This article originally appears on howtobeast.com
Last week I interviewed Hal Elrod for my podcast.
Hal is the author of #1 bestseller Morning Miracle, a book about how to optimize your morning ritual and crush the day.
His has a super interesting story about how he was hit head-on by a drunk driver at 70 mph, pronounced dead at the scene, and then miraculously revived. At this point he was told he’d never walk again…
But he rallied, persisted and went on to run a 52 mile ultra marathon, and become an incredible author and keynote speaker. He credits his morning routine as what pushed him through these dark times and allowed him to prosper in the face of such extreme adversity.
Every day that you and I wake up, we face the same universal challenge. It’s the challenge to overcome mediocrity. —Hal Elrod
But I don’t want to talk about him in this article. I only mention his story to let you know that my talk with him motivated me to start crushing my morning routine harder than ever.
I was slacking BIG time…
…From waking up late to getting caught up in bullshit activities like replying to emails and mindlessly tweaking the layout of my website – I just wasn’t getting shit done.
By the time I realized I was wasting my time, my energy and willpower were depleted… And I often didn’t even get started on the most important task I should be doing that day.
If you win the morning, you win the day. —Hal Elrod
Below are the first 5 things I do to start every day now. They take me under one hour. And – as soon as I’m done – I spend about 2 hours tackling the biggest item on my to-do list. After that, I give myself permission to do the mindless tasks like emailing, scheduling, and other small tasks.
Since I’ve started doing this, I feel like a fucking beast for the rest of the day. And I’m way happier, and way more productive for it.
1. Journal (5 min)
Journaling – or keeping a diary – is a way of auditing yourself, your thoughts, and your progress.
What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed.
By keeping track of your life, you’ll exponentially hasten your personal growth. I recommend downloading the app Grid Diary (pictured above), because it has an awesome interface and allows you to create your own questions.
Every morning I answer the questions listed above. And it keeps me moving forward. Here are the key benefits this habit has for me:
– I avoid regretting things I did poorly by listing them out so I don’t harp on them, knowing I’ve documented the error
– I pat myself on the back for things I did well, and this reinforces good habits and productive behavior
– I list what I’m grateful for, so that I maintain an abundance mentality and avoid getting caught up in a mindset of lacking
– I review my top 1-3 tasks for the day, so I don’t get sidetracked by little bullshit activities that ruin my productivity
2. Take a cold shower (5 min)
Cold showers have been proven to have antidepressant benefits and boost testosterone. And that’s good and all – but it’s not even the real reason I take them.
Here’s what I notice – and why I think taking cold showers is a must for self-improvement minded men:
- It builds discipline
- It builds the “fuck it, let’s do this” mentality
- It boosts your energy because it gets you breathing deeply and it’s fucking refreshing
Talking a bit more on bullet point number 2 above: each morning you’re going to be tempted to take a regular warm shower instead of a cold one – it’s more comfortable and easier to do.
By making yourself hop in there anyway, you’re going to build the same instinct that will allow you to take risks in your business and dating lives. The impulses that keep us from approaching cute girls or trying to start a business aren’t much different than the little voice in your head that tells you NOT to hop in the cold shower.
3. Meditate (5 min)
Meditation is truly incredible.
Sure, it takes discipline to sit there for 5 minutes, but it’s benefits are undeniable:
- It demolishes stress and anxiety
- It brings you a deep sense of focus
- It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure
- It actually builds grey matter in key areas of your brain (associated with empathy and emotional stability)
- And shrinks the grey matter in other key areas (associated with stress)
Not only this, but it has an amazing combined effect when done after a cold shower. The cold shower fills you with energy, and then meditating grounds this energy and ensures that it turns into focus and productivity, rather than jittery energy or anxiety.
4. Read (30 min)
If I don’t read in the morning, I don’t read at all. I’d love to think I can sit down and read before bed, but I simply can’t.
Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve been burning through good books… And when you burn through good books, your life improves.
In the last two weeks alone I’ve created an automated personal finance system, opened an investment account, and re-worked my morning habits – just to mention a few things – largely because of books I read.
5. Brainstorm 10 ideas (10 min)
I stole this idea from the great James Altucher (check out my podcast with him here).
Every morning you should pick an arbitrary category (e.g. books to write, improvements AirBnB should make, new exercises to try, people to say thank you to, literally ANYTHING) and then make yourself come up with 10 ideas.
This builds your mental muscle – and as James says – turns you into an “idea machine”. The same way bench pressing build your chest and squats build your legs, brainstorming builds your mental muscles.
James swears that, by doing this every day, he experiences life-changing opportunities every six months. While I haven’t been great at doing this every single day, I’m convinced that I should…
And there you have it. Implement these habits into your morning routine. Or find a combo that works for you. And don’t use “not having time” as an excuse…
All you have to do is wake up earlier.