Several months ago, I found myself (once again) in a situation where I felt out of control, stressed, overwhelmed, and just frustrated overall. It seemed that I couldn’t ever catch up, much less get ahead. No matter how hard I worked and the hours I was putting, it was never enough. So, I blamed the amount of workload in my job and just adopted the belief that it was just part of the territory and I needed to get used to it.

The problem with that is that I knew better. I remember one particular night I was feeling exceptionally frustrated and so I turned on the television to take my mind off of things, and on the TV was President Obama. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m not busy…THERE’S is a guy that’s busy.” It got me thinking about all the people that are “busier” than I am, and appear to be handling it quite well. Tim Cook, Mark Cuban, President Obama, Ryan Seacrest…and before I knew it I had a list of names of people that I’m quite certain are far “busier” than I am.

I didn’t do this to make myself feel better or to minimize my job or workload, I did it so that I could begin to figure out what I was doing wrong. It was through this process that I really discovered that my “problem” wasn’t in the amount of work associated with my career, but rather the disorganization of every other aspect of my life. It was easier to blame work, because work was “other people” and all the things there were doing to me that I didn’t have to take responsibility for.

I realized that I was starting my day in a very counterproductive manner that was setting the tone of disorganization, frustration, procrastination, and all the other things that had me feeling overwhelmed. My day (start to finish) was absolutely running my life and not the other way around. The other thing the list of people did for me was show me that not only were those people “busier” than I was, but they were in control of their time and I wasn’t. If I was going to get rid of this “black cloud” hanging over me that was filling my life with frustration, resentment, anger, anxiety, stress, and all of the other terrible emotions that were ruling me – I was going to have to be the one to make the change. It wasn’t work, family, relationships, or anything – it was me.

The great thing about realizing that WE are the ones responsible for everything that happens in our lives is the fact that because we are responsible – we have the ability to fix it.

A problem is only a problem if we have the ability to do something about it.

Deep down, I had always wanted to be a morning person. I wanted to be the person that was up and productive before everyone else, probably because that symbolized control. Those people had their stuff together and were making things happen. Again, I went back to my list of “busier people” and a common thread amongst all of them is their morning routine. Tim Cook is up at 4:30 every morning and starting his day with a purpose.

Me? I was up in time to get run around my apartment with my hair on fire, running late, trying to find my car keys, skipping breakfast, realizing that I forgot to get gas the night before and now I’m REALLY late!

This had to change.

Enter Jeff Sanders. I discovered Jeff’s book “The 5AM Miracle” right at the time I was looking for a roadmap of how to get back in control. Reading and working through this book gave me exactly the template I was looking for, and it’s been a total game changer for me.

I, like most people, was starting every day with a tone of procrastination which lead to increased stress and anxiety. The absolute worst thing was my snooze button addition. I would hit snooze on my alarm 4 or 5 times before I even woke up and realized what I was doing. I had conditioned my body to hit snooze while I was still asleep! Five snoozes at nine minutes each…I’m almost an hour behind and I haven’t even opened my eyes!

Then, because I was running late I would skip breakfast, leave the newspaper (yes, I still get the newspaper every day – New York Times if you’re curious) on the porch, not make my bed (because who has time for THAT?!), and forget about any exercise!

Every one of those things sets and amplifies a tone of procrastination for the rest of the day. My level of stress had nothing to do with my job, and EVERYTHING to do with what I was doing long before I ever even stepped foot in the office. So, long story longer, here’s what I did to correct it.

  1. Ditch the snooze button. This was tough because it was automatic for me. So I had to move my alarm far enough away that turning it off actually requires getting out of bed. Then, once I’m up I force myself to stay up.
  2. Overnight your body naturally dehydrates – so the next thing I do is start pounding water. I, much like Jeff Sanders, drink a liter of water before leaving the house.
  3. Exercise. Do something first thing in the morning to get your heart rate up – even if it’s something quick and simple, personally, I’ve started running. I’m out the door by 5:10 and I will run for 30-45 minutes. I’ve got my headphones in, super energetic and uplifting music, and because it’s 5am – there’s really no one else up and around so it gives me time to really connect with mind, body, and spirit and get my mind set in a productive and positive direction.
  4. Guided meditation. I was most skeptical of this, but I have to tell you, it works! I downloaded the app “HeadSpace” and it’s been a game changer for me. 10 minute guided meditation to help keep my mind focused and under control. You’d be amazed at how powerful it is to take control of your thoughts and mind…download this app. Trust me.
  5. Make my bed. This is one of the first “tasks” of the day and just by simply completing that – I’ve shifted from a mode of procrastination to productivity and accomplishment. I learned that we’re most likely to accomplish and achieve something immediately after we have accomplished or achieved something. This energy and momentum has an INCREDIBLE impact on the rest of the day.

And there you have it, those are the key things that I do every morning to kickstart my day in a way that is going to serve me the rest of the day. I can’t begin to tell you what an impact this has had on my life in almost every area.

This blog has become extremely long, so I’ll stop here…in my next entry…I’ll give the second part to this: my nightly routine. 🙂