Look, whether we like it or not, a lot of successful people get up early. Equally, a lot of successful people don’t get up early but whether they do or not, it’s about what that represents. If you are someone that gets up early what does that say about you?
It says you are proactive, consistent, you prioritise getting shit done. You are ambitious, you seek to be better. Impressions count, if you can master getting up early it’s not just what it says about you, it’s what it gives you.
Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition. (W. H. Auden)
What W.H Auden is saying is that if you’re smart, you’ll realise that the devil is in the detail. People succeed or fail depending on their habits.
We all want to win.
Everyone on the pitch has some ambition to do well and to succeed… otherwise, they wouldn’t be on the pitch. But the difference comes in the habits and routines we create for ourselves.
Why not start with a morning routine?
There is no shortage of successful people who get up early. Among the early risers are Bob Iger, Richard Branson, Howard Schultz and Tim Cook. All very respected folk in their fields. All incredibly good at their jobs.
There is benefit in looking at the people seemingly ‘winning at life’ and seeing what they are doing. How do these successful people get to the top? How are they winning? How do they seem to get so lucky?
After all: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.” — Dr. Seuss
How? Well, let's start with the morning routine.
The 20–20–20 Rule is basically the power of three. Splitting time into blocks and assigning a different task to each. Giving yourself an equal measure of time in each activity. The idea is that if you split your time across these three categories you will optimise your morning.
The first 20
Spend time being mindful. Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts, it’s about spending time in the moment and being present. You can find mindfulness in a lot of places.
In the famous words of Albus Dumbledore “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
We can forget to live. In our busy lives, we often get caught up in silly affairs that have no real baring on our lives. We worry we obsess. Spending 20 minutes of our mornings, at the very start of the day thinking about our thoughts, asking ourself questions and processing our answers is a wonderful use of time.
How we do this can differ dramatically. Here are some examples of activities that encourage mindfulness:
- Making a cup of coffee. Not a quick throwing it in the cup type coffee. A coffee whereby you are conscious of every part of making it. Grinding the beans, pouring it onto the filter, boiling the kettle, heating the cup, pouring the tempered water over the ground beans and soaking in the aroma. It sounds outlandish and when I thought of doing the above I wrote it off completely. How boring, I just want to drink the damn thing and get a hit of caffeine. But just try it. It does wonders to slow down, appreciate the little things in life.
- Journal. By writing things down it’s often that we don’t just explore our thoughts we find them too. Spending time in the morning can help you get your thoughts in order for the day. It can also help you get clear on the things you want to achieve for the day. Above all else, it’s really quite nice to explore your thoughts first thing in the morning.
- Mediation. It’s not something I’ve mastered yet but I tried it a while back and it did have some beneficial results. Mediation is perhaps the holy grail of mindfulness. At it’s core it’s about being as present as can be. Focusing only on your breathing or whatever singular event you chose. It’s about clearing your mind and being truly present. Feeling the chair beneath you, tasting the air in your lungs, being tuned into the weight of your own bones. It can help you appreciate what is important in life.
The Second 20
It’s no coincidence that most successful people also take exercise very seriously. Moving in the morning makes us feel good. It makes us feel alive. There are countless benefits of exercise including improved mental wellbeing, increase in energy levels and just feeling better. But more than that it shows discipline and a commitment to yourself.
- Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, goes on a 6-mile jog every morning.
- Kara Goldin, Hint Water founder and CEO, is up and on a morning hike with her husband and dogs before her first morning calls.
- Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, is off to the gym before his morning Starbucks.
I think over and above anything else because exercise is hard, it creates a rigorous discipline. If you can tackle doing a twenty-minute run, bike ride, hike or whatever and tick it off as the first thing complete for that day. That’s some good momentum for the rest of it.
Getting the hardest stuff done first is never a bad strategy.
The Last 20
This 20 is all about doing something productive. Whether that be emails, getting a head start on writing for the day or planning something for later that day. Getting a head start before getting into the office can make you feel like you are on a roll.
Howard Schultz emails for an hour in the morning.
If you are a writer this can be a good time to get your thoughts on the page. To write some introductions or get some titles down whilst you are fresh and new to the day.
A lot of CEOs, it seems, tackle email first thing. That’s most likely because they are packed full of meetings in the day and it’s a good time to get ahead. The other reason may be that they are working with people across the world so of course people are in different time zones. Catching up before the day has really begun is a good way to get a head start on the day. It also means you are updated as possible prior to the day starting. Which is never a bad thing.
The Morning Routine 20/20/20
Such a simple concept but one of the pretty substantial results. I’ve been experimenting with my morning routine for the last year and I can tell you that it makes an incredible difference to my day.
But don’t listen to me, take it from the greats… morning routines work.
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