7 Daily Rituals that Help me Win the Day

How do you have the best day, every day?

Some days you feel like everything is going great. You’re focussed. You’re ‘on it’. You cut through your to-do list. You feel satisfied at the end of the day. You’ve achieved big things.

Some days the opposite happens. You don’t feel quite right. You have things on your mind. Perhaps you couldn’t sleep last night. You are sluggish. You can’t focus. Decisions are hard to make. You procrastinate. Negative self-talk creeps into your mind. You feel like your head is disconnected from your body. You’re having a bad day.

Sound familiar?

Why is it some days we feel great, and others we do not?

A few years ago a conversation I had changed the way I approached my days forever. I used to believe days just ‘happened’. But what if we could intentionally create these ‘best days’, so they happened regularly?

A Conversation with a Sky-Diver

Three years ago I was chatting with Dan Brodsky Chenfield, a world champion parachute jumper. Dan became world champion after he survived a plane crash that killed half his crew, broke his back & neck and was told by doctors he could never jump again. In short, a pretty incredible guy.

During our chat, he told me how he takes having his best day every day very seriously. When he has a good day, he records what happened that helps put him in that high-performance mood. How many hours sleep he had, what he ate, what exercise he did and so on. He then created a repeatable routine around those things that caused the positive states.

It was paradigm shift moment for me. I had always thought good / bad days just ‘happened’, without thinking they could be created intentionally.

That led me down a path of research and testing to find the perfect routine that would help me create the perfect day, as often as possible.

My Bad Days

This was perfect timing for me. At the time I was experiencing some stressful times in my own business. I was worrying about the future, my relationship with my business partner was becoming difficult & shit was generally hitting the fan.

This led me to have anxiety for one of the first times in my life, not sleeping well. I was a having bad days.

Earthquake re-enforcement

I refer to these stressful moments as ‘earthquakes’. Who knows when they will hit. The only thing certain is that these earthquakes will hit.

So I created a daily routine that is my earthquake re-enforcement scaffolding.

It doesn’t prevent the earthquake from happening (nothing can do that), but it allows me to withstand the impact of the earthquake.

My Routine

I’m a productivity geek. Each part of my routine I learned from other peak performers in hundreds of books, conversations, speeches and podcasts. I then took them away and personally tested myself to see what seemed to actually work. Those that did I kept as created my own routine out of them.

In this post, I distill the best of what I’ve learned, together with details of the exact routine I now use. I hope that by reading this, that you’ll be able to take some of these lessons to improve your own performance, and have good days more regularly.

My routine focuses on the morning. I’ve found this is the time I can influence the outcome of my day and my mental state the most.

running startup

Step 1 – Exercise

Every day I begin with approx. 40 mins exercise.

Why exercise? Why in the morning?

Simply, it wakes me up and releases endorphins that make you feel good, to put you in a positive state. This routine alone has been life changing for me.

Tim Ferris wrote in his book The Four Hour Body, about an occasion where a group of people were assembled on Richard Branson’s private island to brainstorm growth options for Branson’s Virgin Unite project. Branson was posted with the question:

‘What is your secret to being so productive?’

Branson leant back and thought for a second. Then he said, ‘work out’.

He said that working out in them morning gave him at least four additional hours of productive time every day.

Branson’s rational is that exercising in the morning gives him extra energy, focus and improved decision-making capabilities that translate to an extra four hours of productive time a day.

How I do it

I am for 40 mins of exercise every morning.

My exercise habit currently alternates between, 40 min run, swim, or core workout (circuits).

Some people prefer evenings, I find it doesn’t work for me. My willpower decreases in the evening, and I make excuses.

If I’ve been having a really bad day and I didn’t get to exercise in the morning, I would pop out at lunchtime to do a run or swim. It would reset my brain and get me feeling good for the rest of the day.

Take action:

Do you currently exercise every day? If not, try exercising three mornings in the next seven days.

I promise you will see a huge change in your productivity levels for the rest of the day.

cold shower

Step 2 – Cold Shower

Yep, you read right. It’s shower time. And one way guaranteed to give you a bolt of energy is a cold shower.

Why cold showers?

I heard about this first from Tony Robbins, who says he has a cold shower every morning to get his nervous system firing and make him feel alive. When I jump in the cold shower I literally replay him saying in my mind.

No matter how tired I might be, a cold shower suddenly makes me awake, alert and focussed on what I want to achieve that day.

How I do it:

I turn the shower as cold as the shower goes. Then, I jump in! Keep in on cold for approx. 30 seconds, making sure to turn around and wet every part of the body (spending the most time on your head/face). After 30 seconds it’s fine to turn the shower warm.

Take Action:

Try it tomorrow. Aim for even 10 seconds under the cold shower if it’s your first time.

breakfast

3 – Breakfast

People that know me will know breakfast is a bit of a ritual of its own. I never start the day without it.

It refuels my body after morning exercise and keeps my energy levels up for the rest of the morning. There’s lots of research that say breakfast if good for both your mental and physical health.

How I do it

My thing is porridge.

I love porridge, its health benefits have been widely reported, but it brings me back to my childhood, happy memories growing up in the Irish countryside with my parents.

