Mornings are an entrepreneur’s prime time. Most everyone else is still asleep, or just waking up (and sleep-deprived, in some cases).
You need to build structure over the first 6-8 waking hours of your day. Of all the reasons to do it, I’ve found these most compelling:
- We’re subject to personal entropy. Distraction, error, dysfunction and chaos are much more natural than focus, precision, consistency and order.
- If you don’t build structure around your morning, chaos will gladly seize it. Even if your calendar’s clear and there’s nothing but “deep work” to do … Murphy’s Law will pull you off course.
- Entrepreneurship is both personal and professional transformation. It’s as important to learn deep breathing and self-control as it is to learn marketing techniques or sales approaches.
Business is a mental sport, and mindset will carry you much further than knowing the latest hack for funnel growth. There’s more about this on the “What’s The Secret?” podcast.
Everyone’s routine is different, but most of what we do falls under these three essential morning habits for highly effective entrepreneurs.
The Brain Dump
Do you have trouble falling asleep at night, because you can’t stop thinking? I’ve seen those memes on the internet, with the cartoon of someone lying in bed, ruminating on the most random, meaningless trivia they can recall.
It’s funny, because it happens to all of us! But few bother to ask why it happens, which makes all the difference. You can actually overcome this, if you know the origin.
In his book The Perfect Day Formula, business coach Craig Ballantyne shares how he overcomes intense anxiety and sleeplessness. He “empties” his mind before going to bed. Borrowing the famous expression “brain dump,” Craig has a nightly pre-bedtime ritual of writing out his entire plan for the next day.
Take a moment to imagine the difference, if you spend ten minutes before bedtime writing out everything that’s floating around in your head:
- Tomorrow’s essential tasks
- Tomorrow’s non-essential tasks
- Things you’ve been thinking about that need some work
- Things you’ve been thinking about that don’t need your attention
- Random things like the entire libretto to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals
Okay, you don't have to write that last one. But you get the idea: use waking hours, rather than sleeping ones, to expel your stream of consciousness on paper (or a digital journal if you prefer).
Practically, this comes from a timeless habit abandoned only in the last 50 years or so – journaling. On a deeper level, we’re getting our own thoughts, or “content,” out of our internal system. As we write it, we’ll be more capable of thinking critically about it.
When you write, however, you also “pre-program” yourself. Yes, you use your eyes to read what you write. But you also use your ears to “audio-process” the words, which means your internal system “hears” the commands, and stores them.
Remember, if you don’t get your mindset straight, all of this is academic. Check out some of the episodes we have on mindset in the “What’s The Secret?” Podcast.
The next habit is breathing. Now, before you think, “Gaddis, I already breathe just fine,” the reality is … you probably don’t. Most of us don’t belly-breathe. We take shallow breaths all day long, depriving our minds, muscles and circulatory systems of much-needed oxygen.
I would add deep breathing to any meditation or spiritual nourishment you do, such as prayer. Many entrepreneurs use some form of stretching or yoga early in the morning, which involves four-second breaths, in and out. It slows your heart rate, which opens your mind and frees you to relax.
I also recommend doing this outside. Here in Maui, there’s nothing like a morning on the patio with a cup of coffee, just staring at palm trees and blue skies. But this works even in cold climates, where the wintery morning air is crisp and moist. You just need the right layers, so you don’t shiver and defeat the purpose.
You might have read somewhere, your brain actually needs oxygen, in plentiful supply. There are tremendous benefits to your physiological and spiritual mind, and these two systems “talk” to each other. Nourishing your body requires nourishing your mindset, with tangible and intangible nutrients.
Don’t forget another important way to enrich your mindset – listen to the “What’s The Secret?” Podcast, which has an entire season dedicated to it.
Become a Loadmaster
I enjoy watching our military men and women do what they do, because their philosophy is to leave zero margin for error. Can you blame them? Their job includes risking everything, including their lives.
Military cargo vehicles – boats, trucks, planes and whatever else they use – use “loadmasters” to ensure cargo is loaded correctly. This way, it isn’t destroyed or lost during the journey. Loadmasters are strategic about where they place the largest, heaviest objects that do the most damage.
If you grasp the analogy, that’s what you need to do during those first 6-8 waking hours. Prioritize tasks in your business that make the heaviest impact.
At Offline Sharks, the company I co-own with Nick Ponte, we teach our students about the acronym “RPA,” which stands for “revenue-producing activity.” In the life of an online marketing agency, there isn’t a more important job, especially in the early days. You can imagine – it takes priority in my morning routine.
In other words, the less important details in your business, like sorting through e-mail or checking social media, need to take a backseat in the morning. If you can’t say “no” to them, heavier things that could “explode” your revenue won’t simply fail to explode. They’ll implode, and you’ll lose thousands or millions of dollars in potential income.
It’s important, then, to get minor tasks in your business under someone else’s control. Yes, you must create the process. But once you’ve done that, the next thing you need to do is write it out as instructions, record it on a Loom video and hire a virtual assistant, subcontractor or employee to handle them.
Finite Mind, Infinite Mindset
In the first season of the “What’s The Secret?” Podcast, we spent a lot of time discussing how you have to keep your mind clear. As the owner and CEO of your business, you can’t afford to operate with a clogged mind.
But, if you continually renew your mind, you can go a lot further than you think. Remember: it starts the previous night, by unpacking your mind so it can rest properly. Brain dumps preempt your tendency to lay awake, thinking compulsively. You’ll sleep sooner, longer and more deeply.
In the early morning, you have to give your mind a healthy injection of its natural, intended “steroid” – physical and verbal oxygen. Deep breathing, accompanied by meditation, prayer, affirmations or journaling will supply the correct fuel for you to go the distance in the morning.
And then, you operate according to the loadmaster’s plan. You tackle the heavy, consequential work first, refusing to attend to lesser matters until you have time. Turn off your phone, close e-mail, shut the door and move the needle.