We talk a lot about morning routines here on Impact Theory. And it seems every successful entrepreneur has theirs down to a science. It’s one of those things that’s ever present because 1) we all have a morning and 2) it’s the portion of the day where 100% of our time is in our control. Everyone has their own take on an ideal routine, so we broke down the AM rituals of the Impact Theory team to give you an idea of how we start our day.
As the father of a 3-year-old, I am an early riser. It’s important for me to get up before he wakes up. For one, there’s nothing worse than being awoken from a peaceful slumber. Also, I like to get in a good daily workout and/or quiet time before the chaos of a toddler erupts in my house.
Once he’s up, I brush his teeth, get him dressed and ask him about his sleep. It’s a habit I do to encourage conversation about any dreams he may have. Then we have breakfast and play a bit (sometimes I reward him with a little TV). Most mornings, I make dinner for the evening and pack it away in the refrigerator.
Once that’s all taken care of, I drive him to pre-school and drop him off. One thing I’ve come to learn is life is too short. Even shorter, is childhood. I want to enjoy these early moments in my child’s life before they fly by without warning. It’s extremely important to me. That’s why my daily morning routine is set in stone.
I wake up without an alarm. Go down and make a coffee and immediately then take it to our home gym. Warm drink wakes me up! I do 45 minutes to one hour of heavy lifting followed by 15 minutes of cardio or abs. Meanwhile, I have my hard boiled egg machine cooking my eggs. I immediately go and shower, then get ready all while listening to up beat music to get me going. I crack my eggs and eat while having my morning meeting with Tom.
My morning routine is ruled entirely by the ocean. I try to get up between 5:30 and 6:30am every day, and when there’s surf, I’m in the water as soon as it’s light enough to see.
I like to start my day surfing because the activity is both physical and mental. And while there’s an unbelievable sense of euphoria (what surfers call “stoke”) gained from catching a wave, 90 percent of your time is spent merely watching the water or paddling. The focus required for surfing makes it extremely meditative because the ocean forces you into the moment. If I can get at least an hour of surfing in before work, the quality of my day is exponentially better.
On days when there’s no surf, I get up, drink a glass of cold water (I’m currently taking a break from caffeine), eat a snack and go straight to the gym. I spend about 45 minutes to an hour doing weights and cardio. Occasionally I go for a swim.
After exercising, I mediate for five to 10 minutes, just enough time to get my thoughts grounded and clear before the busy day starts. I use the Insight Timer app, which has free guided meditations uploaded from people all over the world.
After meditating, I spend a few minutes writing—either practicing gratitude or organizing my thoughts and intentions for the day. I try to make a substantial breakfast when I can, which sometimes means scrambling eggs in a coffee mug and heating them in the microwave (a lot better than it sounds.) During breakfast I catch-up on news on my phone. I read the Next Draft newsletter and then drill down to articles that interest me. Then I get on the road to battle LA’s notorious rush hour traffic. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts or catch-up with other marketers on the phone, so the time feels value added instead of lost.
And while I try to keep this routine every day, I’m far from perfect. I’ll admit there are some days when “Pillow Point” seems much more satisfying than the waves or the gym.
My morning routine is no routine at all. I’m barely a functioning adult most days. I wake up at whatever predetermined hour I ambitiously decided the evening before. I use an alarm clock because if I didn’t I’d probably never make it anywhere. Plus I give myself a good 15-45min snooze buffer (I know don’t tell me how bad this is for me. It’s also still Winter Blues season, and I’m aware of how bad this is, but I’m giving you my truth right now).
Somewhere in the snooze buffer is where the magic happens. I set an intention for the day. Repeat it over and over. There’s a candle by my bed, and I light it. Yes, I light a candle and semi-fall away repeating the mantra. Every syllable permeating my being. I take a deep breath sit up and blow out the candle.
From that moment on, my morning goes into mindfulness mode. Everything I do is with intention. Even tripping over a pair of shoes my sister left in the hallway. I stumble into the shower and embrace the water, letting every droplet roll down my body into the drain. Okay, now I’m probably late because I let my mind wander. I throw on an outfit and dash. Breakfast you ask? I fall somewhere between a caffeinated protein shake and a large gulp of air because again—barely functioning adult.
Now comes what should be my least favorite part — my commute. I’ve reframed my commute as some of the most life affirming parts of my day. It’s when I get a lot of my audiobook listening done, catch up on podcasts, and always in the last 10-15 mins listen to some music to pump me up. Right now these four songs are in the end of commute rotation: “We the People….” by Tribe Called Quest, “What They Want” by Russ, “Consuela” by Belly, and “Caroline” by Amine.
After that. I pull up ready to tackle whatever comes my way.
My ideal morning routine goes something like this:
6:25am, my alarm goes off and I’m out of bed within 5 minutes. I head straight to the kitchen to brew some hot water for my non-negotiable first cup of coffee. While the water’s boiling, I take care of any dishes I was too lazy to wash the night before, and fire up the computer.
While the coffee brews in the French press, I go through my email inbox, clearing out anything unnecessary, and prioritizing what’s left. Finally, I pour my coffee and consult with the most important item in my possession, my Passion Planner AKA the guidebook to my life AKA home base for every stray thought or To-Do item that ticks through my brain, vital for preventing panic attacks and system overload. Whatever I’ve listed to do for that morning, I try to accomplish by 8am (while fitting in my favorite breakfast: Greek yogurt, fresh berries, unsweetened granola, and honey), which allows just enough time to shower, primp, and get dressed for work. I’m out the door by 9:30am ready to face LA’s freeways and the new day!
