My evening routine consists of preparing for 2 things: Good sleep and my morning routine. There are enough people who preach the importance of sleep so I’ll talk about my morning and how important that is to my life.
For me the morning is the only time of day where I get uninterrupted time to myself. Its when I work on quadrant 2 stuff that isn’t important or urgent but adds massive value to my life. Its when I do my reflecting. My planning. My thinking. My exercise. All of the stuff that leads to long term growth and having a better life 5 years from now than I do right now.
As a father, a social person and a business owner the time after 10am is up in the air. You never know what could throw a wrench into your day. So the things that are important to me get done before 9am.
So lets start the evening before and talk about how I prepare for my morning routine. This might seem over complicated and I don’t recommend mimicking it verbatim. I have been doing a lot of different things and this has been an evolution. It still changes often. Take the things from this that might work for you and ignore everything else.
At 5pm I drink 32 oz water and take multivitamins. I have a daily reminder at this time because I’m never thirsty.
There are two main reasons for this aside from the obvious benefits of drinking more water. It fills me up slightly and keeps me from overeating at dinner and it also keeps me from chugging water at 8pm when I usually get very thirsty. If I drink water after about 6pm I have to get up in the night multiple times.
At around 5pm I also fill a 60oz vacuum flask with ice and water. This keeps it cold for about 24 hours. I take this up to my office and my goal is to drink it before lunch and on my cycling days I use It to mix my pre-workout and my protein shake. We’ll get to that later.
While I’m drinking the water I do a brain dump on a notepad on my kitchen island. This ranges from 3 minutes to 10 minutes and involves me brainstorming things that are currently worrying me or that I need to make sure to get done first thing tomorrow morning. What is stressing me out? Just a bullet point list. This really lets me clear my head and relax and not hold on to worrisome thoughts that may keep me awake. Note that this is not a to-do list. I already made a to do list while at work before I left or at the beginning of the week and what I need to do is clear.
At 7pm my phone goes in the guest bedroom on do not disturb mode. I wish I could use my phone and have balance but I just can’t. Family members know to call my wife after hours to reach us. Its too hard for me not to check email for new customers or negotiation responses on property or new likes or downloads of the podcast.
5-7 pm we have family time – cooking, dinner, cleanup, playing with my son, talking with my wife.
After dinner and cleanup I prepare for my morning routine. The goal here is to take every bit of friction out of the morning routine so I can do it on complete autopilot with no busywork or setup.
On Monday and Thursday I do weight training. On Tuesdays and Friday mornings I ride my bike. On Wednesday I just write first thing and then go for a walk with my son when he wakes up.
On cycling days I put the vacuum flask that I filled with water right next to the bathroom sink. Next to it I put an empty shaker bottle with pre-workout in the bottom so in the morning I can just pour the water into the bottle and have my pre-workout right away right after I take my morning leak. I even put my protein shake in the bathroom next to my office so I can put water in it and drink it while I shower after the workout. I only use the pre-workout for the cycling workouts because they are higher intensity. Coffee after the weight training and shower is generally my go-to.
On non-cycling days I grind coffee beans and set my coffee maker to brew at 5:30am. Its not a hot plate but a thermal carafe so by the time I sit down to write its cooled off just enough to drink.
The night before weight days I put my gym clothes on the floor next to my bed so I can wake up and put the clothes on the second my feet hit the ground. Including my sneakers.
The night before bike days I get my office ready for my morning ride. I get the bike ready to be plugged in and my fan setup. I adjust my desk to the right height. I get my computer put in the right spot with the app launched and my workout selected so I can easily just click in and start my workout. I put my cycling shoes right next to my bike. I put my towels on my handle bars and a cliff bar on the desk next to my bike. In my bedroom I put my full cycling kit on the floor by my bed.
Everything is ready for me to simply wake up and take action. When my feet touch the ground I step right into my cycling shorts, heart rate monitor, and socks. walk into the bathroom and drink my pre-workout and then get on my bike. 5 minutes after I wake up I’m warming up and 30 minutes after I wake up my morning workout is done.
It sound silly but I also pick out my clothing and hang them in my bathroom so I can put them on without thought right after my post-workout shower. This also makes a difference.
The goal here is to reduce friction. I can go on autopilot and not think about anything or do any busywork. Every morning decision is made for me. Its all a process that is already laid out before me. James Clear in Atomic Habits talks a lot about reducing friction and it works. It’s a lot easier to make yourself do something that isn’t fun if its all laid out right before you before you even step out of bed.
I also have a morning writing routine which I prepare for the night before. I chose the topics in advance. I keep a running list of podcast ideas, personal goals or business problems that I want to contemplate and brainstorm on.
I write the topic on the top of a Google Doc. Usually just a few words. I put the computer in offline mode and set it on the kitchen table downstairs where I do my writing while my son plays in the morning and before my wife and baby son wake up. I put a cliff bar (nut butter filled) on top of the computer. I love these things and they are my early morning snack most days.
