Why you need to become a morning person

I’ve written about morning routines, quite frankly, more than anyone should. That’s because I believe waking up early is about the most life changing thing you can do.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the people I consider successful and happy, get up early and follow some type of morning routine. I challenge you to think about this too. Look at well known people, colleagues and friends. I bet you come to the same conclusion.

But, I’m just not a morning person” you say. “I do my best work later in the day”.

I’m not buying it. For 99.9% of us, it’s much better to become a morning person.

Why? I think it boils down to these 3 things:

  • Getting up early sets a tone for the day. It builds positive momentum from the get go, which then flows into the rest of the day. When I get up early and do things that are important to me (without distractions), the rest of the day usually goes well. I feel satisfied at the end of the day. When I get up late, I almost always drift into bad habits and have a bad day. I know I didn’t make the best use of my time and wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
  • It allows you to make consistent progress on things that are important to you — whether that is exercise, writing, working on a personal project, reading etc. Morning routines build consistency, largely because of the lack of distractions (everyone else is asleep). Over time, that establishes habits.
  • Getting up early builds a certain strength in character and mindset. You start to feel stronger and more disciplined than others. That breeds confidence and influences how you attack the day. It’s hard to beat the feeling of watching others come into work, knowing you’ve already exercised, worked on a personal project, got ahead of your email and done a block of focused work. Not only are you ahead on output, you’re ahead on mindset.

Jocko Willink, sums it up more succinctly than me:

“Discipline equals freedom, and that discipline begins every morning when my alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.” Jocko Willink.

And for proof, he posts one of these every day:

If you’re not waking up early, how do you start?

Simple and small.

Go to bed a little earlier. Get up a little bit earlier (i.e. 30 mins), and do one or two things. Meditate for 5 mins and take a short walk. Read or work on a personal project. Whatever is important to you. Keep it simple, easy and small for at least 30 days.

Once you get to 30 days, extend the time and perhaps add something else in. The biggest mistake you can make is to go from simple, easy and small — to complicated, hard and big. And I guarantee, you will make that mistake. Learn from it. Go back to simple, easy and small and then layer in a little bit more for the next 30 days.

It sounds unambitious, but it’s the best and fastest path to a longer, more impressive morning routine. By starting simple, easy and small — you establish the habit of getting up early and doing important things. And that’s the key to it all.

I just switched up my morning routine (part of what inspired this post). Here’s what it looks like:

  • 04.30 — 05.15: GMB Elements
  • 05.15 — 05.30: read a chapter from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’
  • 05.30 — 06.30: write
  • 06.30 — 07.00: plan day

I’ve only done it a couple of times, and it’s feeling really good. It’s a good mix of exercise, working on myself, working on a skill and setting myself up for an awesome day. I should also note, I go to bed before 10PM so I can get up that early.

If you’re not waking up early — try it. I’m confident you won’t go back.

Want to get more done, and be happier?

Learn how to plan a killer week. It's a habit among high-achievers. You could easily triple your output - and most importantly, you will spend more time on what really matters.

The power of broad focuses

Recently I read ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’ by Michael Pollan. Here’s how it starts:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give the game away right here at the beginning of a whole book devoted to the subject, and I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a couple hundred more pages or so. I’ll try to resist, but will go ahead and add a few more details to flesh out the recommendations.

I love how Michael Pollan simplified a complex topic (and a whole book) down to 7 words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It’s beautiful. Those 7 words have stuck with me since — and as a result, have helped influence my eating.

Over the last few years, I’ve shifted my long term planning away from specific goals, to broad focuses. It works so much better.

I used to have lots of very specific, long term goals for each area of my life — yearly, all the way down to monthly. It drove me crazy. Most of the time I felt overwhelmed. I found myself in a vicious circle of rewriting my goals on a monthly basis because things changed. My planning efforts started to feel like a waste of time and I was getting frustrated.

I started to experiment with some different approaches. I tried having no goals, but that left me feeling directionless and I wasn’t very productive.

Slowly, I shifted towards short, broad focuses for the long term (anything longer than a week). I guess you could call them principles or rules. They help keep me generally pointed in the right direction for the long term. Then, I leave the specific planning at a week or day level.

Here’s an example of one of my short, broad focus statements:

I will be the best version of myself — always pushing to learn and improve.

I appreciate it sounds a bit vague, but it’s not intended to be a specific goal. Instead, it points me in the right direction. It gets to the core of the type of person I want to be. I don’t want to stand still. I want to be open minded. I want to continually expose myself to new ideas and get better at things.