Please note that I called this routine “ideal.” While not yet a frequent occurrence, the ultimate goal is to rotate my ideal morning routine with a 7am Yoga class routine for complete mind and body wellness.
My morning routine actually starts the evening before. I haven’t used an alarm to wake up (with but the occasional exception) in over a decade. You need a certain amount of sleep, and if you don’t get it, your performance begins to decline — so much so that you can actually measure the decline on a test of cognitive ability. Sooooooo, step number one, treat sleep like one of the most important things you’re going to do. If you’ve got to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. to get all the sleep you need, then go to bed at 8:00 p.m.
Phase 2: Working Out
Once I wake up, I use the very act of waking up as the trigger that reminds me to work out. I work out five days a week, but I’m not one of those guys that loves working out. I get up, roll out of bed, and go straight to the gym. I’m fortunate to have a gym in my house, so the lapsed time from wake up to work out is about 10 minutes.
Developing discipline is one of the most critical things you need to be successful. Being successful comes with a litany of things that you’re not going to want to do, but you’re going to have to do them anyway. You’re going to have to push yourself, even when every fiber of your being is telling you to quit. You’re going to have to get out of bed when you’d rather lay in bed. You’re going to have to work on that Saturday when your friends are out partying. You’re going to have to grind when you’d rather be playing video games or watching Netflix. Discipline is going to be the thing that allows you to do that, but you need an area which allows you to train that discipline. For me, that’s the gym, and that’s a big part of the reason that I work out — to strengthen my discipline and gain credibility with myself by showing up and putting in the work on something that offers me no intrinsic pleasure.
Phase 3: Working the Mind
It’s not enough to exercise the body, you’ve got to exercise the mind.
In fact, to me, the body is but a reflection of the mind. Right after I finish working out, I meditate. The reason that I meditate is to strengthen my ability to focus and learn to rapidly calm my mind. We live in a fast-paced world with tons of anxiety and distractions. We celebrate the ability to speed up our minds and our lives, but it is absolutely essential to learn to consciously slow them down as well. It’s absolutely essential to learn how to calm yourself. You need to cultivate that ability.
How long I meditate depends on how stressed or anxious I am, but it’s usually about 20 or 30 minutes. I use a “just breathe” technique, where I try to quiet my mind and simply breathe. When I first started meditating I had to coax myself into doing 5 or 10 minutes. Now I love the feeling so much I usually go until my legs start to fall asleep from sitting cross-legged (which is my preferred posture).
Phase 4: Thinkitating
One of the most beautiful things about meditating is that it puts your brain into an Alpha Wave state. This is considered to be the most creative of brain states, and that’s certainly how it feels for me. So once I’ve finished meditating, before the alpha wave state wears off and I return to normal life, I stop trying to quiet my mind and instead, set it to dealing with one of my most challenging problems. I find this to be a powerful strategy, because when I’m in this state of mind I find that I make more unique and novel connections allowing me to find some pretty creative solutions to problems that otherwise seemed intractable.
Phase 5: Reading
I try to read every day. I believe the most important math equation is II = IO. Ideas In = Ideas Out. Pretty much all of my time is accounted for every day. So I’ve had to find ways to ensure that I get time to read. One of those ways is to read in what I call the “transitional moments” – brushing my teeth, getting dressed, cooking food, etc. But on top of that, I like to set aside time to really sink in and read. One of the most opportune moments for me is when I walk my dogs. It’s a solid 30 minutes of time that I usually follow by my first meal of the day. That usually gives me a good 45 min to an hour of uninterrupted reading time daily in addition to all of the sneaky little moments that I catch whenever possible.
Phase 6: Most Important Things
I keep a list of the most important things that my business needs to thrive. Once I sit down to work the first thing I do is go through that list. I take immediate action on anything and everything on that list that I can, and if I skip something three days in a row I delete it from the list as my actions indicate that it’s not truly important. As a rule, I keep the highest impact stuff at the top of the page to ensure that I don’t fall into the trap of addressing something lower on the priority list just because it’s listed first.
Phase 7: Ignore Email
Checking email is a critical mismanagement of time. It is, in my opinion, a dereliction of your duties as an entrepreneur. If you check email before addressing the most pressing needs of your company, you’re admitting that other people know better about what you should be doing than you do. I’ve trained myself to ignore email until everything else that needs to be done is done. I’ve usually put in between 5 and 7 hours worth of work before I check my email for the first time. And I try to spend less than an hour on email per day.
I have found the habits embedded in my morning routine to be instrumental in getting things done and keeping myself on track. Habits in general are, in my opinion, the very foundation of success. I highly recommend that everyone adopt a morning routine that addresses both mental and physical wellbeing, while ensuring that you’re taking the necessary steps to be successful in whatever it is that you’re doing. May your morning routine serve you as well as mine has served me.
Morning routines run the gamut—from simple to elaborate. What it boils down to is centering yourself and feeling prepared. We feel our best when we’re prepared. And what that preparation looks like is up to you. It evolves and changes over time. You learn what works and doesn’t work.
What do you include in your morning routine? Share in the comments or connect with us on social.