Mary is a private coaching client of mine. She’s an ambitious, single mom who recently left her corporate job to launch a small business. She’s definitely in “startup mode.”
You can probably relate to Mary’s hopes and dreams of becoming financially free and living life on her terms, while building a business that helps people and supports her goal of traveling the world.
If you can, that means you probably also share one of her fatal flaws. Mary is a Type-A personality and she takes on too many commitments and responsibilities. She says “yes” to every opportunity that comes her way because she’s worried she might miss out on a connection, a breakthrough, or a deal.
Mary even takes this approach with her morning routine. She’s heard how important it is to do meditation, to take time for gratitude journaling, to exercise, to do yoga, to do free-form journaling (writing down all of her thoughts), and to watch a motivational video first thing in the morning.
As you can imagine, this morning routine takes a lot of time. Frustrated with this busy-ness, Mary recently emailed me.
“Craig,” she said, “I get up at 5 a.m. to get things done, and I still feel like I’m running behind by 7 a.m. when my daughter gets up. Once I get her breakfast and off to school, it’s nearly 9 a.m. and I don’t get through my email until nearly 10 a.m. By then I’m ready to go back to bed.”
Mary wasn’t making any progress on her routine, so I proposed a drastic solution.
“It’s time to put some of your morning routine on the chopping block,” I said.
Bruce Lee said, “It’s not about the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
If you want to do GREAT things, you need to do FEWER things.
“Mary,” I said in my follow-up email to her, “Stop trying to do so much first thing in the morning. You can’t do meditation, gratitude journaling, a long workout, personal development reading, motivational video-watching, Instagramming, and yoga (or yoga while Instagramming!) all before breakfast. You need to cut some of these activities and focus on what matters, saving you time and stress.”
For example, I offered, here’s what I do in the morning to ensure that I move toward my big goals and dreams each day:
I wake up. I go to the bathroom. I splash water on my face, walk down the stairs, pet the dog for 30 seconds, and then sit down in front of my computer. I turn it on, put on my writing music (Chopin’s “Complete Nocturnes”), and open up a Word document with my most important daily writing task.
Then I sit there and do the work. Or as Brian Tracy says in his book of the same name, “I eat that frog.”
This is what Mary should do. This is what YOU should do.
If you are struggling to complete the most important tasks in your day—whether it’s writing a chapter for your book, doing your taxes, or preparing that PowerPoint presentation for the marketing team—you should wake up and get to work as soon as possible.
Some professionals, like authors Steven Pressfield and Stephen King, go through a non-work morning ritual before they sit down to work at 9 a.m. sharp. Pressfield, in his book, “The War of Art,” talks about going for a morning hike before returning to his house, putting on his writing uniform (his favorite sweatshirt), and sitting down at his computer to write. King also begins writing at 9 a.m. and sits there as long as it takes to complete his daily word allotment (2,000 words).
I don’t share the same routines as King and Pressfield (aside from writing in my favorite sweatshirt), but I do engage in morning rituals. As the owner of a coaching business—with many employees and clients to manage and connect with each day—my morning gets busy with phone calls and emails by 10 a.m. That’s why I must write before the sun—and civilization—rises.
If you want to do GREAT things, you need to do FEWER things.
Right now it’s nearly 5 a.m. and I’ve nearly eaten my frog. It wasn’t tasty—not at all. It was tough. My mind wandered, and my fingers wanted to dance over to the mousepad and open up the browser to check sports scores—a bad habit I picked up as a bored child on the farm.
Knowing my weaknesses, I designed a system to ensure my Perfect Mornings. When you control your morning, you own your day. When you own your day, you take big leaps toward success and creating your legacy, and that’s what “The Perfect Day Formula” is all about. (Click here to get a FREE copy of this life-changing book.)
But if you clutter your morning with the unessential—if your routine becomes about the daily increase rather than the daily decrease—you find frustration, struggles, and stagnation in your business, your career, and nearly every area of life.
This brings us back to Mary.
“Mary, you’re doing too much,” I said to her. “Just imagine what you could you do with an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning when you could focus on real work. We need to cut down on your morning self-care rituals. You just don’t have time for everything.”
So, I suggested these three things Mary could cut to ensure maximum productivity in her mornings (and they work for everyone):
First, don’t do redundant “New Age” activities.
Meditation, gratitude exercises, and journaling are all wonderful, helpful activities—in theory. But if they are taking up more than 20 minutes of your morning and you’re struggling to get other things done, then they are having the opposite of their intended effect.
My friend, business partner, and coaching client, Bedros Keuilian, recognized this. He tried to do meditation and gratitude journaling in the morning, and it just left him stressed. Neither felt natural to him. He decided that instead of forcing these activities into his schedule that he would simply get up, take his dog Cookie outside, and do a quick little gratitude exercise (one that he made up) while playing fetch with Cookie.
After 10 minutes, Bedros goes back inside, has a protein shake, and sits down to work on his biggest priority for the day. He usually has this completed before his kids wake up. Then his family has breakfast together and he sees them off before heading to the gym. He’s happy, productive, and grateful—not overextended like Mary.
Second, cut back on your morning exercise.
I made a career out of showing people they could get the same physical and mental benefits from short bursts of exercise as they can with long bouts of exercise. You don’t need a full hour in the gym. You can dramatically cut the length of your exercise routine, save time, and give those minutes to what matters in your business. I encourage you to start today. Instead of spending 60 minutes in the gym, cut back to 40 minutes. [Here are some helpful videos to get you started.]
Third, don’t do anything else until you’ve given 15 minutes of focused work to the number-one priority in your business.
For Mary, that means preparing for her daily sales calls. After taking my advice, she has been able to modify her sales scripts and practice her “close” out loud. This has quickly led to an increase in the number of converted prospects—without mad scrambles or jumbled sales calls.
Making these three changes eased the stress in Mary’s mind. She still felt inner peace and enjoyed good health from her self-care routine in the morning, but no longer felt rushed.
Hacking away at the unessential, and thus doing fewer things, allowed her to do GREAT things. Her business started growing faster. She was able to be present with her daughter during a leisurely breakfast rather than rushing her to get ready. Mary’s sales calls went smoother and her clients noticed a calmer demeanor in their interactions.
My challenge to you today is this: What is one activity that you could cut or stop in your morning routine that would save you 10-20 extra minutes and make a BIG difference in your life?
Put that on the chopping block.
Hack away so you can do greater things today.
Now that you know what NOT to do in your mornings, find out what you need to DO…
Sign up now to get our FREE Morning Routine guide—the #1 way to increase productivity, energy, and focus for profitable days. Used by thousands of fitness, business, and finance industry leaders to leapfrog the competition while making time for the people who really matter. Learn more here.