When I plan my week or days, I spend some time connecting with this focus and it drives specific actions. For example, I might read, listen to a podcast, watch a documentary, continue with a course, learn a new skill etc.

‘I will be the best version of myself — always pushing to learn and improve.’ is inspiring for me.

‘Read 50 books in a year’ isn’t (a previous goal of mine).

With my previous goal, I constantly worried about how I was doing throughout the year. I would press on with books that bored me, because I was trying to hit the 50 goal. The goal always felt like it was closing in and I kinda always knew I wasn’t going to make it. I ended up finishing the year on 40 books, but feeling like a failure. Yes, I read 40 books in a year and felt crap about myself!

The good thing about a broad focus, is you don’t feel like there is a goal closing in on you. It’s not likely to change every month. And it gives you flexibility each week to decide where you want to spend your time and energy to live it. Some weeks it might be very little, and other weeks it might be a lot. Some weeks it might be one type of learning, and other weeks it might be another type of learning. Whatever is right at the time, is right.

Another good example is Ray Dalio’s Principles. It’s the same type of idea. In his book, Ray shares his overarching approach to life and work through principles. These principles drive everything he does and the type of person he is. It’s a rule book.

I’ll leave you with one more example of mine.

I will live a healthy and active lifestyle — being mobile and eating paleo will be at the heart of everything I do. I am active most days and keep my exercise varied and interesting.

Again, quite broad. I actually revised this focus today. I realised over the weekend that it didn’t emphasise enough, being mobile and eating paleo. They need to be more important than anything else. If I only did those things, I would look and feel good.

As a comparison, it used to read:

I will live a healthy lifestyle — mobile, active, fit and eating paleo.

That seems a subtle change, and it is. But I tend to easily drift into prioritising crossfit over everything else. The result is usually the same — I get injured. Mobility work and eating paleo has to always be the foundation of everything I do. By changing the focus to emphasise that, it will help remind and point me in the right direction.

And it works. This week I have a load of GMB Elements, some wrist / elbow mobility and am tightening up my paleo eating. Perhaps a run — but only as a very far down, secondary priority. No crossfit.

If you’re getting frustrated with specific, long term goal setting, I would encourage you to re-think things a little. Try broader areas of focus — or principles / rules for the long term. And save the specifics for weekly and daily planning.

It takes a bit of getting used to. But, you might find that it changes where you decide to spend your time. I have a feeling it will improve your output and happiness throughout the week too.

Want to get more done, and be happier?

Learn how to plan a killer week. It's a habit among high-achievers. You could easily triple your output - and most importantly, you will spend more time on what really matters.

Two years without a smartphone

Two years ago, I ditched my iPhone 6 for a Nokia 130.

It was an extreme decision, but it felt the only thing left to do. I was tired of being constantly connected. I couldn’t find a way to break the addiction of compulsively checking things.

It took a couple of weeks for the urges to go away —  but go away they did. And once they did, life got better. I’m not tempted to go back one bit. It’s been life changing.

Recently I reflected on some of the benefits from living without a smartphone….

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Wait, our whole life is just a firefly blinking once in the night?

It’s not often that I read or listen to something that stops me in my tracks because it resonates so deeply. It happened yesterday.

It came from Tim Ferriss’s latest podcast with Naval Ravikant (CEO and a co-founder of AngelList and successful investor). Naval was back to answer ten questions from listeners and he took on one about a life insight he has.

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Being self critical: My biggest strength and weakness

It took a recent crossfit session to remind me of my biggest strength, but also my biggest weakness — being self critical.

We had to pick two movements that we hated and sucked at. I went with thrusters and kipping pull ups. We practiced them throughout the session and used them in the workout at the end.

6 thrusters, followed by 6 kipping pull ups — repeated for as many reps as possible in 20 mins.

Pretty tough. I found the movements awkward throughout. As I was driving home after the workout, here’s what played through my head…

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When No One is Looking

This is embarrassing, but here it goes. I have a massive man crush on Mat Fraser.

It started when I watched Fittest on Earth 2015. Mat placed second and stood out as an incredible athlete. He made a few mistakes and wasn’t quite the all rounder Ben Smith was.

Recently I watched Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness (Crossfit Games 2016). Mat blew through the competition (including Ben Smith) to finish first. It was awesome to see Mat dominate the competition, including beating last years winner. But, I figured, sometimes it happens like that. You see the same thing with football teams. No matter the odds, sometimes you get an upset. Maybe he should have won in 2015? Or maybe 2016 was a fluke?

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