It's with Epictetus in mind that I reflect on the first month of my 52-Weeks to Greatness Challenge. It began with a simple idea: create a virtual mastermind group of five inspiring people. Open myself to their teachings and practices; and that of their broader circles of influence. Commit myself to doing the work they advocate, and in so doing, raise my level of performance and find greatness.
A vision of greatness comes easily. Getting shit done is a whole other story. These blog posts are part of my accountability process, and serve to help you on your own journey – feel free to learn from my mistakes.
Greatness necessitates a routine. This month has been all about developing a routine. I tried and blended together different approaches. And four weeks on, I seem to have the makings of a routine that works for me. But keep in mind, what works for me might not work for you.
Envision Your Perfect Day
First, I started thinking about a what my perfect day looks like along the path to achieving my vision. I did this by answering a series of questions that came from Lewis Howes book: The School of Greatness.
- How do I want every day to look?
- How do I want to feel every single day?
- What am I creating daily?
- Who am I spending my time with?
- What places am I exposing myself to?
- What passion am I fulfilling?
Here's my first version:
My Perfect Day
In my perfect day, I wake up next to the women I want to love until the end of my time. She's my best friend and partner in crime. I'm feeling energetic, confident and playful. We're at our home in Italy and plan to spend the morning walking in the hills before hosting a lunch for family and friends. I'm working on projects – writing a book, coordinating retreats, hosting a podcast, developing course material – that inspire entrepreneurs to follow their own passions and make a living around what they love.
No doubt things will change over time, but I've long held this view of my perfect day.
Breaking IT Down
Next, I had to break down my perfect day into a routine. I'm most productive in the mornings, so I concentrated on mastering my mornings.
Hydrate. Light. Movement.
A slight variation on Aubrey Marcus' Water, Light, Movement formula works best for me. Instead of light exercise first thing in the morning. I go straight into a workout; a 6 to 12 km run. I mix-up a morning mineral cocktail and hydrate while deciding on a podcast. Then I'm out the door (light) and pounding the trail (movement) through the forest.
This part of the routine came easily. I started going to bed earlier and sleeping with the blinds open. The morning light wakes me around 5 am without the need of an alarm. Don't let the lizard brain hold you back.
Go. Throw off the covers. Make something happen.
I added cold therapy to reboot my system. Cold water benefits your nervous system, circulation, stress response, and speeds up recovery. All of which contribute to a natural high and boost in mood and attitude. After my run, I take a shower and end it with three minutes of cold therapy. Standing under ice-cold water for three minutes sets me up for my most creative part of the day - the morning.
In his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, writes about a pattern of working four hard hours with occasional breaks. An approach favoured by scientists, writers, and other successful people.
A case in point, Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert starts his day at 5 am. It differs somewhat from mine. He heads straight for the coffee pot and fuels up on a protein bar. Each to their own. After all, the man created Dilbert!
For the first 4-hours of his day, he works on a new Dilbert strip. 'Time passes differently when you are in the creative mindset. The first four hours on my day pass as though minutes,' says Adams.
If all goes well he knocks out a couple of strips, blog posts, tweets, and some correspondence. Perhaps I should switch to coffee and protein bars. Or not. By lunchtime he is finished, 'My barely functioning brain is ideally suited for lifting heavy objects and putting them right back where I found them.'
I was feeling the same...
The more I pushed myself on the run, the sooner I ran out of energy in the morning. So, I turned to my virtual physical performance coach, Rich Roll. His EPIC5 Recovery Blend and Superfood Energy Balls help power me through the day.
I split my work 4-hour work session...
Four solid hours of work leaves me feeling exhausted. Even stretches of 90 to 120 minutes don't work for me. I get distracted, and my mind tends to wander. So, I took advice from Brendon Burchard, my virtual, high-performance coach. Brendon favours 50-minute stretches of focused work separated by 10-minute check-outs. No matter what I'm doing, when the timer hits 50 minutes, I stop. No checking email. texts, or social media. My goal is to separate myself from my desk, stretch, and recharge.
Before I go to bed, I write down three things I am grateful and the top three things I want to create the next day. Those three things become the focus of my 50-minute session the next day.
And, I added a 30-minute power nap to my routine...
According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang,"Top performers actually slept about an hour a day more than the average performers. They didn’t sleep late. They got more sleep because they napped during the day.". Short thirty-minute power naps are good for boosting alertness and mental clarity. My naps are physically restorative, feeding my creative activities, and improving my memory.
Here's what my perfect day looks like on a micro-level:
5:00 am – Wake up, meditate and hydrate (water, lemon and salt mix).
5:30 am – Run 6 - 12 km through the forest (movement, light and a podcast).
6:00 am – Shower (cold therapy), healthy breakfast with green juice or Rich's EPIC5 Recovery Blend.
8:00 am – Start 4 morning 50 min sessions – complete my top three tasks on my list for the day.
12:00 pm – Healthy lunch at home or lunch meeting with someone who inspires me. If I'm home, take a walk and 30-min power nap to trick my body into thinking it is morning – sparking creativity round two.
2.00 pm – Back to my 50 min sessions, the top three on my to-do-list, conference calls, creating training material, recording videos, or working with clients.
5:00 pm – Walk in the woods, yoga, other activities.
7:00 pm – Healthy dinner at home with my daughter or out with friends + read, movies, events with influencers on the town.
9:30 pm – Make a list of what I'm most grateful for today, create a "completed list" of what I did today. Write the top three list of what I want to create tomorrow.
10:00 – Meditate, sleep, dream, recover the body.
Things don't always go to plan. But I do my best to protect my mornings, my most productive time.
Having created a routine for my perfect day, I'm set up for the month ahead. This month is all about creating. Writing a booklet, delivering a webinar and creating an online boot camp for entrepreneurs wanting to build a business around their lifestyle.
Purpose + Plants = Peace
- Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.
- The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper and Leaving a Legacy, Lewis Howes
- Own The Day - Aubrey Marcus
The podcast: Become the Master of Your Life - Lewis Howes, The School of Greatness EP 614
The research: Cold Shocking the Body Exploring Cryotherapy, ColdWater Immersion, and Cold Stress