As a startup CEO, the success of my days is almost entirely dependent on how productive, and how creative, I can be. If you’re still stuck in your 9-5 and trying to build your dream on the side, having a productive day is arguably even MORE important. Over the years I’ve tried every possible schedule, productivity tip and guru hack to figure out the secret to ensuring an uber-successful day, but what I’ve realized is that it all comes down to how I treat my mornings.
The First Morning
So let me tell you a tale of two mornings. In the first, I wake up refreshed after a delightful eight hours of sleep, surrounded by natural sunshine and a soft calm. I rise slowly, and the first thing I do when I get out of bed is to sit on my floor pillow and begin a 5-minute meditation. Nothing too long — or I will lose my focus.
I follow up the meditation with a warm glass of lemon water and a tepid shower. I feel refreshed, awake and inspired. I whip up a healthy, protein-heavy breakfast and enjoy a cup of green tea while I read a few pages of whatever book I’m enjoying at the moment. After breakfast, and only then, I reach for my cell phone and begin to start my day.
The Second Morning
Sounds nice, right? Of course it does. But what about that second morning? The one that is perhaps a bit more realistic? On that second morning, I shoot out of bed to the sound of my alarm, after hitting snooze for what feels like the millionth time. I’m groggy, disoriented and the last thing I want to do is get up. I immediately grab my phone and stumble to the bathroom, where I try to pull myself together. I skip the shower, because all I really need at this point is caffeine. As soon as I get that, I’m human. Breakfast can wait — I still feel nauseous from poor sleep and the late-night snack I had the night before. I’m scrolling through my e-mails while hugging the largest cup of super-caffeinated tea I could find. I’ve only been awake for about ten minutes and I’m already well into my day.
Which Would You Choose?
Both mornings are real. Both mornings are ones that I’ve experienced in my life. But once I left corporate life behind to start my own business, and made the decision not to sacrifice my writing and other passions just because I started a business, I knew I had to make a critical choice. With morning #1, I have the potential to get it all done — and to be a happy, healthy person on the other side. With morning #2, I’ll be lucky to get through the day alive. I’m not showing up for myself, and I’m not showing up for those who count on me.
There’s a lot of talk in the “startup” world about founders who work 80 hours per week, who live/eat/sleep their companies, and who sacrifice it all for that “unicorn dream.” When I started my company, I made it AN ABSOLUTE RULE that my company would not fit into this culture. I am a firm believer that self-care makes you a better person and that true productivity and success comes from being able to do the most you can in the best way you can. That’s not going to happen at 4 a.m. after a non-stop 3-day working stint.
Sounds great, but how would this even work?
What I’m telling you is not revolutionary. I’m not the first person to write about this, nor will I be the last. But I’ve learned that sometimes you need to hear something in the right way, from the right person, for it finally to sink in. So I’m sharing with you my tale of two mornings so that hopefully, it will help you make the small changes in your life that you may need.
I’m big on clear, specific to-dos, so here’s what I’ll leave you with. Start small, with just these three things, and see how you feel. Make a plan to stick with it for 3 days. That’s all I’m asking — 3 days. That’s nothing. If you feel no change after 3 days, then go back to your ways and the “joys” of your morning #2. But if you feel even the smallest amount of improvement, keep coming back — I’ll have more to share with you.
Tip #1: Don’t bring your phone into the bedroom.
Make a rule that you won’t look at your phone until a certain amount of time after you have woken up. Everyone’s schedules are different so I won’t tell you what the time should be, but try to make it an amount of time that allows you to wake up peacefully, get yourself ready in a calm way and eat a healthy breakfast.
Tip #2: Meditate, or at least sit quietly, for 5 minutes every morning.
I know, I know. Meditation is quirky and it’s not for everyone. But here’s the thing — whether you put a name on it like “meditation” or you call it just “sitting quietly,” giving yourself a few minutes to warm up your brain and calm your racing thoughts can be the key to being a calmer, more peaceful person throughout the day. So seriously, just sit there for 5 minutes, and don’t think about anything. If thoughts pop into your mind, tell them to hang out for 5 minutes and you’ll get back to them. Trust me, it’ll do your brain wonders.
Tip #3: Drink a glass of water (ideally with lemon!).
This is easy, right? I like to keep an empty glass and a bottle of water next to my bed so that this is ridiculously easy. If you prefer cold water, leave yourself a note by your bed to do this. Grab this as soon as you get up and then carry it around as you get ready. I guarantee it’ll be gone by the time you’ve moved on to breakfast, and your body will thank you for starting off the day hydrated and refreshed.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that count. Those tiny, micro changes we make that can revolutionize our lives. So go ahead – give it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?