Now I’m ready for bed. All of this prep generally only takes about 15 minutes.
I give my son a bath and put him down for bed around 8:15pm.
At about 8:30 I do my posture exercises and foam rolling. This takes 10 minutes or less. Right after that I take a very quick shower (<5 minutes) and try to meditate through it. Taking deep breaths and letting thoughts pass through my head without focusing on them.
When I get out of the shower I do a 10 minute stretching routine followed by about 5 minutes with a Thera cane to loosen up my back and relax my muscles. I have a notepad near my bed in case any additional stressful thoughts come up that need attention when I get into work mode the next day.
My wife and I often do massage on our massage table. Lately I’ve been taking a shift with the new baby from 7pm-10pm while she gets a head start on sleep. I try to adapt and adjust and do as much winding down as possible. When my wife is awake we generally spend time together while winding down.
In an ideal world I try to be down with the lights out by 9:30pm. When my head hits the pillow I do everything in my power to totally relax my thoughts. When a thought pops up I just try to let it pass as if it were a cloud floating along. I don’t take action on that thought and let it take me down a long thought hole running from one thing to the other and likely leading to stress or worry or anxiety about what needs to be done tomorrow. Just try to clear my head and let the thoughts pass on while breathing intentionally. Its not an intense form of meditation but it really works for me.
I still fall into the thought traps that keep me awake often. It takes a lot of practice clearing the mind. No phone and the routine really help but it takes work. I’m still practicing!
My son wakes up between 6:30 and 7am so my alarm goes off at 5:30. When I wake up step 1 is to workout. I go through that routine explained earlier. I do this 4 days a week.
A quick note on workouts. It shouldn’t take you an hour to do a workout. Leave your phone in the car if you go to the gym. Get your heart rate up even if you’re lifting weights. It works for me and is much more efficient than what I see a lot of other people doing at the gym. They get about 15 minutes of work in for each 1 hour session. Get there and get done. Superset your workouts. Do the 80/20 of workouts. The 20% that gets you 80% of the results. Be efficient.
After the workout and shower (generally about 45 minutes after I’ve woken up) I go downstairs and open my computer. I’m usually here by 6:20am. I pour myself a cup of coffee that was automatically brewed and while its cooling I drink a 32oz glass of water and eat my cliff bar. These nut butter cliff bars are amazing and the wife and I go through several boxes a week. They’re perfect for putting off meals or spacing out calories through the day so you can keep your mood great and your metabolism kicking.
Notice my phone is still on airplane mode in the guest bedroom. I don’t have any input. No emails. No social media. No texts. No stress. Just an open mind ready to be creative and solve problems. This has been huge for me. Getting constantly flooded with input in the form of technology or social media or emails puts the brain in a reactive mode. Your mind is on defense.
Sometimes I just don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel creative. I don’t feel energized. I just make myself write anyway. Even if it is really crappy writing. Even if I end up having to erase it all. I start with bullet points. I work through it. Sometimes I don’t hit the flow state at all but other times I snap into it and have a super creative session.
I do a lot of my little business run downs on how to start different services at this time.
Sometimes I’m ultra efficient and split what I write into two podcast topics or articles. I generally get about 1000 words in a 30 minute session. Its rough stuff. I don’t edit it before you see it right here on the website. Some articles take multiple days or I end up writing for an hour or two hours until 9am. Those are good days.
Many times I’m working on business problems and brainstorming solutions. I’m doing fear setting and outlining the absolute worst case scenario if I make a decision and it ends up going wrong. A lot of these sessions bleed right into work and I end up flipping on my internet and having a super productive few hours before I get overloaded with emails or get important phone calls that interrupt my work.
Sometimes I do a to-do list revamp and brainstorm all of the important-but-not-urgent things that I could be doing that are above and beyond but will likely produce awesome results. These type things include reaching out to high profile people to get them on the podcast. Sending a thank you note to investors. Prospecting new deals. Stuff like that that its easy to push off and never do but can pay huge dividends if you do it.
This has been the most effective habit I’ve ever had. In about 5 hours work a week I feed this entire blog, the subreddit, the youtube channel and the podcast with content. I feel like I’m a lot more clear on my objectives and what I need to do each day. Its an amazing feeling and I’m only getting better at writing. After all I’m nearly 200,000 words deep already.
Try some variation of this routine and see if it works for you. Stick with it for a few weeks and enjoy the awesome results. It sounds intense but it really doesn’t have that many moving parts. Here are the basics:
- Put phone away, prepare for the next day and get your mind ready for sleep
- Wake up and work out. Set it up so you can go through the motions with no friction.
- Write or journal on your problems or goals
- Turn on phone and go about your normal day
A few notes: I don’t watch TV. The average American watches that 5 hours per day. I don’t waste time on social media after 7pm.
Those two things right there give me more than enough time to run this blog, exercise and do a lot of important things that help me out in the long term.