Co-Founder of Mayte.
Entrepreneurs seem to have superhuman morning routines. You can have them too and it’s not that hard.
Mornings suck. Or do they? There are thousands of articles and posts about how the top .01% of tech entrepreneurs wake up around 4:15 am, do 90 minutes of intense cardio and strength training, have a -3 degree shower and meditate for 30 minutes, all before sunrise. And then their day starts. That must be the key to success, right?
For the rest of us mere mortals that’s pretty unfeasible. We can’t afford daily cryotherapy , we’ve got too many meetings to fit exercise into our day, and have too much work to get through to go to bed early enough to then wake up before the crack of dawn. Plus, we’re not grateful for much because start-up life is hard and devoid of things to be grateful for (unless you’re killin’ it).
These tech gods are onto something though. Their routines are actually fantastic for setting up your day for success and can be brought down from the superhuman level. I’m going to run you through my top tips for starting the day right and giving yourself near-superhuman energy to cut huge deals, keep up with all the meetings and get through each day whilst remaining sane.
Don’t be ridiculous...
4:15 am is ludicrous. That would see you in bed around 7-8 pm the night before – usually when you’re tucking into some take away Mexican that you bought on the way home from the office. Here’s the thing though – early mornings are like getting a head-start on the rest of the world. Nobody is sending you emails, nobody is slacking or calling you – it’s pure, silent bliss.
I’m just gonna throw it out there. If you really want to be productive throughout the day, you need to wake up at 6am as a minimum. That’s not hard – think of baristas, cafe-owners and waiters - they are all up around 4:30 am and serve grumpy people like yourself. For you, that’s easy. You get to do what you love, create exciting things and meet amazing people.
Bonus points for 5am. Your life is about to change in a drastic way. 6:00 am – wake the f*ck up!
Your alarm is going off, do not snooze that thing whatever you do. Snoozing will make you feel worse. Find something to motivate yourself to jump out of bed. Move your phone away, have a coffee pod ready to go or start blasting tunes. I don’t care, just get up!
6:05 am: Cleanse and energise your body easily
Drink one glass of water, and one shot of espresso or a long-black.
The water flushes out your system after having nothing (think dust collecting overnight) and the espresso jump-starts your brain. If you don’t like espresso, pick your favourite tea. Keep the calories at zero, and don’t eat until late morning.
Why skip breakfast? It’s actually not the most important meal – trust me (and science). Ever had a food-coma? When you eat a heavy meal and you feel sluggish, sleepy and ready for bed? That’s what happens, on a small scale, when you eat breakfast in the morning. The last thing you need when you’re trying to start the day right is a food coma! That’s just the mental benefit. Other benefits that I enjoy from Intermittent Fasting are;
- More free time in the morning not making breakfast
- Drinking more water throughout the day to satisfy your stomach till lunch
- Cheaper groceries when you’re feeling the start-up squeeze
Once you start this, you’ll never look back. You feel lighter, more energised and fresh throughout your day.
6:10 am: Be lame and pick your morning mantra
It’s important to pick a mantra that you’re going to live by, despite sounding cult-y or hippyish. It doesn’t have to be airy fairy - pick a short sentence that is a common theme through all the things you want to achieve and improve in. Mine?
I am a love and growth machine.
Sounds really lame, I know, but until now this was something I kept to myself and never shared. This simple sentences talks to three things in my life that I find important; relationships, business and fitness. These are my three pillars (though I really need a hobby) and chanting this to myself each morning sets the stage for the rest of my day. Whenever I interact with people I try to be loving and kind. When I’m working, I am trying to grow aggressively. And my body is a machine when I work out.
6:15 am: Start running
No excuses here. You need yourself and the world to run, that’s it. No special equipment, training, learning – just one foot after the other.
A morning run is probably the single most game-changing thing I have adopted recently, period. Mike Sturm has done an amazing write-up on how and why you should include a morning run in your routine.
When you’re standing on the tram on the way to work – coffee in hand, headphones in - you are participating in the great corporate zombie migration. Look around you. Everyone is in a state of walking dead. Still sleepy, sucking on a coffee, bleary eyed and wishing they were still home. They are firing on one or two pistons. And they’ve got 9 hours of slavery ahead of them.
After a morning run, you are firing on ALL pistons. Blood is coursing through your body, your mind is already active and your brain is high on the endorphins that exercise released. You’re more alert, more aware, and in a good mood. Ready for anything.
Running is not a waste of your time and you don’t have to do it for long. Ten to twenty minutes is enough to get the blood pumping. Anything above 20 minutes puts you in a higher and higher state of consciousness.
6:40 am: Try a cold shower
Honestly, I absolutely hate freezing cold showers in the morning. They are a rude shock to the system contrasted against the warm uterus of my doona.
Don’t discount them just yet though . After a run, you’ll be hot and sweaty. Don’t turn it on willing yourself to get in – stand under the shower-head and pump the cold tap. After about 1.35 seconds it’ll become unbearable and you’ll frantically turn up the heat. This is fine – that short period of cold water is enough to get your brain’s neurons firing in response to the arctic temperatures.
6:45 am: Get your mind ready for the day
I’m a sucker for well-designed apps which is why I love headspace so much. Brilliant things happen in calm minds . Which is why you, as an entrepreneur or budding entrepreneur, need to make time for some mental well being each morning. It’s time for some calm-before-the-storm now that you’ve cleansed, woken up your body and electrified your brain.
Your mind is going to be running at 100km per hour for the next 8-12 hours so it’s important to dedicate 5-15 minutes of your morning to focus. After this, you’re ready for the day.
7:00 am: Use your commute (and inbox) for preparation
I don’t fire up my emails until I’m heading to work on the tram. When I do, I ruthlessly cull the crap and create a to-do list for my day.
The guiding principle of Inbox for Gmail is that your inbox becomes a to-do list. If you don’t need the email, mark it as done. If you don’t need to action it today, snooze it until tomorrow (or when you do need to action it). Set reminders for things you need to do each day, no matter how menial or time-consuming. Get it all out of your mind and streamline today’s todo list (i.e. your inbox) so you can start powering through them when you get to work. Check your meetings ( though don’t schedule too many ).
Your eternal goal should be inbox zero (that’s another article though) and this morning prep is setting you up to get there.
7:30 am: Hit the office, get cracking
Now it’s go time. You’ve got about 90 minutes until the first email or slack message comes through, or the first ping pong ball hits the table (we’re pretty obsessed here at i9).
These 90 minutes are going to be the most productive of your entire day because your body is awake and full of endorphins, your mind is sharp and you have a sense of purpose. You’ve got no food slowing your metabolism down and your to-do-list is fresh in your mind.
On top of that, the office is silent. There are no distractions. You can use this superhuman laser focus to knock as many things off your to-do list as possible.
Start small – the quickest items should be the first you knock off. It starts your velocity for the day, makes you feel
positive about what you can achieve easily and will make your list seem like child’s play. You should be able to get through at least half. Race yourself to complete loads before the first few zombies walk through the door.
9:00 am: Smile, because you’ve got the whole day ahead of you and you’ve already killed it!