How Creating A Morning Routine Saved My Life

By Garrett

Apr 15, 2016

Sorry guys, I’m a few years late on the click-bait headline train, figured I’d try it out. Just this once, I swear.

While my new morning routine didn’t necessarily save my life, it has been a surprising source of happiness and satisfaction. So I want to share what those changes have been and how they might help you too.

Ever since starting Be Awesome Not Broke, I’ve never felt like I’ve had enough personal downtime. Not to sit around and watch TV (nothing wrong with that, just not my style), but so I could kick back and do things like catch up on the news, dive into Medium articles or crack open a book. I wasn’t making time for what Stephen Covey calls “sharpening the saw”, aka self-renewal. I was doing that stuff as the Founder of Be Awesome Not Broke during the work day, but not as Garrett Philbin the individual.

I think part of the blame lies in feeling like I have to work all the time (hence the “Work/Life Balance” newsletter). It also stems from not having established set work hours, meaning that I’ll usually work until 8 or 9pm, often later. The problem with this working late approach is Parkinson’s Law, which states “work expands to fill the space given to it”, meaning that by not setting a defined end point for the day, I’m just letting my workload expand to fill that time, whether I’m productive or not.

I now AM trying to set clearer boundaries for when I do work by scheduling “NO WORK” times on my calendar after 9pm. And right now I’m just ignoring them. But at least they’re in the Cal and I’m aware I should be doing honoring that. Baby steps, friends.

What it really came down to was I wasn’t prioritizing time to do the things that would sharpen the saw – meditating, reading, journaling – that I wanted to be doing on a consistent basis. What finally dawned on me was if I wasn’t making time for these things during my normal work day (or in the evening), I was going to have to do them before everything else.

Around the time I started to get serious about creating a new morning routine, I took that trip to Austin and stayed a few days with Kendra Wright (the girl who did the Year of Fear project), who has a routine that gets her up every morning at 6 AM. That to me definitely seemed aggressive. But it wasn’t until I actually saw her do her routine and witnessed the benefits of what she was able to get done every day before starting work (reading, watching TED talks, working out), that it clicked for me how powerful that time in the morning could be.

As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I went ahead and tried to copy her. Ever since getting back from Austin I’ve been sticking with this new routine of waking up at 6 AM (with a couple 6:30am’s in there too) and have really loved what it’s allowed me to do.

Yes, it has caused me to be the butt of a few “old man” jokes for consistently getting to bed by 10:30pm, but it’s totally been worth it. And let’s be honest, I’ve been called much worse.

So – allow me to share with you what my normal morning looks like. I’ll note why each step is important to me, and what I’ve seen as the benefit of doing each on a consistent basis.

6am Wake Up

  • It’s a slap in the face for the first week or two, but you get used to it. Dare I say, I’ve even started to enjoy it, because I know that by getting up early I’ll have the time to do the stuff that is important to me.
    • Random side note – ever since I started a new diet of cutting out processed sugars, eating fewer carbs and eating more vegetables, getting up earlier is easier and I have more energy. I probably feel 56% better and look 32% sexier (because science). Granted I’m no doctor, so take all of that with a grain of salt, but I do feel a noticeable difference in my energy levels in the AM and throughout the day.

6:02 – 6:20 Shower

  • There are two things I do during this time that help me wake up (get your minds outta the gutter kids):
  1. Chug a big glass of water before hopping into the shower. I’m often dehydrated after a night’s sleep, so this helps wake me up.
  2. For the last 30 seconds or so of the shower, I turn off the hot water. Yes it’s a shock, but it’s super refreshing and wakes you the hell up. It’s also fun to squeal like a teenage girl and have your roommates hear and make fun of you.

6:20 – 6:40 Eat breakfast

  • I love having a solid 20 minutes to leisurely cook breakfast and enjoy it. It’s just the right amount of time to catch a short podcast which is a bonus. Also, it takes just about that long to cook up and eat three eggs, two slices of Turkey bacon, a quarter of an avocado, and make/drink a green smoothie. #palebro-diet

6:40 – 6:45 Wash dishes

  • Because I don’t want to be a shitty roommate.

