Finding the optimal morning routine has been the subject of many productivity articles of late. Some say you have to wake up at 5 a.m. (or earlier!) to really get things done. Others suggest taking your time in the morning so as to fully let your mind wake up.
I have a different approach that has nothing to do with what time you get up. Instead, it emphasizes using the time you have for the most stimulating inputs and outputs. Whatever you do, the activities must play to your strengths and help you get into a flow for the day.
Here's my routine:
1. Lift weights--the heavier the better.
For the past 20 years, I have been lifting weights quite regularly. And I'm not talking about pink dumbbells; I opt for 45-pound plates.
Exercise is a staple of my morning routine, and recent studies from earlier this month link lifting to improved cognition in older adults and reduction to symptoms of depression for people of all ages. For women there is notable improvement in bone density and health, and this is truly the only way to transform the physical structure of your body.
I grew up with a fear that I would eventually become pear-shaped, and my family was all too comfortable with the notion that women naturally have less upper body strength. Now, I lift as much weight as most men my age at the gym who are not power-lifters. Weight training, to me, is quite meditative and provides a centered and balanced start to my day. I'm no personal trainer but I would highly recommend giving the cardio machines a break and lifting heavy weight especially if you live in a city where you walk a lot during the course of the day.
2. Listen to something meaningful.
During my workout or my commute I have been enjoying these two podcasts, The Twenty Minute VC and a16z. Both podcasts focus on the most innovative technologies and Silicon Valley darlings of the day. Even if you are not a VC or start-up, relevant insights abound. You could end up hearing your next competitor or ecosystem partner break down their business model. You may even walk away with competitive intelligence for a client you are working with. These podcasts plant some concepts in your brain that might just be relevant to the themes that emerge over the course of your business day. With mental clarity and fresh ideas you will find yourself prepared for powerful conversations. When you enter a room it's good to have something to say beyond a boring commentary about the weather.
3. Express yourself.
The third thing I cannot live without in the morning is my social media time. My train ride is my container for social media. I do my updates, tweeting, sharing and happy birthdays during this time; then I shut it off for the rest of the day. I love the power of an hour glass and appreciate timed activities. I'm the first to admit that I am easily distracted, and sitting in an open floor plan does not help either. So whatever I can do to channel the focus and stay interlocked with the task at hand the better the impact and end results for everyone.
4. Caffeinate (of course).
It's always a cold brew for me since it is easy on the stomach and naturally sweeter and less acidic than other methods. I make it at home. I'll have another cup of "regular" coffee in the office, and generally kombucha when I get back home. I've never tried to make it myself, but that could be my next challenge.