I take this ritual to the extreme. I take a bag of porridge with me when I’m travelling, here’s picture of my eating porridge on a beach in Mexico.

How to make great porridge? Some tips:

– Use Jumbo organic oats. Soak the oats overnight in boiling water. The oats will absorb the water overnight. That way you can just add milk and heat up in the morning. Saves time.
– On top, I add honey, seeds (chia, linseed, pumpkin), fruit (peaches, strawberries are favourites) and unflavoured Greek yoghurt
– To mix things up add raw cacao powder for healthy ‘chocolate porridge’, or peanut butter (meridian peanut, or almond and coconut are mind blowing)
Essentially I use it as a base to load up on lots of healthy stuff to fuel me for the day ahead.

If you eat cereal every day, watch it doesn’t contain lots of sugar. Almost all of them do even the ‘healthy’ granolas, and mueslis.

I have this with a cup of coffee: Grind my coffee using a simple twin blade coffee grinder, Climpson and Son’s coffee beans. Drink with a small amount of milk.

Take action:

Start your healthy daily breakfast ritual tomorrow

 

Step 4 – Journaling

Once I get to my desk, before I turn on my computer or check my emails, I open my journal.

I use the next five minutes journaling to put myself in a positive mental state & focus what are the most important things to accomplish that day. In these five minutes, I take a moment to remember the things I’m grateful for, and what my priorities are for that day.

I find this an important step because from the moment I turn on my computer, there will be floods of requests asking me to do things in my inbox. This puts me into reactionary mode. I find these requests are usually urgent (for someone else), but rarely the most important things for me to do to accomplish my long term goals.

How I do it:

In my journal I answer the following questions:

Question 1:
What are 3 things am I most grateful for today?

This question makes you stop and reflect on how fortunate I am in so many ways. These change every day. Some examples might be:
– I’m grateful I’m healthy & feel good (so many people do not have that)
– I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned in the past four years growing my business
– I’m grateful for my loving girlfriend
– I’m grateful that I’m born in a time of peace, and don’t need to go to war (people born 100 years ago had to do this stuff)

Question 2:

What’s the one thing I’m most anxious about?

This is normally the most important thing I need to deal with!

Question 3:

What 3 things that if I accomplish today, would mean I have an incredible day?

These give me focus on the most important things I want to achieve that day, these are always in line with my long term goals.

You can do this on a piece of paper, on a notebook, or a dedicated morning journal such as The 5 Minute Journal.

Take Action

Take 5 minutes to journal tomorrow, by answering the three questions above.

write

Step 5 – Write / Create

The latest addition to my daily routine (and one I’m really enjoying), is block booking the first hour of the day for creative work. No other distractions.

Creating content regularly is aligned with my long-term goals. It’s a classic ‘important, but not urgent’ thing to do. So by doing this first thing in the morning, I have a sense of achievement that stays with me for the rest of the day.

I find I’m at my best creatively first thing in the morning. It’s when ideas flow and make sense in my mind. It’s also the time when my willpower is at it’s strongest and I can resist temptations such as Facebook, email etc.

My creative time involves writing. You know what yours is.

How I do it:

My routine is set myself a goal. My goal is to write 500 words a day. Sometimes I write more than this (today, for example, I have written over 1,000 words), but I must force myself to write 500 words, even on days I don’t feel like it.

Take Action:

What’s the one creative thing that’s aligned with your long term goals that you could do first thing in the morning?

Set a goal and begin ‘making the chain’ of doing it every day.

meditate startup

Step 6 – Meditate

After I’ve written for approx. an hour, I then take a break to meditate. I’ve written before about why I meditate, but if you’re new to it, just think of it as a gym workout for your mind to keep it healthy.

How I do it

I use the Headspace app on 10-minute setting. I meditate for 10 minutes immediately after I complete my creative block time. I’ll do this at home, in a locked toilet cubicle, on public transport. Set the alarm on your phone to go off every morning to remind you for the first few days until you form a habit.

Step 7 – Green Juice

Exercising first thing in the morning gets your metabolism fired up, so after I meditate, I’m hungry again (did I mention I eat a lot? 😉 So time for a green juice.

This is my perfect mid-morning snack as it loads my body with greens and nutrients to keep me energised.

How I do it

I use the Nutri-Ninja as you can put in pretty much anything and it will juice it up (but doesn’t remove the pulp like ‘juicer’s’ do)

My typical juice will be:
– 1 carrot
– Handful of berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries…depending what’s in the fridge)
– 2 handful of Spinach (preferred to Kale)
– 1x tablespoon of organic Spirulina
– 1x Scoop of unflavoured whey protein

Take Action

Pre-plan a healthy mid-morning snack to see you through the rest of the morning.

Summary

These are the routines I take to make my day great. I find my doing these 7 routines every day that it puts my in a positive state, makes me feel more satisfied and accomplished.

It’s similar to scaffolding I put up around me to both help me withstand any earthquakes that come in the day and to intentionally create good days more regularly.

Still evolving…

I still strive for improvement. e.g. I still hit snooze far too many times before I get out of bed. That’s my next improvement ☺

Your Turn:

What is your daily routine? What one thing are you going to add to your current routine? Please share in the comments below