A new routine for success

I recently wrote about how I wanted to do a better morning. With some small differences, I have found myself being happier and more productive and focused each morning. As a dedicated wake-up-grumpy-at-10 person, this was one heck of a surprise.

The secret to waking up happier was to start a routine filled with small pleasures and that added value and brought me closer to long-term goals.

This routine will always be a work in process, but here’s how it looks in January 2015.

Wake up to the sound of Sleep Cycle going off on my phone. I pull the phone from under my pillow and choose from one of three options: smiley face, straight face, or frowney face. I’m awake, have become aware of how I feel, and I’m ready to start the day.

I flick over to Peak. This app gives me 4 brain training exercises to do each day, all gamified with leaderboards, challenges and rankings. I get my brain turned on, regardless of my scores.

Next up, I open Day One. A journaling app that encourages short, snappy entries. I will briefly reflect on how I feel, what I’m excited about, something good or bad. I will use this during the day to snap things that make me happy, frustrated, or are otherwise good to remember.

By this stage, my brain is firing pretty well and I open up Commit 3. This simple app is genius in its concept (but poorly executed in terms of usability). I commit to getting three things done today. These might be client deliverables, something that will make my wife Linda happy, something that will help my team move forward in their work. Whenever possible, I pick three things that will help us reach long-term goals… The day is going to fill up with enough urgent tasks and small things to do. I’m going to work my butt off to get these done, and use them to refocus my energy during the day.

One last thing before getting out of bed. A few moments of meditation or mindfulness. I’m using Mindful now to guide me through a series of taught meditations. This calms me after the sometimes exciting, sometimes stressful, activity of committing to get those three things done today.

At some point in the process above, my lovely wife has brought me a cup of coffee. I’ll sip on that while doing whatever.

Good Morning Routine

I can get up now? Yes. I’m excited about the day. My mind is ready, I have focus, I’m moving my life closer towards some kind of ideal. Nice one.

I get out of bed and get into some exercise clothes. I had to the bathroom and brush my teeth, wash my face, then I’ll likely jump into Slack, our company’s virtual office and say hi to everyone. I don’t normal read through messages at this time, but I do want to say g’day as I start the day. They’re a great group.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I’ll do some stretching while drinking a glass of water and listening to a business podcast or audio book. Then I’ll head out the door and do a short run. I haven’t run since the early 2000s, and it kills me… But if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly until you get better at it.

Tuesday and Thursday I’ll do some reading or listening at home and have some check-in meetings with the team before heading to a Pilates class.

When I get back from exercising, the routine continues. I still need to gain some momentum and hit this day running.

I drink a glass of water while putting on some music. Then I shower, shave, stretch and dress. It’s time to grab another cup of coffee and water in the kitchen, then I look at my three “commits” for the day, and jump into Slack properly to talk with my staff’s then it’s our customer support desk, my email, and that first commit… I’ll try to have two of them done by lunch time at 2 or 3pm.

Two or three?! Sure. I’m in Spain… It’s cultural. So is the little siesta that follows, where I’ll often listen to a book or podcast, regain some energy and get ready to start the afternoon.

There’s plenty of room for flex in this routine, but it’s the positive associations that come from ‘succeeding’ at doing each one that helps build momentum. The routine also helps on those cold, crappy mornings when you don’t want to crawl out of bed. Once things get started, your mind drags you through each step.

It’s also so fulfilling knowing that each day you’ve done three things that moves your business, study or life forward. It builds so much resilience into the hard days, and builds so much growth into whatever you put your hand to.

I’m still not a morning person. I can struggle to get going, but I’m learning to do mornings better.