I recently listened to Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, on Bulletproof Radio Podcast discuss his book and some of the habits of these highly successful people. One of them struck a chord with me: an overwhelmingly high percentage of the wealthy people he researched woke up hours before they went to work. The more I researched the habits of people I admire, the more I realized how common this is. Not only is waking up early common, the activities they perform also have an uncanny overlap.
I always thought I was being smart by nailing down my wake up time to the minute. Work starts at 9, commute takes 20 minutes, get ready in 30, that means I need to wake up at 8:10. Sound familiar? It’s an all too common habit and one I needed to reverse.
Further realization came from Stephen Pressfield in his bookThe War of Art. As he notes, "There's no mystery to turning pro. It's a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our minds to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that." Are you committed to success? Are you a pro or just an amateur? Be a pro, take advantage of valuable time in the morning.
Marcus Aurelius writes in his book Meditations: "In the morning when you rise unwillingly, let this thought be present - I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm?...And are you unwilling to do the work of a human being, and do you not make haste to do that which is according to your nature?”
Waking up early when the covers are pulled over, blinds keeping out the light of day and plenty of time exists before any real commitments is incredibly difficult. The snooze button is a formidable foe; It is an enemy not easily conquered. Luckily, you get to wage war every single morning and rise willingly to do the work of a human being.
Why it's so important
While it's natural to feel lazy and sleep in, it's not conducive with becoming a high performing individual. My dad always gave me this advice: To become great you have to practice outside of practice. Everyone goes to practice; everyone is getting that time to build their skills. What makes the difference is what you do on your own time; this is what sets you apart from everyone else. You need to be building your skills and prepping for the day while everyone else just sleeps. Sleep is incredibly important and one of the cornerstones of living a high performing lifestyle. My experience is that maximizing deep (quality) sleep should be the aim, not purely the length of time you sleep. Waking up 2 hours before you need to leave for work provides plenty of time to get a ton of stuff done, especially if you are focused. 11 morning rituals you can implement now.
Long, stressful days at the office don't leave much time or energy for an intense workout in the evening. 15 minutes in the morning is all you need for a sprint workout such as tabata or kettlebell sprints. Working out in the morning also takes advantage of the fasted state, a powerful technique for maximizing fat burning.
Based on recent research by Dr. Rhonda Patrick, the sauna is the holy grail of muscle recovery and offers a host of other benefits, plus it’s insanely relaxing. To save time, try the next morning ritual in the sauna, meditation.
Mindfulness meditation can be a powerful tool to start your day. Clear the mind and focus on breathing for 10-15 minutes, take the time for your mind. Your mood, outlook and decision making will all benefit.
Journaling first thing in the morning takes advantage of a state where our brain (specifically the pre-frontal cortex) is most active. Your next “A-Ha!” moment might be just around the corner if you take the time to get your thoughts on paper. Journaling can also be therapeutic. Try using a free form writing style where you don't pick up the pen and write for a whole page. Don't worry about the content just write whatever you are thinking. A gratitude journal is also a powerful method of journaling. The 5 minute journal app is a good way to start and end your day.
5. Side projects
That side project you've been meaning to work on; that website or small business that needs attention - Take 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to put in some valuable effort. Without any opportunity for anything to go wrong yet (boss yelling at you, spilling coffee on your shirt) you can work unabated by life's distractions.
6. Plan for the day
A theme I've seen with most of the successful people I admire is that they always have a plan for the day. Their day is outlined and they are prepared for calls and meetings. Use time in the morning to prepare for the day so that you can jump right into being productive as soon as you arrive at work.
7. Pack lunch
Packing your lunch allows you to not only save money but also tightly control what you eat. To start, aim for packing 2-3 times per week until you get a routine in place. This will make a huge difference in the size of your wallet, especially if you live in a ridiculously expensive city like New York (like me!).
8. Read about a subject pertinent to your career
Learn about something that will help you in your career. Take 20 minutes to read a chapter of a book that will advance your knowledge on a particular subject. Like I mentioned before, become a pro. Personally, I much prefer non-fiction in the morning and fiction before bed. It’s what works for me.
9. Skip the news
Tim Ferriss discusses this topic in the 4 Hour Work Week. Reading the newspaper or watching the news can be an enormous waste of time. Just try skimming the headlines then ask a smart and trustworthy co-workers about what is going on in the world. From there, you can research what seems most important to you rather than filtering through everything else. You're essentially outsourcing your current events knowledge.
10. Skip checking e-mail
This is a tip in any morning routine blog post worth its salt. Suspend checking e-mail for at least 2 hours. This way you can work on some things for yourself (see 1-9) before work or personal issues muddy the water.
11. Skip breakfast
I saved this one for last because it may be the most important. This change has increased my productivity by at least 50%. If you're someone looking to optimize their morning, eating a heavy breakfast could quite possibly be the worst thing you could do for your mental capacity. Instead try this. Nothing worth attaining is going to come easily. Envision a future where you have 2 hours of productive work for yourself, not your boss or your clients. Try implementing just one of these 11 tips for the next week. Drop me a line and let me know how it goes! Thanks.
Vince Juron is a finance professional living in New York City. He is committed to fitness and the state of high performance. He helps others optimize their performance levels in order to work at the highest levels possible. He invites you to reach out to him via his website, humblepredator.com.