Set Yourself Up To Win
I want to crush the day. I’m a husband, dad, small business owner, service technician, consultant, coach, mentor, and more. I have a lot of roles, which means I have a lot of people relying on me to be my productive best. I also have expectations of myself: I need to be fit. I want to be present with the people I love. When my work day is over, I don’t want to be haunted by “open loops” of work left unfinished. I need a good night’s sleep.
It’s taken me a while, but I have nailed down a morning routine that launches me into the day and sets me up for the greatest possibility of success (possibility, because even though I set the day up well, I can still blow it).
Here’s a breakdown of my morning. Note: I have a home office. My kids are home-schooled. My wife works outside the home. These are all variables of my morning equation. Thus, your morning will probably look different than mine.
The alarm goes off at 6 am. That doesn’t mean I get up at 6. I like to hit the snooze a couple of times. “Feet on the floor” is determined by the time my wife leaves for work (7:30) and the time my #2 son leaves for school (8:00). They both need coffee, and neither are ambitious enough to make it for themselves. I am the Coffee God. I prepare and supply coffee for those whom I love. (In fact, this is the way I tell my wife every morning that I love her. No kidding.) 6:20, two snoozes, is “feet on the floor”.
I grab my phone from the bedside (it also serves as my alarm clock) and turn off “airplane mode”. Although emails and notifications come flooding in from overnight, I ignore them. As I travel from my bedroom down the hall to the kitchen, my podcatcher (“DoggCatcher“) updates all my morning news programs. As I prepare coffee, I drink one glass of water and listen to the NPR News Now podcast to see if the world came to an end overnight. Once the coffee’s finished brewing, I deliver a cup to my wife (with steamed, foamed milk), pour myself a cup, and seat myself in the den.
It’s 6:30, and it’s quiet. Even though my wife is awake, she won’t be up for quite a while. None of my five kids are stirring yet. I sit on the couch next to my leg lamp and read something for my personal development (not professional, though the better I am as a person, the better work I’ll perform). I’m currently reading “How God Became King“, by N.T. Wright, my favorite theologian, and I have just started “The Five Minute Journal“, to help cultivate more gratitude in my life.
I only allot thirty minutes for this. I find that my mind starts racing toward the rest of the day’s activities if I spend more time. Thirty minutes isn’t much, but thirty minutes over 5 days is 2 1/2 hours. Ten hours a month. 130 hours over the course of a year. Compounded interest. I hate to be clichéd, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Get To Work!
At 7 am I move from the couch across the room to my desk, or I head to the kitchen to my standing desk. I pull my phone out and crank up the podcasts once again. I have a large list of work-related podcasts I listen to each day (if you want to know the list, let me know). As the podcasts play, I tear into my email, both personal and professional. My personal load is generally very low in the morning. My business account, however, is packed. My work as a geek relies on monitoring computers, servers and networks for problems. Overnight I get a steady stream of alerts from my customers: “Backup succeeded!” “Backup failed!” “Disk full!” “An intrusion was detected!”. I also get news alerts from various technical news sources. I don’t read many of them, but they all get scanned for relevance.
Once email is done, I begin connecting to all the different networks I’m responsible for to look for any issues that might have occurred overnight. This takes a while. The whole process of reading email and checking networks takes close to two hours, if no one interrupts me. During this time my two oldest kids have left for work and my wife has gone as well. Invariably one of them gives me an item for my “to do” list, so interruptions are common. Also, if it’s during the school year, I take a break at 8 am to wake up my high schoolers and get them rolling.
It’s now 9 am. These days I don’t usually eat breakfast until 9 am. Why? Just recently I’ve been playing with the practice of intermittent fasting. Nothing extreme, except I’ve seen some research that says a short feeding window to fasting window has some benefits. Right now I’m trying to hold to at least a 12/12 window, though I’d like it to be 10/14 window. I’m having trouble with the 10/14 window for two reasons. First, because we cook real meals, we generally don’t eat dinner until about 7 pm. Second, I’m a snacker. 9 to 10 pm I start craving something salty. I used to crave sweets, and so you’d find me with a big bowl of ice cream around 10 pm. Thankfully, that habit’s broken. But I still keep stuffing nuts or corn chips in my face late at night, pushing my window further and further back.
Breakfast – at least first breakfast – is a protein shake loaded with all kinds of stuff. I take a second breakfast around 10 am, something a little more substantial with a good load of complex carbs and protein to set me up for my workout later in the day.
That’s my morning. I usually don’t take appointments before 9 am, so that I can keep this routine. Of course, emergencies happen, phone calls come in, but on average this works. Being on the job by 7 am means I don’t feel guilty when I call the day at 3 or 4 to hit the gym or head to rugby practice. If I’m hitting it hard for a solid 8 hours, then I’ve done a good day’s work.
What’s your morning routine? What works for you? Where are your time leaks? Share it with me in the comments, below.