6:45 – 7:05 Stretch

  • I’ve have the scoliosis, so I need to do this to not feel like the worst. But even if you’re a normal/healthy human, I’d highly recommended doing this as well. Stretching out your legs and back can lead to less pain while sitting and/or standing throughout the day.

7:05 – 7:20 Journal

  • The more I journal the more I enjoy it. It’s a great way to recap and internalize thoughts still bouncing around my head from the day before. It’s also fun after you’ve done it for a while to see your thought progression on different topics over an extended period of time.

7:20 – 7:30 Success ritual

  • This is probably the most ridiculous thing I do, but it involves getting pumped up for the day by reminding myself of all the incredible things that I have in my life. This includes focusing on things I’m happy for, excited about, grateful for, committed to and proud of. I also “replay” memories/events in my mind where I felt empowered or at my best, and recall those memories as a way to pump me up. Yes it sounds a little cult-ish, but I can tell you that it works and helps me show up super powerfully throughout the day. Ask me about it if you’re interested, I’ll tell you aaaallllll about it.

7:30 – 7:45 Meditate

  • I started out doing 10 minutes, but 15 minutes just makes me feel better. Also, the more consistently I meditate, the better I am able to focus, stay level-headed, be in the moment, feel centered…all the good things. It takes some consistency to get into the routine and feel the benefits (a week or two), but trust me – they’re worth it.

7:45 – 8am Wild Card

  • This is a catchall for things like getting dressed, making my hair look fly, using the squatty-potty, quickly looking over email, or allowing extra time for any of the above activities that ran long. Always good to build in a buffer.

8am – 9am Whatever the heck I want!

  • This is now personal recharge time – when Garrett Philbin sharpens the saw. I read books, magazines, online articles, watch Ted talks, or just relax and listen to more podcasts. By the time I start my day at 9am, I already feel that I’ve accomplished a lot! Granted, that’s probably because I’ve also been up for three hours 🙂 But, I can now jump into work mode feeling good that I’ve already had a solid block of “me” time.

One cool thing about having this time in the morning is that I’m reading more books! And not just Harry Potter over and over again (seriously guys, they’re really good).

I just finished a great one called The Soul of Money by Lynn Twist and spent some time over the past few mornings putting together a book summary for you guys. It’s about how you can change your relationship with money from one of scarcity to one of sufficiency and abundance, and also how you can use money intentionally to live a happier life. It’s pretty damned good – check out the summary here if you’re interested.

Let me know what you think of how I approached the summary – I’m always looking for good suggestions and am open to improving the process. And if you’re interested in reading the book in its entirety, I included a link to purchase it via Amazon at the top of the first page.

I hope this first-hand look into my routine has been helpful to you guys! Even if you only get one nugget out of it, hopefully that nugget can be the catalyst for lasting change that leads to more happiness and awesomeness in your life.

Last but not least, I’d love to learn from you guys! What are your thoughts on my routine? What are your routines like and what parts have you found to be the most invaluable? It’s always great having conversations with you guys, so simply hit reply to this email and bestow upon me your thoughts!

Love you all,
American Agarel

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  1. Daphne

    Igor for you for doing this!
    had a great morning routine for many years, but since having children, it’s been difficult. My children wake up super early. I know many parents say to wake up an hour or two before the kids, but if I tried that, it would have to be 4 AM! I await the day I’m able to incorporate a “me” morning routine again.

  2. Sherrie

    I have to be to work at 7:30 so I was already waking up at 6:15ish anyway so it was really hard to try to wake up earlier to sharpen the saw but I was finally able to do it when the time changed. We we fell back my normal circadian rhythm had me waking up at what is now 5am which is an hour before when I would normally wake up. So instead of spending that week training my body to sleep an hour later I just kept getting up at 5am. Now when the spring comes I will be back on my regular schedule but for about 5 months I will be that awesome person that wakes up early to sharpen the saw. I’ve used that time to read spiritual books, watch YouTube videos, find your site, read your blogs (wink). It’s been good. I really want to keep it up. Its been almost a month now I think. It’s still hard to wake up at 5am. I unfortunately snooze twice but its still earlier than 6.


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