solution might be a protein shake + a spoonful of coconut oil. I occasionally dabble in the Bulletproof coffee schtick professed by Dave Asprey (his killer CreativeLive class is here) the rare times when I’m eating lighter. But my overall POV is that getting some clean (ie not processed and not bloaty carbs) in the morning is a good thing.
Lastly, I love to start my day by getting my blood flowing. Note that this does not need to be a big deal. My “blood moving” criteria is quite a low threshold. Yes, that might be a quick 3-mile run, but it also might simply be a brisk 1/2 mile walk to the coffee shop up the street. If I’m on the road and living out of a hotel as I often do, I will tolerate a treadmill or an elliptical trainer, but 9 out of 10 times my far an away preference is to get outside. Moving my body and connecting with fresh air, whether its in rain or shine, is a huge catalyst to my day. Again, it’s not really about burning calories at all…the main thing is to get the blood pumping, get the body moving and the brain engaged.
So that’s the baseline… but now here are a few quick hits of bonus material. These are a little nuanced, but since so many of you have asked about my morning routine, I thought I’d add some more meat on the bone for those that want it.
Some other things I like to do:
- END IT COLD :: I mentioned above that cold is good for you. Science says it, and my body agrees. How do I get my dose? Well, at the end of my normal shower, I like to turn the water to ice cold for the last minute. As cold as the shower will go. Sometime this is so cold it makes me laugh out loud. Eye poppingly cold. Shivering cold, cold cold. It’s uncomfortable for about 10 seconds… but then, wow, it gets you awake real quick. Something changes. It kicks my physiology into a different gear and brings about feelings of well being and joy. (it should be noted that I hated cold water with a passion for the previous 20 years. Now I can’t get enough.
- MAKE MY BED — Learned this from my wife Kate, who picked up the practice at a zen monastery she spent a little time at… I’m not militant about this, but it’s a nice thing to feel organized and get an early check off the ‘ol list. It removes clutter from my mind as well. It’s tidy. Most of me isn’t tidy, but it’s nice when my bed is.
- BRUSH THEM TEETH — let’s not forget hygiene. But I don’t say the obvious here just so you don’t get rot mouth or go breathing some nasty mouth on your friends… I say this because I love the feeling of a Sonicare toothbrush on my teeth. Again, it’s the little pleasures. 😉
So that’s about it. My morning routine takes me 90 minutes or less. I intentionally organize my schedule to protect this time. Yes. Life happens, and sometimes you over sleep, you have to be somewhere, that gremlin in your head is telling you a billion things to do…. I just try get the most of these things as I can and that helps me start the day in a positive way.
WRAPUP – So What’s Explicitly on my DO NOT DO list?
Checking my effing email. Do not check your email in the first bit of your day if you can at all help it. Rarely are there work things in your life that have to happen in the hours between 6 and 8am. Email is usually simply a petition for your time and attention, that doesn’t require there to be any real NEED for that petition. This is why I’m as militant as possible, to wake up at a decent time and bang out my morning routine without getting sidetracked. It’s worth noting perhaps that even after I get my morning routine wrapped up, the first thing I do STILL isn’t check my email. I try to first attack the most important thing on my list for that day — that one domino that I can tip over which, if accomplished, will a) help me consider the day a success and b) likely tips other dominos over or remove them all together.
Again – video notes below if its helpful. Thank you for sharing this info with people you love or who need to see this stuff. Let me know what you do in the comments here or on any of my social channels – i read it all. Gratitude and much respect…
Links from the Episode
Kick your day off right [0:44]
1. Sleep [1:06]
2. Drink Water [2:06]
2.5 Dexter the Cat [2:29]
3. Meditation [2:35]
4. Gratitude Practice & Visualization [3:11]
5. Eat [3:52]
6. Move [5:09]
Why a morning routine is important [5:37]
What would you like to see in future episodes [7:02]