This post is part of the startup edition series.
I never used to be a “routine” person.
My whole life, I’ve been more of the “play it by ear” type. Having worked for myself, from home for most of my career, it became all too easy to keep winging it.
I’d work when I felt productive. I’d wake up when I naturally woke up. I’d eat what I feel like eating. Some days I’d go to a coffee shop to work. Some days I wouldn’t put pants on and work from my bed. I didn’t plan and I didn’t do the same thing two days in a row.
But recently I’ve found that having no routines has caused some difficulties preventing me from living the way I’d like. The main issue is that when you don’t have routines, you find yourself making a lot of decisions from the second you wake up. It creates a great deal of decision fatigue early in the day which in turn affects your ability to think and focus for the rest of the day.
So I started experimenting with new morning routines.
I believe it’s important not to try to change too much all at once. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself and I figured if I could focus on one simple habit, other good habits will follow. In “The Power of Habit“, Charles Duhigg, calls this the keystone habit.
Waking up earlier, at the same time every day became my keystone habit.
I have a really bad snooze habit. Snoozing is even worse than sleeping in because you’re not actually getting a good sleep when you’re snoozing every 10 minutes. Then you start your day off with a failure and you get a late start. Whenever I would wake up early and have an active morning, I’d feel a lot better and would have a more productive day.
So I figured if I can wake up at the same time every week day, without snoozing, I can start to build a routine to getting my day started on the right foot and make a positive change in other areas as well.
I’ve tried a lot of different alarm clocks to solve the problem to no avail. I decided that I’d try to come up with a new response to my alarm going off. Instead of just laying in bed, I would immediately put my running shoes on. That would be my routine. I started with 8:30am, then once I had that down, I went to 8:00am. Now I try to wake up at 7:30am every day.
It’s still a work in progress but it’s definitely had a positive impact on my day-to-day. I’ve since started experimenting with other routines. Here are a few of them:
1. Not opening my phone until I start working
As I mentioned, my new routine would be to get out of bed and put my running shoes on. The added bonus of that is that it also replaced another bad habit I had. I used to pull out my phone and start tinkering around the social medias. I found that it immediately put my mind into multitasking mode and would kill another 20 minutes laying in bed. Now I don’t use my phone or computer until I’ve written down my priorities for the day and I start working.
2. Run, do pushups, sit ups and meditate every morning.
Starting with something physically challenging makes me feel good and it gets my mind in the right place. I clear my mind every day and try to give myself some much needed perspective on what’s next. I run about 3-5 miles. I use calm to help me meditate.
3. Write a blog post every day.
Writing every day has a lot of benefits both personally and professionally. If you want to join our 100for100 challenge, you can learn more about it here.
4. Cook all 3 meals every day.
I used to eat out 3 meals a day. In order to eat healthier and save money, I now cook all 3 meals (with occasional exceptions for social engagements). Starting an online cooking school helped me learn the core concepts of cooking and now I’m helping other people do the same.
5. Go to sleep before midnight.
Waking up early means going to sleep early. I need at least 7.5 hours of sleep to feel refreshed in the morning.
6. Read for at least 15 minutes every day.
A big part of this was sacrificing some TV. I love TV but I don’t have time for both TV and reading. So aside from football and occasional shows, I cut a lot of TV and read for at least 15 minutes before I go to bed. Sometimes I read during a break from work. Sometimes I kill half a book on a weekend if it’s really good.
I also got a library card. That shit’s free.
7. Stop leaving tabs open.
I was a tabcoholic. I’m trying to get better at that.
8. Take walks every day in between 2 hour chunks of work
Walks feel good and help me think through problems. And it gets me out of my apartment when I work from home.
9. Play basketball 3 nights/week.
I just love the sport. I’d play more if my body could take it.
10. I just started a garden, which I’ll have to water every day.
Nothing like watching something grow. And then eating it.
Your turn. What are your routines and habits? What are you experimenting with?
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