In the past couple of years, I’ve interviewed over 50 influencers, millionaires, celebrities, authors, entrepreneurs and entertainers. They’ve built giant businesses, celebrity personal brands, online empires and more. From those interviews, I’ve learning the following lessons about setting your day up for success. But, before we dive into the tips I want to note that not everyone needs to be an early bird to use these tactics. Do most of these successful founders and visionaries wake up early? Yes. But not all.
It’s more important for each of us to find a rhythm that consistently works for us, and that adheres the five following rules.
1. Cover the physical basics.
With almost every millionaire, celebrity, influencer and author I interview, there was a turning point in their lives. At this point, they realized physical health was vital for the health of their brand and business. Some started running, others became vegan; many started working with a physical trainer. You have to keep yourself in “fighting shape” because staying relevant, competing at the highest level, dominating the competition — these are all fights.
You already know what this means. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, which is around seven to eight hours per night for most people. Make sure you’re fueling your body with what it needs for peak performance: tons of water, real nutritious foods and probably some necessary supplements. Lastly, make time for physical exercise, whether you like crazy circuit training for 20 minutes or hour-long walks.
Bestselling author and TED speaker Simon Sinek explained, “I think you have to get a good night’s sleep. I think you have to exercise. One of the big things I changed in my life was I prioritized exercise. So, exercise, for me, goes in my schedule like a meeting. And too many of us treat exercise as something malleable or flexible where, ‘Oh, my God, I have this amazing opportunity to meet with this person. I’ll move my gym time.’ I don’t.”
2. Cover the emotional and spiritual basics.
This one is unexpected, because we often assume these go-getters wake up and start running, but for most that is untrue. Instead they infuse their morning with gratitude, reflection, prayer, time outside if possible, meditation and various methods of self-care. I can tell you from personal experience, as one who tends to go a mile a minute, this step is not to be skipped!
Consider this advice from entrepreneur, investor and author James Altucher: “So many people charge $15,000 for a class on entrepreneurship, when really one of the most important things is something you could do for free when you wake up in the morning, which is just find four or five things to be grateful for.”
Or take a page out of Tony Robbins’ book: “I concentrate for three-and-a-half minutes on just three things every morning that I’m incredibly grateful for. And I pick one of them and I make it really simple, like the wind on my face or the smile on one of my children’s faces, so I don’t just have to have a giant thing to be grateful. And the reason I go into gratitude is most people are wired for stress. They’re wired for fear. They’re wired for pissed off …. You cannot be grateful and be fearful simultaneously. You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. So, what I do is I wire myself every morning in a very associated way that makes me feel that feeling, and it’s such a beautiful balance. Then I do three minutes of prayer for those that I love.”
3. Take control of your day right at the start.
Start your day in a proactive, rather than reactive state. For most, this means not checking emails and notifications first thing. Instead, set your expectations and task for the day, and as Debra Bednar-Clark told us in her interview, “ruthlessly prioritize.” I have had to work hard at this but it is made a huge difference in my days and my stress levels.
Brendon Burchard explains it best: “First and foremost, I decided to own my morning. The number one thing that people don’t realize is, they’re losing their day by starting it in reaction. Eighty-six percent of smartphone owners, the first thing they do, they don’t even get out of bed, they turn, they grab their phone on the nightstand … if you jump right into your email, you automatically set the frame in your mind to react to other people’s needs. You’re just reacting to the world, you’re not strategically thinking, What are my moves forward? So, when I begin the day, I’m moving myself forward before I’m replying to anything, and that’s the secret.”
4. Put your most creative, challenging work first.
You’ve probably already heard the expression “eat that frog,” as in, handle the heavy lifting first. The people I interview explain again and again that the first few work hours (after exercise, meditation, etc.) are for creation, brainstorming and problem solving. But, if you’re like me and many others in the trenches, trying to build a brand in the first few years, “creep” happens. We start to handle urgent, nagging tasks to “get them out of the way” and before we know it it’s 4 p.m. and the frog is still croaking at us. Be vigilant about doing the important work first. Consider actually blocking time on your smart phone calendar or in your paper planner, so you can quickly see what you need to be doing and when.
This is Rachael Ray’s secret to creating one successful product line and project after another. “I write it in my notebook first, and then I spend every morning, when I’m getting ready for work and somebody’s drying my hair or whatever, typing. And then I send all that work in … then I come here, and there’s really nothing to do here but chat and cook.”
Millionaire online entrepreneur Amy Porterfield shared her strategy. “I do something called ‘tiger time’ in the morning because I’m best in the mornings. I block out three or four hours just for content creation. And that might mean record a podcast, work on a webinar, interview somebody for a podcast … I’m creating content in one way or another. I always have to have that tiger time … [I call it that because] I’m fierce about nobody can touch it. No meetings, nothing, because my success is in the content I create. That’s where I can offer more value to my audience.”
5. Remember routine means daily.
It sounds boring, I get it. People like Tony Robbins — millionaire masters of their craft — they have a lot of “boring” habits. Their mornings are the same, no matter where they are or what their days hold. They repeat the same few favorite meals, especially for breakfast and lunch. They rarely binge on anything — junk food, sweets, alcohol or television. However, taking all of those decisions and variables out of your mind frees you to come up with world-changing products, services and solutions. Often we look at leaders of industry and think, how do they keep writing great books, making amazing content, producing such killer products? It’s because their mind, body and spirit are well-cared for, and their brains have the freedom to focus on solving the hardest problems, rather than wondering what to have for breakfast and which to-do-list task to handle next.
Ramit Sethi explained this concept to me: “There’s this term called cognitive miser. We have limited cognition, limited willpower, and I don’t want to spend that limited muscle trying to find my keys or wondering what to eat. I want that stuff solved. So, automation for me is everything from what to eat — so my food is ready, I open the fridge, it’s all there and ready to go — knowing what to work on, it’s all on my calendar. That’s a huge thing. I wake up and I just look at my calendar and I’m like, Ah! I know exactly what to do. I think automation is one of the most powerful, psychological things you can do. It doesn’t just help you once, it helps you forever.”
Whether you wake up at 4 a.m. or 9 a.m., cover these five basics and you’ll be knocking out your problems, roadblocks and competitors in no time.
Watch in-depth interviews with celebrity entrepreneurs on The Pursuit with Kelsey Humphreys
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