Leaving Microsoft (and a desk) behind at the end of 2005 was a seismic shift for me. Though most of my former colleagues would see my lifestyle as vagabond and my income as poverty-level, my newfound freedom of location and ability to make my own schedule have increased my quality of life in innumerable ways. However, unchecked freedom without discipline can easily lead to hedonism. Adding journalism to two already full-time jobs as coach and ultrarunner meant I had to learn how to be more productive and efficient with my time. I quickly found that without anything to anchor my day, it was a crapshoot. Some days were very productive, others, not so much.
In an attempt to moor myself to some sort of daily structure—without acquiescing to a 9-5 job—I started playing around with Morning Rituals (how artists work). Yesterday I read The Morning Miracle, though I finished wishing these self-help gurus could just get to the point already. I’ll save you having to read the book; start your list with this acronym as your template, then edit as you see fit, and get up before everyone else to make this happen.
This is about putting yourself in the right place to have a successful, productive day, every day. So, I got up at 5:15 am and—BEFORE I turned a computer on—did the following:
- Check Heart Rate Variability before coffee. This is the best way I’ve found to get a status of my central nervous system and its preparedness for stress (ie training, work, life).
- Meditate: The benefits are hard to ignore at this point, however my monkey mind hates it, which is exactly why I persist. (I love the Muse device, but the Headspace app is very good and free)
- Affirmations & Visualizations: This is a bit woo-woo for me, but I muddled through it.
- Mobility + Strength: What Kelly Starrett stresses in his book, Ready to Run, is the need for humans to spend at least 10 minutes every day doing maintenance on their bodies. I couldn’t agree more, and my coaching clients all do some sort of daily mobility—it works. This will change over time, but today I hung from my pull-up bar, sat in a squat, and rolled out my spots, each for 5 minutes total (Hang/Squat/Roll). I then did some basic strength work on my limiters (hips and ankles).
- PowerBreathe: Three sets through this device to strengthen respiratory muscles—believe it.
- Morning Pages: If journaling worked for Marcus Aurelius, Ben Franklin, and Mark Twain who am I to scoff? Here is the 5-minute journal I use. I think the gratitude component is the most powerful here.
- Read: This is the perfect time—no internet, early morning—to get your 6-pages of reading done.
- Write: I’m a writer so I added this in addition to the Morning Pages journaling. I spent 20 minutes on a book I’m writing (it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s more than zero).
- One Big To-Do: You can now turn your computer on, because at this point you’ll be primed to have an amazingly productive day—look at all you’ve already gotten done. Like the “make your bed every morning” idea that even small successes lead to big successes—start with these easy wins and build on them. I effortlessly slid into work-mode and was able to finish a huge project I’d been putting off for months. For your big to-do items, use this great blog by Tim Ferriss to figure out what to focus on.
Having done all this today before anyone else was even awake was astonishingly empowering. I’m now committing to making this ritual a habit. Imagine how productive you’ll be if you can get this much done first thing every morning, before you get caught up in the torrent of life, the tyranny of your inbox, and other people’s agendas. I’m going for 30 consecutive days—wanna join me?